Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer, Spring, Or Fall, On My Mind Through All

Tonight I have a little Nancy Ann Storybook mystery for you. I recently sold out of Nancy Ann in all my shops, so I've been buying and buying to restock. I have a lovely quartet of finished dolls and more are on the way. If you love Nancy Ann make sure to keep watching the Atelier Mandaline shops on eBay, Etsy, and Facebook.

Now back to my little identification problem: of my four dolls, three were easily named because they were identical to the corresponding photos in my Pardee Nancy Ann Encyclopedias. The fourth doll, however, is not so cut and dried. I thought at first she was "Summer", since my Volume II, hard plastic encyclopedia shows a brunette doll in a dress with a skirt made of identical organdy to my dress. My doll is bisque, however, and the dress is rather different, so I decided to look further.

Summer in hard plastic

Then I saw the bisque "Thursday's Child" doll wears a nearly identical dress, except with a floral ornament on the skirt rather than rows of cord. She also wears a bonnet, which my doll doesn't have. One thing in "Thursday's" favor is that the transitional 1948 "Friday's Child" was included in the same lot. My doll had a red ribbon sort of tangled around her when she arrived which looked original to her, however, and I didn't see any place a flower might have been sewn to her dress, so I kept looking.

After a while I came across "Autumn," #92 in the bisque Seasons series. Though her hair is blond rather than the dark auburn of my doll, her dress is closest to the my doll's. The green rickrack instead of red cord, and a green satin ribbon tied around her hair rather than a red one are the only differences in the costume. I notice very few versions of "Autumn" were blond dolls; most have the deep mahogany wigs like my doll, so it seems plausible they changed the hair color in later releases. I have decided to go ahead and call my doll Autumn and go with it.

Nancy Ann first dressed and then manufactured and dressed bisque dolls until the late 1940s. For a couple years she used frozen leg bisque bodies with hard plastic arms. Then in 1948 for one year only she made all hard plastic jointed dolls with painted eyes. Unless you pick up those transitional dolls and hold them you can't tell they aren't bisque (unless the neck joint shows in the costume). After 1949 the Storybook dolls were all hard plastic with sleep eyes. My Autumn doll is one of the bisque body dolls with hard plastic arms, so one of the later bisque versions. Two of the dolls that came with her are the rare 1948 painted eye plastic dolls, and the last is a sleep eyes plastic doll, so it's pretty safe to date the entire lot to production from around 1947 to 1950 or so. My theory is the summery, sheer organdy dress seemed somewhat inappropriate for a fall garment, so the later "Summer" plastic dolls used that print instead.

The Nancy Ann mark on the bisque bodies

The dolls in the lot are all in great condition and the clothing on most looks nearly pristine. The fragile organdy on this dress was disintegrating, however. I treated the holes and thin spots with Fray Check. After it dried I sewed patches of darning stitch over the holes to repair them. The repairs aren't beautiful, so I covered them with vintage satin ribbon and paper flowers. I was lucky enough to find a fellow Etsy shop owner with the perfect green and turquoise florals in stock. These little flowers are getting super expensive nowadays. Maybe I should start producing flowers along with dolls! To finish her ensemble I tied a matching bouquet into Autumn's hair ribbon. Although the dress retained its original safety pin closure, it's just too fragile to use, so I added a large hook and eye to the back of the dress to make it easier to fasten.

The organdy was disintegrating.

I repaired the holes.

Autumn turned out beautifully. She's a sweet little girl and displays very well. Her costume is too fragile for play or much handling, so she's really ideal as a display doll. I tried to add some of Nancy Ann's asymmetrical flair to the design of my repairs and used period notions so the new elements should not appear as new and the doll should look original to most observers.

I added vintage flowers and ribbons.
The attached linen petticoat

I added a safety pin closure.

The finished doll
I sure wouldn't mind it being autumn right now. We haven't had a drop of rain for at least three weeks and temperatures have been at or near 100 for the past two weeks. My rain barrel in the backyard is bone dry and the one in front is nearly empty. I've spent an hour or two each day for weeks hauling buckets of water all over the yard trying to keep my hydrangeas and vegetables alive. So far we've lost almost all the hostas, one of the apple trees, the dogwood tree, and the fuchsias and sage are on their last legs. Nearly every night there are storms and rain all around us and then the storm splits when it hits Little Mountain and the lake and passes on either side of us. I visited my parents last week and their yard is just sickening because they've had so much rain. They have hundreds of enormous hydrangeas all over the yard that are just incredible. I brought home a bunch of cuttings and had them out on the patio table but even under the umbrella they were basically cooking so now they're cluttering up my mantle shelf and counters and everything else. I sure hope they root soon! And that we see some rain!

Below I'm showing the other Nancy Ann options I have in stock, so please make sure to visit my shops.

Friday's Child Is Loving and Giving

The Pinch Face Bride of 1948

Oh, Suzannah! from the All Time Hit Parade series

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bicentennial Betsy

Betsy Ross Bicentennial doll

I have to apologize to all my faithful followers for my low number of posts the past couple months. Between the 4+ hours of swim team practice and meets per day and the Great Cat Adoption of 2016 and trying to get some actual work done, I  have not been able to fit in much writing. Swim team has ended and we have a few lazy days before band camp begins, so now I will attempt to catch up on posting. Even now, however, things pop up. I just returned from dropping my son's car off at the shop for a fix of a leaking something or other, and two days ago as I was (luckily) looking out the window I saw a small geyser erupt in the back yard, which turned out to be a broken irrigation line in need of repair. Not that I do much other than stand around in the back yard and hand various couplings and things out to my husband and son as they work to fix it. That sort of thing eats up an amazing amount of time!

I have gotten a surprising number of dolls finished, given my schedule, which I accomplished by means of staying up working late and waking up early. Some, such as the Effanbee Twinkie shown in my eye replacement tutorial, never made it into the blog before they sold. Due to recent events, I'm skipping over a few to tell you about my newest doll: Betsy Ross, the commemorative 1976 Bicentennial edition. You can find her and many other dolls in my Atelier Mandaline stores on Etsy and eBay.

The caption is incorrect; the middle doll is from 1976.

Betsy Ross is number 731 in the American Group series of Alexander-Kins, which I believe started in 1968. She always holds her partly-sewn flag and also has scissors in some versions. Only one wore the white starred outfit: the 1976 Bicentennial edition. She also had a tiny replica of Betsy's flag attached to her hand tag, which has sadly gone missing from my doll. You can see the doll in the photo from my Smith book above. They have mistakenly captioned it as the 1975 doll, despite the Bicentennial flag.

The new 1976 face
This particular version of the 1976 Betsy Ross is really special because she uses the newer Alexander-Kins molds. In 1976 Madame Alexander changed the face and body molds for their little Wendy dolls. The new face had puckered lips, which gave it the "moustache face" nickname, straighter, thinner legs, and a torso marked "Alexander" on the back. The previous molds were marked "ALEX." You will find Wendy dolls from 1976 in both mold versions but wearing the same clothing. I assume the Alexander company just used up their old stock before starting with the newer dolls, and most of the newer-faced dolls date to 1977 or later, so this one's fairly rare. I have not, in fact, seen another of the new mold Wendys wearing this outfit.

Betsy is also unusual in that she is nearly pristine. Her cap has some dust marks and her eyes stick open; otherwise her clothing is crisp and new-feeling. Her cap is still stuffed with the original tissue to give it shape! Her face and body are unmarked as well. It seems like she must have been kept in a box or case somewhere, if not her original box.

The costume is pristine.

Her mob cap has some dust marks.

The cap is stuffed with the original tissue.

Betsy's flag

The reason I wanted to write about Betsy Ross today is because I want to acknowledge the immensely important historical event that took place last night: the confirmation of the first woman ever nominated to run for President. No matter what your political persuasion, or whether the woman chosen would be your preference, this is a momentous milestone for our country. I have to admit, I teared up watching the convention vote. It's been fewer than 100 years since we American women have been allowed to vote at all, so to have a potential female President is amazing. I will never forget the time we were watching a television show in which a female president was portrayed and my son, aged five or six at that time, blurted out, "She can't be President! She's a girl!" The fact is, a whole lot of people still think that way, and our children will continue such beliefs until we show them an alternate reality. I so deeply wish Betsy Ross and the other heroines of our revolution and suffragette movement were here to see this!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An Eye For An Eye, A Tutorial

Cloudy eyes
Stuck eyes

One of the most common problems with modern dolls is the tendency for the moving "sleep eyes" to break. Modern dolls (by which I mean dolls from the mid-1950s onward) have plastic sleep eyes set in a metal frame which are basically pasted inside the doll's head with a thin sheet of vinyl. The old glass eyes were wired together on a metal frame and weighted with a lead or cast metal weight and it seems like they were somewhat sturdier. They are also repairable if one or both eyes break. The new eyes just have to be replaced most times.

Besides the movement getting stuck, the modern eyes can get cloudy or filmy and no amount of the recommended home remedies, like dropping mineral oil into them or drying them with a hair dryer, is really very effective. You can see examples of common problems in the images above. The first doll was originally a Scarlett O'Hara Portrait doll (Jacqueline face) by Madame Alexander. She had the misfortune to be involved in Super Storm Sandy, at which time her eyes got wet and filmy. I tried drying them, oiling them, painting them, all to no avail. I believe mold is actually growing inside the eye where I can't reach it. My daughter was not bothered by Scarlett's blindness and took her as a play doll, but I decided recently to restore her sight. The other doll is Twinkie by Effanbee, made from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. That doll was played nearly to death. Her eyes were pushed into her head, probably a repair attempt because they were stuck, and her body was all moldy inside from her having been "fed" with her bottle. As you will see, both dolls are now repaired and the Twinkie doll is for sale in my Etsy shop.

Now that I've mastered the skill of replacing eyes I thought I'd share the love by making eye replacement kits and writing a tutorial. You can purchase kits from my Atelier Mandaline shops on Etsy, eBay, and Facebook or just by contacting me through this blog or This has been a difficult technique for me to master and it involved a lot of trial and error and wasted money, so I felt kits might save others from that pain. I also sell pairs of eyes with a link to this tutorial for those who don't need a whole kit.

First measure the eye.

Whether or not you buy my kit you will need new eyes in the proper size for your doll, and for that you will need to measure. Eye sizes are listed in millimeters, so you will need either a metric ruler or a set of eye sizing tools. The eye sizing tools are round balls with the eye size marked on them. You stick them inside the head to make sure they fit. I find it cheapest just to use a ruler. So, measure your doll's eye horizontally from corner to corner. I cannot stress this enough: if you get an odd measurement, like 14.5, or the eye size you need isn't available, go DOWN in size. Beware of almond-shaped eyes. Don't go with the sculpting on the outside of the face; go with the interior measurement of the eye socket. The Jackie doll above measures 14 mm but if you look closely you will see she has eye corners sculpted a little longer than the inside edge of her eye, so she can use a 13 mm eye as well if the 14mm are out of stock. I do have eyes in 14 mm and I get size 13 for Revlon (and her grocery store clones), Madame Alexander Kelly, Twinkie, Dollikin 2S, etc. The Dollikin is particularly deceptive. She really looks like she needs 15 mm eyes, but they don't fit. The inside of her head only takes 13 mm-14 mm, at least as far as I can tell. Once you have your new eyes you are ready to start.

Please note, I use a different method than that traditionally taught. I am primarily self-taught, so I developed my method before I ever heard of the heat method or boil method. The traditional heat method is that you heat the doll's head, either by boiling it or heating it with a hairdryer and when it is hot you reach inside the head and push the eyes out the front of the eye socket. To replace the eyes you heat the head and pop new eyes into the front. I prefer to insert the eyes from the inside as I show in this post. Some dolls, like American Girl, have a neck opening too small for you to reach in the head, so the heat method must be used on them. The boil method for the American Girl is shown here As with any repair advice on this blog, proceed carefully and at your own risk; I am not responsible for mistakes made in following tutorials. Your doll is already broken anyway, right? Or you wouldn't be reading this!

Cut the band on a strung doll.

Pull off the head.
When you prepare to replace eyes you will first need to remove the head. If your doll is a strung doll you will have to cut her bands, so she will need to be restrung when you are finished with the eyes. You can buy stringing kits from my Etsy and eBay shops. If you have a doll like Twinkie you will just pull off the head. If the head doesn't want to come off you can gently warm the vinyl with a hair dryer to soften it up and make it easier to remove. Just make sure you don't melt anything!

You might have to slide the washer out of the way.
Some dolls have a head hook that's held in by tension and which travels through a washer. Madame Alexander Jackie and Kelly dolls both have this. In order to replace the eyes you will need to get the washer out of the way. However, it is nearly impossible to remove from the head, so I just push it to the side with pliers whenever I can. Just grab the edge and push it up into the back or side of the head.

The eye pockets
Inside the head you will see two flesh colored lumps. These are the eye pockets. You will need to cut these open in order to remove the eyes.

Cut the eye pockets open.

You will need a long, thin, sharp knife to cut the eye pocket. I prefer to use an X-acto knife. You can try to just cut a slit from side to side or cut an X in the back of the eye pocket and reuse the vinyl eye pocket later. If the vinyl gets in the way when you try to insert the new eyes just go ahead and cut a circle around the eye and remove both the eye and some of the old vinyl. The old vinyl can be tricky to get out so I use a variety of pliers and tweezers to pull it out after I cut it. Try not to remove too much of the original vinyl pocket; then you will not have anything to hold the eyes in! Try reaching in the head BEFORE you cut the vinyl to make sure your fingers aren't too large and you think you can get the eyes in and out. If not proceed with the boil method shown in the American Girl link above instead.

Remove some of the old vinyl.

Push the eyes into the head.

When you've cut the old vinyl pocket open you just push the eyes into the head and them drop them out through the neck hole. Sometimes they get stuck in the head and you have to fish them out with a long tool like a drawstring puller or tweezers. If you have kids with small fingers they can be quite helpful with the task! At any rate, eye replacement is just rather difficult and fiddly and tedious and takes a lot of patience, so don't attempt it when you're in a hurry.

The eyes have been removed.
When your old eyes are removed you can go ahead and place the new ones. This can be difficult if the head hole is small, so just  be patient. I drop the eye in as near to the hole as I can and roll the head around until the eye falls into the eye socket. Then I manipulate the eye the best I can from both outside and inside the head until it is positioned properly.

Position the eyes.

When you have both eyes in place you will need to glue them. Basically you are replacing the original vinyl eye pocket that was there. You can use either thick white glue or you can use acrylic modeling paste for this. Regular thin white glue is too thin and won't work. You can either leave a bottle of Elmer's or similar glue open for a while to let it evaporate and thicken up or use Aleene's Tacky Glue. If you decide on modeling paste (it's the most similar to the original but also the most expensive) you can find that in the acrylic artists' paints at art supply stores. I usually just use the Aleene's Tacky Glue. Whichever you use, you will need to cover the backs of the eyes with a thick layer. Use a Popsicle stick or something like that to spread the glue.

The eyes are glued in.
As the glue dries, make sure to set the head upright to dry. Otherwise the glue can run inside the new eyes and ruin them. Trust me. I learned this the hard way!

Set the head upright as the glue dries.

Jacqueline and some other dolls have painted eyeshadow eyes. You can try painting the eyes before you insert them but the paint often gets dinged up, so I just paint them with a tiny brush after I replace them and they dry. I use water-soluble oil paint mixed with acrylic to paint the new eyes. I sell pre-painted eyeshadow eyes in my eBay and Etsy shops. Link to those from

Painting the eyeshadow

When the new eyes are in place and dry then you can pop the head back on or re-string your doll, depending on the method required. As you can see, both dolls turned out beautifully. Scarlett ended up with blue eyes rather than green because green are on backorder. I asked my daughter if I should use blue or just wait for green and she wanted to go ahead with the blue eyes. She's still very lovely! Twinkie is cute as a button! Check out my shops from for all kinds of lovely dolls such as these.

Twinkie, restored

Scarlett, restored

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tutorial: How to Re-Attach Broken Muffie Walker Legs

Recently a customer bought two of my doll stringing kits (find them on Etsy and eBay) but sent me a message after she got them to say she wasn't coordinated enough to string her dolls. That should have been a red flag, because stringing dolls really is quite simple. However, I didn't dwell on it and agreed to string her dolls for her in my doll hospital. Well, when the dolls arrived I could see the problem; these are the Muffie and Betsy McCall walker or walker type dolls that don't have strung legs. So, re-attaching the legs requires a good deal of epoxy work. The Betsy McCall was straightforward enough; I show that repair several times in this blog's past posts, such as 

Muffie, however, is a different story. I've never repaired one of these and I couldn't find any tutorials by anyone else. There were entirely strung Muffie dolls and then there were walkers and the latest ones were jointed dolls. Unlike most walker dolls, the Muffie walkers have legs which were apparently attached directly to the walker mechanism instead of being strung through it. I couldn't figure out how to recreate whatever was originally there and I couldn't figure out how to attach the legs to the walker mechanism so they would still move, so I decided to see if I could re-create a strung Muffie, bypassing the walker altogether.

I added new leg hooks.
First I made two tiny wire leg hook loops by twisting wire. I poked the twisted end if the wire into the hole in the leg with some epoxy on the tip of the wire. Then I surrounded the wire with more epoxy. When you do this make sure the loops are slightly bent, so help keep them from pulling right out of the hole, and cover the interior of the loop with epoxy for extra support. Allow the epoxy to cure for several hours.

Thread the wire around the walker mechanism.

Initially I tried to run the elastic behind the walker mechanism like always, but in this case the tension was not tight enough and the legs kept slipping out into a very wide stance. I found if I looped the elastic around the waist part of the walker and then strung the legs I got a tighter tension and put less pressure on the fragile homemade leg loops.

Stringing the legs
Then I went back to stringing as usual, running the cord through one leg loop, through the groin, through the other leg loop, and then tied it off. This repair is very fragile; mine pulled out twice and had to be re-done, so it's imperative to try to keep tension centered in the body rather than the leg loops.

Her ankles cross.

The downside of this repair, besides the fragility, is the tendency of the legs to cross at the ankles. I suppose it makes Muffie very well-mannered and demure! She can sit alone with this repair but for standing display she will require a doll stand. I guess it's still better than being legless, however. If you've repaired this problem a different way please comment (you will have to follow the blog to leave a comment).

Muffie can sit.

As you can see, Muffie was in need of a bath after her stringing. She got one and will soon be on her way back home. In other news, as I mentioned months ago, my Penny Brite diner dress, listed in my Etsy shop, is being featured in the shopping pages of the UK magazine, The Doll's House August issue. I hope you'll pick up a copy and that you'll check it out in my shop. I'm sure this will catapult me to instant international celebrity! Seriously, though, I'm honored to be chosen and truly appreciate the exposure.

The Penny Brite diner dress