Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mother to Mother Part 3

American Character Petite Sally

This week I finished my second restoration for my client, Nancy, whose Shirley Temple doll I recently repaired. This time I worked on her American Character Petite Sally doll. Both dolls belonged to her mother, and her mother estimates the Sally doll to have been produced in 1931. I don't know anything about the history of this particular doll. My doll books don't go back that far. The doll is just marked "Petite" on the back of her head. She is not a very petite doll; she's about 23 inches tall, so I wonder if Petite was a doll company purchased by American Character. Sally is a composition and cloth body doll with disk joints. She has tin sleep eyes and a human hair wig.

The doll before restoration

She had crazing.

Her hair had been cut.

When Sally arrived her main problem was a large crack in the composition on the side of her neck. I forgot to take a picture of it before I repaired it, but you can see it partially done in my Etsy shop video. Besides that her composition had areas of deep cracking, especially on her face. At some point it looks like a craze concealer was used, and that had started to yellow or to turn black in the cracks. Nancy's mother cropped Sally's hair super short in the back and someone glued orange fake fiber to the cuts. Nancy removed the orange hair. Sally's eye's also squeak when they open and close. I can't really do anything about that because it would require oiling the eyes. Oiling doll eyes with a drop of sewing machine oil used to be a common repair tactic but now there are reports the oil degrades the composition over time, so the eyes will just have to continue to squeak because I didn't want to risk hurting Sally's head. Sally has a non-factory dimple in one cheek, but Nancy didn't want me to repair that since she doesn't plan to sell the doll and feels the dent is part of Sally's provenance.

The cracked neck, partially repaired

Some crazed and yellowed areas required a repaint.

I repaired Sally's neck with epoxy and then applied oil paint as a craze concealer. On one arm and around the eyes and on the forehead I had a lot of trouble with the process. Usually you wipe the oil paint over the crazing and it sinks into the cracks and seals them. In those trouble spots the paint wouldn't sink in. I believe whatever medium was used in the past was blocking the paint from getting in. Those areas required thicker re-painting. I never got the forehead paint quite as smooth as I like, but I showed it to everyone else in the family and no one could even see what I was talking about so I guess it's OK. I have to be careful to avoid doing too much to a doll. I wanted to preserve the original eyebrows and the few painted lashes that remained. When the paint was dry I sealed it with acrylic gloss varnish. My husband found a brush-on varnish slightly better than the one I had but it still isn't great. It's really hard to work with. I may have to break down and buy an airbrush for painting and sealing.

The face and neck after repair

I have a big box of various kinds of hair up in my office. It's weird, I know, but often necessary for doll repair. One time when my daughter and I were going to donate hair mine wasn't really long enough after we cut it so I just stuck my pony tail into a baggie and saved it with my other hair. It's a good thing I did because my hair was the only one the right shade. It's exactly the same color as Sally's! I sewed a weft into the edges of the hair and then glued it to the wig cap. Please note, I know I tell you to always use water-soluble glue on wigs, but in this case I did not. I wanted the new hair to stay attached to the wig cap even if the wig had to be soaked off, so I used super glue and kept it off the composition. When the glue was dry I curled the new hair with a curling iron (ONLY ever use heated irons on human hair wigs) so it would match the original wig's style.

Adding hair to a wig
Now that Sally's all repaired she's traveling home where Nancy will make her a reproduction outfit. I am really proud to have been chosen to preserve another heirloom for that family! I hope she sees another few generations of play. Sally looks pretty good for an 85 year old!

The doll after restoration

The repaired neck

The face after touch up paint

The restored wig

Sally goes home.

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