Sunday, August 20, 2017

Back To School Betty

My recent doll restorations have involved a number of composition dolls from the 1930s. As I mentioned in my McGuffey Ana post, I had forgotten all about a box of small "Little Betty" or "Wendy Ann" dolls with clothing. McGuffey Ana was a quick and easy restoration and I listed her as a trunk set with the original clothing in the lot. The other doll in the box was quite a bit more difficult. I think she is probably the reason I put the lot away and forgot them; I was nervous about whether I could even repair this doll.

Betty Before

Ana and Betty

Betty during restoration
As you can see, Betty was in far worse condition of the two dolls. McGuffey Ana's wig was still in its original style, so it was easy to identify her and match her to the correct clothing. Betty's face was almost entirely missing. One eye was chipped away, as was her nose. The other eye had deep lifting. I had to rebuild her face as best I could with epoxy. I used acrylic varnish to seal and smooth down the lifted areas. Then I re-painted the face and sealed it with gloss varnish. I also repaired all-over crazing to her composition body and head, re-strung her, and styled Betty's mohair wig.

Betty After Restoration

Before and After

I just guessed at Betty's hairstyle. I can see she is either Tiny Betty or Little Betty and not Wendy Ann because her back is not marked Wendy Ann. Tiny Betty is usually a 6-7 inch doll with painted shoes, but sometimes this doll is also called Tiny Betty. My Smith reference books show a doll who appears to wear the same dress called "Tiny Betty Schoolgirl" of 1937. I decided the schoolgirl dress probably came on this doll. Betty's wig looked like she originally wore braids as it is stitched up the back. Her hair definitely isn't the short cut shown in the book. I have seen larger McGuffey Ana dolls from this period wearing dresses made from the same calico fabric as this dress, but the McGuffey Ana style is different. I decided on a braided crown hairstyle for Betty. I wore my hair like this to school a great deal as a little girl and it helps hide the fact that Betty's wig had quite a bit of hair loss.

The mark

Reference photo from the Smith book

Besides the calico dress Betty had a pair of handmade tap pants in her box, but unfortunately these are too tight in the waist for her. I got some more modern (but still vintage) Madame Alexander bloomers, socks, and shoes from my stash for her. The calico dress lost its tag, but you can see from the square silver snaps and the tiny rickrack trim it is certainly an Alexander piece. This construction is typical of the Alexander clothing.

Madame Alexander clothes

The Alexander snaps

The doll is about 10 inches long.
Although Little Betty is referred to as an 8 or 9 inch doll in reference books she actually measures about 10 inches. This face came on a smaller size doll as well, usually called "Tiny Betty" (but not always; it's very confusing!) and that one has painted shoes and looks a lot like the Nancy Ann Storybook dolls.

I am proud of my restoration of Betty's face, but there's no doubt the repairs are still visible. I just wasn't able to get the face completely smooth again. It certainly isn't terribly obvious when the doll is displayed on  a shelf or in a case, but since it is there this is a great opportunity to get a highly-collectible doll at a lower price point than you might expect.

The repainted face from various angles
I think of Betty as a custom doll or art doll. She's an expression of my interpretation of the Betty character. Betty, just like the later plastic Alexander Wendy-Kins toddler dolls, has a pouty face and tilted head. Ever since Madame Lenci introduced her "grumpy" toddler dolls, doll makers across the world began sculpting their toddlers with a bit of attitude. You can see most doll artists were also mothers! My Betty is all ready to go back to school. She's wearing a lovely new dress, her hair is beautifully coiffed, but she's not too sure if she's happy about the situation. I can remember the nervousness of confronting a new classroom and new teacher and sometimes even a whole new school all too well! You can find Little Betty and many other lovely dolls in my shops and you can connect to all those from

Betty is ready for school.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bright As A Penny

My big push to stock my shop for the holiday season continues with this Penny Brite trunk set. I write all the time about my love for doll and trunk sets, especially if they have books. I had several books about dolls with trunks of clothes and accessories as a child but never had a doll and trunk set of my own. I wanted one desperately and couldn't believe it when, upon asking, I found my grandparents didn't even have an attic  to search, much less any old dolls. In the books the dolls were always up in a grandmother's attic. Either my grandmothers didn't have dolls or they didn't last. I know my dad's mother had a huge porcelain doll, probably a Bru Jumeau that appeared at least three feet tall, because of photos taken of her with it, but it was long gone by the time I came along. Trunk sets aren't the smartest business decision because you make more money if you break up lots and sell the pieces individually. However, I adore them so, and they sell well, and I always imagine them going to a thrilled child on Christmas morning even though I know they are almost certainly more often a gift from an adult collector to herself.

Penny Brite
The Penny Brite doll is an 8 inch fashion doll from the 1960s. She was definitely meant as a competitor to Tiny Betsy McCall, Pepper, and Skipper. Penny Brite was produced by both Topper Toys and Deluxe Reading and was originally made in Japan. I am not sure if the production was later moved to Hong Kong or if those were knock-offs, but you do sometimes find the clothing tagged "Hong Kong". My understanding is Penny Brite was a "grocery store" doll; a cheaper copy of a popular style doll sold at grocery stores and dime stores and some department stores. Nowadays, she has just as devoted a following as Betsy McCall and other such storied dolls; most likely these followers are one-time childhood owners of Penny Brite dolls. Penny Brite is often referred to as "Elizabeth" because her back is marked ELIZABETH NJ.

The doll's marking

Penny has the slim 8 inch body, not the chubby toddler frame possessed by Ginny or Muffie. She is a great fashion doll with bright, dark eyes and thick, smooth hair. She is jointed for posing. Penny can wear the 8 inch Betsy McCall clothes as well as some of the Ginny and Muffie fashions. Skipper and Pepper clothes sometimes fit too, although they can be too long.

The doll case
Interestingly, the doll case is marked "Topper Toys" and the doll is marked "Deluxe Reading", even though they arrived together. There are squishy plastic hangers in the case just the right size for Penny's clothes.

Penny's Underclothes
Penny has a pair of white tights, a slip, black Mary Janes, and a hair brush to wear under her clothes.

The original outfit
Penny Brite comes in her original dress and red shoes  with a vintage plastic purse and a hair ribbon.

Singin' In the Rain coat

The boots are cut open to fit.

Penny also has the raincoat from the "Singin' In The Rain" set of 1963-64 and with it she wears the scarf from the "Picnic Treat" outfit of the same period. She came with a pair of squishy boots that don't really fit. They have been cut open along the back so she can get her feet into them. These remind me of my grandpa's "overshoes". He used to have a pair of thin, floppy plastic shoes which sat on a little tray next to the back door. In the winter he would pull his overshoes (they were stretchy) over his regular shoes to protect them from the slush and salt. The first thing he did when he came in the door was sit and take off his overshoes and put them in the tray. Grandma had pale seaglass colored carpet throughout the house, including the kitchen and bathrooms, and it was more than anyone's life was worth to stain that carpet! I made a paper umbrella to go with this outfit.

Penny's winter coat
Penny came with a handmade corduroy coat trimmed in real fur. She can bundle up in this in the winter time.

Flower Girl dress
Penny also has a knock-off Hong Kong flower girl or party dress. This is the dress the slip came with I think, because the lace is the same. I gave Penny a vintage plastic floral spray she can pin in her hair or carry in her hand.

Flaws to the case

Stains inside the case

The doll has stains on one leg which are hidden by her tights.
You can find Penny Brite and many other dolls in my shops. I am working hard to add more every week. You can link to all my shops from the Atelier Mandaline web site.

The trunk set

Saturday, August 12, 2017

More McGuffey: Ana, That Is

McGuffey Ana Trunk Set

I've been cleaning out my office lately in search of things to sell. We have had a string of bad luck, or at least big bills. If you read this blog you will see this sort of thing isn't all that unusual. It's a good reminder to save when I look back over past posts. Anyway, our air conditioner broke and cost $6000 to replace. Then we found out our oldest son has two extra wisdom teeth and that all his wisdom teeth are impacted as well as lying sideways and their roots are entangled in his nerves, so they all have to come out sooner rather than later. That surgery is estimated at $4000, with us supposedly paying $3000, but his surgery last December cost $2000 more than we were told. Apparently there is, as the surgeon says, a "trend" among insurance companies to suddenly not cover may parts of a surgery, claiming they are not "medically necessary." You might be surprised to learn anesthesia is no longer considered "necessary" to surgery. I guess we are literally supposed to go back to biting a bullet. So, since it seems insurance companies are trying to see how much they can get away with while the health care system is up in the air, I am estimating we will pay more than quoted. Next week another son will go in for his consultation. He has to have two teeth removed as part of the preparation for his bone graft surgery and we don't even have the bill for that procedure yet. So, anyway, in search of things to quickly sell and raise some extra cash I came across this set. I've had it so long I forgot all about it!

A reference photo from the Smith book series

I am certain this is McGuffey Ana, most likely from around 1938, in her original dress and hat. The dress isn't tagged but McGuffey Ana always wears a dress like this with a straw hat and has her hair braided and tied with ribbons. She has curly bangs over her forehead. My doll checks all these boxes. The only thing missing is the pinafore or apron Ana usually wears. 

This doll came in a box with another doll who seems to have been the "play" doll of the set. That doll has hair has a seam all the way down the back of her wig, so it was once braided, but it is now undone. Her face paint is mostly chipped away. She is wearing a dress I recognize as the "School Girl" dress worn by some Little Betty dolls but made of a calico print that was used for some of the larger McGuffey Ana dolls of the same period. All the evidence together pretty strongly supports this being McGuffey Ana. To find out more about the McGuffey dolls, please read my post about the Baby McGuffey doll I just restored.

The Tiny Betty and Little Betty face
The doll in this set can be quite confusing to identify. Her back is marked "WENDY ANN MME ALEXANDER NEW YORK". She sometimes has molded hair and sometimes wears a mohair wig. She is used interchangeably as a boy or girl. The face mold is called "Tiny Betty" if the doll is 7.5 inches tall with painted shoes and called "Tiny Betty", "Little Betty", or "Wendy Ann" if the doll is 10 inches without painted shoes. Although the larger doll is just under 10 inches long she is called a "9 inch" doll in most reference books. I usually just refer to this doll as "Wendy Ann" if she is marked with that name. This doll was produced in the 1930s and 1940s.

The restored doll

The doll is called a 9 inch doll but is nearly 10 inches.

McGuffey Ana can be identified by her outfit as I described above. If the outfit is not available this doll has a wonderful example of the McGuffey Ana hairstyle. I am not sure if her hair ribbons are original. They are certainly old, but I don't know if they're over 70 years old. The rest of her hairstyle is original, right down to the hair pins! My doll's bangs aren't as curly as some I have seen but this is clearly the McGuffey Ana wig.

The McGuffey Ana wig

I gave Ana replacement rayon socks and shoes that date to the same era as the doll. Besides her dress she wears pantaloons which are clearly original because they match the slip attached to her dress.

Her bloomers match her slip.
Her dress is red and white checked taffeta with beautiful details, like an attached pocket handkerchief. It has the signature Alexander square silver snaps. Her straw hat probably had floral trim at some point. I gave Ana a Chinese paper parasol to hold. It really opens and closes! A much later 1960s or 70s version of this doll wears a nearly identical dress and hat, and that one came with an eyelet-trimmed pinafore so I assume this outfit probably also had a pinafore with eyelet that matched the slip. The dress has some darkening from age in a scooped shape outline at the neckline which also points to a pinafore having been worn over it for some time. It looks like the pinafore protected the dress from graying in the areas it covered.

Her original dress

Dress details: see the outline of the pinafore at the neck.

The original box lot I got estate-fresh, as we say, contained this doll and the faceless doll plus the two Alexander dresses and then some adorable handmade clothes. I love to find stuff like this! I can imagine the dolls' little mommy, or in this case probably the little mommy's mommy, sitting and sewing for her "babies". The clothes in this set appear hand sewn, not machine sewn, and they are quite skillful, which makes me think an adult made them. The winter coat set is just charming! Ana has a copper-colored satin swing coat with real fur trim, a matching fur muff, and an absolutely sweet, slightly peaked bonnet.

Ana's winter clothes

For bedtime Ana has a warm flannel night shirt with a matching nightcap and panties. The panties are rather snug in the hips (Girl, I can relate!). There was a gingham mattress pad, or maybe a really thin pillow, in the box. I gave Ana a fluffier pillow from my vintage stash, a plastic baby doll, and a hedgehog-print baby blanket so she can make a doll bed for her baby and have a comfier pillow for herself. The pillow has some age spots.

Ana's night clothes

Ana's pillow and baby doll.
Another item from my vintage stash is this fabulous powder blue vanity suitcase. It fit Ana and her wardrobe perfectly! How I wish I had the sort of elegant lifestyle where I traveled in lavishly-appointed train cars with this sort of luggage! The case has minor wear from age. The latch works.

Ana's case

You can find Ana and many other dolls, including other members of the McGuffey family, in my shops. Link to them all from

As tough as the past week has been, as hard as I will have to work in the coming weeks, I am glad to feel the satisfaction of striving for my goals. For many years a family member has been constantly critical of me, repeatedly harassing me with "advice" about how I should lose weight, get a job, get a different job, go back to school, change my hair, parent differently since (in that person's opinion) my children are not as smart as other children in the family... basically change everything about my life. During this same period, however, this person has extended ridiculous amounts of financial support to other people who don't appear to do anything to better themselves, just take handouts. This all came to a head recently and I have been extremely upset about the unfairness of the situation, not the money exactly, but the gross injustice of the hypocrisy. My husband has advised me I have to just let it go, and I know I do. I feel like I'm getting an ulcer when I think about it. 

Today, however, it occurred to me as I was working that I can be really proud of myself. No, I don't make a ton of money, but more and more people are finding me through Google searches. I am becoming someone others come to for advice. I have no educational background in business. I majored in art and writing. I taught myself to restore dolls, built my business, marketed my brand, developed my blog, opened several shops, learned search engine optimization, and developed (and maintain) my own website, and I did every bit of it myself. And I did it all while raising three children, two of whom came to me with extra special needs. If I can do this I can get myself and my family through anything, and I can have the integrity that comes from knowing I pulled my own self up. And just in case you have a similar sort of toxic person in your life, please know, you can do it too!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tutorial: How To Restore A Mohair Doll Wig

The restored wig
On several different occasions people have told me they are afraid to restore composition dolls for many reasons, chief among them that you can't clean or style their mohair wigs. My response the first time I heard this was, "Wha...?" One of the benefits of starting out with just enough doll-restoring experience to be dangerous is I went blithely on my way, fixing dolls hither, thither, and yon, completely ignorant of the accepted dogma. The truth is, you CAN clean composition dolls and you CAN clean and restyle mohair wigs. The process is different than working on dolls of other materials, but it isn't hard once you know how to do it.

Pick out the wig with a bamboo skewer.
Composition dolls cannot be immersed in water. Composition is a mixture of wood pulp and glue which is molded and then coated with a shell similar to really thick oil paint. If you were to immerse the doll in water any openings or cracks in the shell would allow water to soak into the composition and it would swell up just like sawdust does when saturated. Then the doll would break all apart. Sometimes the cloth bodies of the dolls are also stuffed with sawdust, which would swell and tear the body apart too. So what can you do if your doll and her wig are dirty? To clean the composition you take a lightly dampened rag or paper towel (use doll cleaner or plain water) and just rub the doll off. For stubborn stains you can use a well-wrung Mr. Clean Eraser. You just don't want to saturate the doll or get any water on un-sealed composition material. For dirty mohair wigs you begin by picking through the wig with a bamboo or wooden skewer. You will have some shedding, but you will remove any debris, knots, or mats in the mohair. Work carefully and gently.

Mohair is a type of wool, so if you have to actually wash the wig you can use cold water, not hot water because it will felt the mohair. If you have to wash the wig you will first have to remove it from the composition doll. You can't soak the wig off, but if the wig was applied properly a rubber-cement type of adhesive was used. You can poke your skewer under the wig cap to crumble the adhesive and gently pull the wig off. The wash it, set it with curlers, and let it dry before you reattach it. Always use mucilage or rubber cement to apply a wig to a composition doll, not regular glue, so it can be removed if needed.

The wig after picking.
In most cases, just picking out the wig is sufficient to clean and "brush" it. You can't use a regular brush on mohair because it will just tear the mohair out of the stitching and you will have a bald wig cap. Once your wig is picked out and clean you can set it.

Pincurl the wig.

Either using the tiniest perm rods or bobby pins roll the hair into pincurls. I prefer the bobby pin method because it was the fashionable method during the period these dolls were produced and it is how the wigs would have been originally set.

Spray the pincurls.
When your pincurls are all rolled, spray a heavy coat of aerosal hairspray on them to set the curls. I use Mink hairspray, an old-fashioned brand, because it is the brand recommended by Carol Lindberg, the author from whose book I taught myself. It's a bit hard to find but it is worth it because it gives the mohair a shimmery finish that really restores the original sheen. It works really well on Saran and Dynel and other synthetic fibers as well. Let the hairspray dry completely and then carefully unroll the pins. Don't just yank them out or you will spoil the curls. You can use doll-sized hairpins to keep the curls in place as you want them.

The wig after styling.

Back view
Baby McGuffey cleaned up beautifully! You can find her and many other dolls for sale in my shops. Link to all my stores from

The finished doll