Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Another Top 10!

I am extremely proud to say my Atelier Mandaline eBay store made the Top 10% of all eBay sellers again, this time in the Dolls and Bears category! I have been working my tail off lately (if only that would turn out to be literally true!) and I'm really happy to see concrete results for all my effort. I spent most of the day yesterday taking photos and was up listing new inventory until almost midnight last night. Then I reminded myself of how I've been sick for over a month and am not quite well yet, so I went to bed and finished up listing today!

I am celebrating making the Top 10 again with another 10% off sale throughout the store. This discount comes on top of my existing markdowns, such as Buy 3, get 1 30% off in doll repair and crafts, so it's a great time to stock up. Besides dolls and toys, I just listed a ton of semi-formal and formal dresses suitable for Easter, weddings, church, dances, and even flower girls or junior bridesmaids because my daughter outgrew all her Cotillion gowns. 

My sister gave me four enormous tubs of boys' clothes to sell for her in sizes from newborn to 5, and I have gotten one tub listed so far. There are many more pieces on the way, including dressy fashions I'm trying to get into the store in time for Easter, so please check. 

As always, I appreciate your business more than I can say! I hope you'll help me reach even higher: Top 5%, Top 1%, not only on eBay but on Etsy, Facebook, and Poshmark too! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lady in Red

Recently, as many of you are aware, I've been struggling some. I got sick and can't seem to get well, no matter what I do. I have a chest full of gunk and  cough that keeps coming back. I will get better for a few days and go back to my regular routine and then BAM! I wake up with my cough back in full force. I'm sure the weather has something to do with it; over the past few weeks we've had temperatures in the mid 80s, temperatures in the low 20s, thunderstorms, snow, and hail. We have no idea how to dress from day to day and often have to change clothes between morning and afternoon due to enormous swings from cold to hot or vice versa. So, my fruit trees are most likely toast, and my allergies have been terrible. I know the cough has a big allergy component because it gets worse when I'm sorting through boxes of dusty old doll clothes, something I've been doing a lot of lately. It's just weird, though, because I don't usually get a cough with allergies.

So, anyway, I'm sitting here coughing as I type. Besides that, we did our taxes the other day and I had to file for the first time this year. I only made enough to have to file, but not enough to make it less painful! We lost our Child Tax Credit for our oldest because he turned 17, too. So between those things we are getting a way smaller return than usual and our first tuition payments for our son's university are due, and I feel worse than useless. I wanted to be able to contribute more now that we have college payments and instead I feel like I'm just costing the family money. To top it all off, while working on my computer really early this morning when I was still too sleepy I guess, I accidentally deleted about 40 of my eBay listings and will now have to redo them all!

Fortunately for me, I have some wonderful friends who always seem to know when to step in and send encouragement. The other day I got a note out of the blue from a friend telling me my re-designed stringing kits are beautiful. Then a college friend I haven't heard from in months texted me to see how I'm doing. And finally, a dear friend sent me an amazing gift: a Cissy head with some clothing! I decided to part out a doll who hasn't sold and start over with a new one.

Tagged dress in top photos, my dress in bottom photos.

The chemise and dress shown in The Cissy Files book.

Among the clothing my friend sent is almost certainly the puffed sleeve taffeta dress and pillbox hat from 1956. There are slight differences: the dress lost its tag and the ruching in the bodice along the way and the tulle is loosely draped over the hat rather than tightly wrapped around it. The original floral decorations are missing from the hat. A quick comparison with photos from The Cissy Files book shows a clear correlation between the construction of a tagged dress and my dress, and the pairing of the hat and dress together seems too much of a coincidence for them not to be the 1956 set. The lace Basic Cissy chemise is also shown. I used the photos of the original pieces to restore them. I call my Cissy the "Lady in Red". That's not very original, because it turns out there is a different Lady in Red Cissy made by the company in 1958! This is not that Cissy!

The red dress, as my friend pointed out, was clearly washed or cleaned at some point and ironed, and the tulle on the hat had become grayed with age and rather squashed. I steamed the dress and treated a couple tiny pinholes on one side of the skirt with Fray Check so they won't expand. To clean and reshape the hat I first soaked it in a mixture of lemon essential oil, hydrogen peroxide, and water. Then while it was still wet I placed it on a bald Cissy head and set it on the sun to dry. The sun and the lemon and peroxide gently bleached the hat and the head re-shaped it.

Reshaping and bleaching the hat

The head I used, as well as a wonderful Tosca Cissy wig and some Cissy accessories and clothes are all available in my eBay store right now, so I hope you'll check. I absolutely have to clear out some of my gigantic stash of fabrics and clothes and doll parts so I can fit my new heat press into my office.

Cissy's lingerie

There is a repair to one arm.

She is marked ALEXANDER.

I will say I have been grateful throughout this restoration to have my large stash; I found all kinds of authentic Cissy pieces to dress this doll! The lace teddy, or chemise, is not tagged but is clearly the Basic Cissy lingerie that came on those dolls. The Basic Cissy just wore the chemise, stockings, shoes, and her "diamond" ring. I found all those in my stash as well as many other Cissy or Portrait pieces, such as the cameo necklace.

Cissy can sit and bend her knees.

You can see Cissy has a repair to one arm. This isn't too noticeable and doesn't show at all when she is dressed. Cissy is an infused plastic face doll and had the "tan" these dolls can get to both her face and eyes when she arrived. I was able to clean this off almost entirely. One of Cissy's knees isn't as tight as I would like but she can still pose and sit and stand alone (with balancing), so it's minor. This Cissy has a much less common brunette wig. Her wig is of average fullness. It needed styling, which I gave it, restoring it as closely as possible to its original curly flip style.

The finished doll

The dress had some pinholes.

I added a Mommy made crinoline.

To help hide the pinholes on one side of the skirt and a faint spot on the other side, I made a tulle stole in the style of several actual Cissy pieces. I just pinned this to the dress with a Madame Alexander cameo brooch on one side and a safety pin on the other, so it's entirely removable if you don't want it. I sewed matching floral decorations with glass beads and rhinestones to the stole and the hat. My stash yielded a Mommy-made buckram petticoat boldly trimmed with large red rickrack. I seemed perfect for this outfit, so I shortened it to fit. I restored some vintage Madame Alexander high heels with stretched-out elastic, shortening the elastic to fit and trimming them with red glass beads. I decided Cissy is on vacation in New Orleans, where I noticed women still dress to the nines, despite the heat. I posed Cissy in front of my French Provincial screen for her NOLA photoshoot!

Photos of some of the accessories used from The Cissy Files

Adding accessories is always the fun part, and I that's where I tend to go overboard. It would be much smarter financially to sell these pieces separately, but then that's so much less engaging! I will probably never realize the value of each of these individual accessories, but I enjoy creating outfits too much to skimp on my Cissys! And who ever accused me of being a financial genius anyway? I buy tons of big boxes of dolls and doll parts and clothes and mixed in with them I often find identifiable Madame Alexander pieces. These may have gone to Cissy or they may have belonged to the Jacqueline Portrait dolls, or even to other dolls, like Margaret. They also may have been sold as part of boxed accessory or outfit sets. At any rate, as you can see, I was able to find photos of the purse, lace mitt gloves, and cameo necklace and brooch I used for this doll, in The Cissy Files. Creole Beauty and Taffeta Scarlett from the early 1960s are just a couple dolls who wore these pieces.

I gave the hat new floral trimmings.

I am terribly pleased with this restoration. Cissy's various vintage flaws aren't obvious at all. She is the perfectly put-together fifties lady I would love to emulate. I had a lot of fun working on her and her elaborate costume reduced my boxes of stuff by several pieces. My friend's generosity will be an enormous help toward the tuition payments because she has allowed me to make so much more profit than I would have, too. Having a project that entirely captured my attention for several days allowed me to forget some of the things that have been weighing on me. You can find Cissy and many other wonderful dolls and accessories in my eBay and Etsy shops, so I hope you will check!

Cissy has a slight tan from her New Orleans vacation.

Her brunette wig is hard to find.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Diana Dollikin

The doll before restoration

Yesterday was just about the worst day ever. Having finally gotten over the worst of my "cold", which I suspect was a chest and sinus infection at the worst of it, I woke up before dawn hoping to get a lot accomplished. I was greeted by the dismal news that in the height of my illness I apparently mixed up two eBay orders. The packages were the same weight and both heading to the same state and I taped the shipping labels to the wrong boxes. So I am involved in long-distance negotiations with the two buyers, except one isn't answering. While I was dealing with that my oldest came to my office to show me his eye was swollen shut. He refused to stay home from school because he had to take a test, so he came home afterward. When he got home his eye was all red: clearly pink eye. So we had hours at the doctor and pharmacy and I have the guilt of knowing he spread germs all over school all morning. I spent the rest of the afternoon washing stuff, trying to keep the notoriously contagious infection from spreading to my other two kids. Pretty much the only thing that went well all day was my Dollikin restoration.

The restored doll

Dollikin arrived as you see her above, in need of re-stringing, new hair, new eyes, and deep cleaning. The cleaning revealed a non-factory paint job was done at some point and that washed away, plus she had some uneven skin tone, so I gave her face a repaint. I tried several different combinations for her coloring but settled on keeping it the same as when she was new: green eyes and blond hair. I re-wigged her rather than doing a re-root. I don't really have the patience for re-rooting and I'm not great at it, so I think it's better to just do a new wig when I can. I decided to name Dollikin "Diana" because she reminds me of Princess Diana!

There is a tiny nick in the neck opening.

She is tight enough to do yoga!

As always with vintage dolls, this one still has some indicators of her age. There are a couple nicks in her eye sockets. That seems to be obligatory! It seems whenever a doll's eyes stop working the child's first measure is to poke at its eyes with a stick or something. I smoothed these over with acrylic modeling gel and while they are still slightly visible you really have to look to see it. I'm sure it bothers me more than anyone else! Her legs have uneven skin tone, as do other parts of her body, but it was minor enough to leave it alone. It doesn't show when she is dressed. This doll had the faint dark eyeliner that the widow's peak Dollikins have, which is unusual for a blond doll. I don't know if it was factory or not, but it didn't wash away even with a Mr. Clean eraser. I decided to roll with it and just repainted the eyeliner and eyeshadow like she would have had. I painted her lips, blushed her cheeks, and evened out her complexion. Her eyebrows are original. I sealed the paint job so it should last a good long time.

The central spring in the torso had seized up so I removed it and replaced it with elastic. My husband had to help me get her stringing as tight as possible without causing splits in her plastic. She can stand and sit alone and do yoga poses now! I am selling re-stringing kits for Dollikins and other ball-jointed dolls, so please check my shops on eBay and Etsy if you have one to restring.

The lingerie

Her slip and shoes

I added beads to the shoes.

The full ensemble

Diana came with an exceptionally pretty outfit, a complete ensemble. She has a bra and panties that match her taffeta lace-trimmed dress and a sheer slip. Her dress is belted with a black velvet belt. This dress is exquisitely made; it is very professional with dressmaker details like darts in the front and back and a fully-lined bodice. It is not tagged and seems newer than the doll, although it uses all the classic techniques of the really nice doll clothes from the 1950s. I added stockings, shoes, and a purse that are vintage Madame Alexander. The shoes had bows missing from the toes and  spot where they originally were glued, so I covered that by gluing on turquoise beads. Diana is perfectly turned out from head to toe, a real modern princess!

She can sit alone.

As with all my dolls, Diana comes with a new hair net and my own signed tag, so she's ready for gifting or display in your collection. A careful girl would probably love to have her as well, but please keep in mind vintage playthings might not meet today's standards. You can find Diana and many more lovely dolls in my eBay and Etsy shops, and through Sunday, 3/20, at midnight they are on sale! Use coupon code LUCKY for 15% off any order from my Etsy shop and take an additional 10% off in my eBay store, including already-discounted items!

This Saint Patrick's Day holiday has already been lucky for me. I woke up to an international order for one of my custom t-shirts. That's the third shirt I've sold. I have wanted to design my own kids' fashions for years, but I was always held up by the small number of people who want to pay a realistic price for a hand-sewn garment. The new diecut machines and heat transfer material offer a cheaper alternative: my designs on less expensive t-shirts and bodysuits. My husband gave me a pricey Silhouette Cameo machine for Christmas and I purchased  lot of shirts and vinyl and finally an extremely expensive heat press, and... nothing. I was getting worried it was all a huge waste of time and money, so I'm thrilled to have things finally starting to sell! Then this afternoon my wonderful friend emailed to say she is sending me a much needed and extremely generous gift: a really valuable part I need for one of my dolls, as well as a dress for her! I hope you have a very happy and lucky Saint Patrick's Day too!

Etsy coupon code, good through 3/20/2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ballerina Encore

A couple weeks ago I bought a lot of dolls to restore. The photos weren't terrific so I couldn't see any small details, just enough to tell which dolls were included. Imagine my surprise when the dolls arrived and included was a ballerina I restored four years ago!

A new lot of dolls

My old tag

This doll is the Aida Ballerina by Valentine. She's a lovely doll, with brown hair and blue eyes. She wears her original tutu, which is in fair condition. The trim is fraying. She also has her original Capezio branded en pointe ballet shoes. I gave her tricot panties edged in shell embroidery and Madame Alexander sheer panty hose. Then I pinned some flowers in her long curls.

The restored doll

The Valentine mark

The bodice has wear.

The shoes say Capezio.

I'm rather worried about the customer who purchased Aida. Although she still had the hair net and tag I gave her, she was dirty and her vinyl had become sticky. She obviously had been stored in a basement or attic or storage unit without climate control. I hope the owner just downsized her collection and not that she died or something. I cleaned Aida and gave her a baby powder treatment to counter the stickiness. Her previous restoration included re-stringing of her arms and a lip re-paint.

The lips have been re-painted.

I made her hair ornament.

The ballerina poses well.

Aida poses extremely well. She can sit and stand and do the splits even! This range of motion is very rare for a walker doll! Her head-turning walker also works well. Her blue sleep eyes are clear and working. She's a wonderful example of this doll and would make a beautiful addition to your collection or even make a great play doll. Keep in mind vintage toys may not meet today's standards for playthings.

Cindy by Horsman

Another doll in the lot is an encore in a way for me. She's Mardi Gras Cindy by Horsman from 1957. My mother had this exact doll as a girl and passed her on to me, so I grew up playing with her. I was fascinated with this large sized grown up lady doll. Although I had Barbies, there weren't any dolls like this when I was small, nor are there still. Our Cindy was not anywhere near the pristine condition of this one! Luckily for my own daughter, my good friend sent her two Cindy dolls in fabulous condition and this is one of them. My daughter has them proudly displayed in the new doll cabinet my parents gave her.

The original Mardi Gras dress

The Horsman mark

The Ready Flex body, stuffed with wire armature

The lingerie is Madame Alexander.
Cindy is all dressed for Mardi Gras in her original gown. The gown is elaborate. It features a black velvet bodice and a pink skirt with tiers of metallic thread lace. My mother says the dress was much brighter pink when new. This one is a pink champagne color now from age. I believe the shoes, choker, hair ribbon, hair net, and purse are also original.

She has her original hair net and ribbon.

Cindy needed cleaning. Her hair was in its original set but it had some darkened areas from age, so I had to wash it and re-do it. I made floral hair ornaments from vintage flowers and pinned them over the dark areas to hide them. With that, she is truly gorgeous. My mother, who was visiting when I restored Cindy, said she looks new. I don't think I would say she looks brand new; there are always some signs of age even in the nicest vintage dolls, but she looks really nice and would be a perfect gift or collector doll. You can find these dolls and many others in my eBay and Etsy shops.