Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Brave New World

If you've been following the blog for a while you know I resisted learning to restore American Girl dolls. I don't have the same passion for them as the older dolls, and it seemed pointless to learn to fix them when there is an American Girl hospital for them. With older dolls you have no choice; you either have to learn to fix them or find someone to fix them or see if you can buy a replacement. American Girl dolls are not cheap to restore, either. I hear rumors of people finding $20 dolls but my experience is you have to spend around $60 on the doll and supplies before you can restore her. That means you have to make a great profit on the doll or you're taking a loss. However, I was constantly bombarded with questions about restoring American Girl dolls, waking up every morning to tons of inquiries that came in to my eBay or Etsy shops or through my website or blog in the night. So I broke down and ordered one beleaguered Samantha who needed every kind of repair and I taught myself how to fix her.

The doll before repair

I used Samantha to learn to re-wig, replace eyes, re-paint, and replace limbs and re-string American Girl dolls. You can read over the past several posts for instructions on most of these and buy supplies from my eBay and Etsy shops (link through my website).

I found it's quite difficult to remove the American Girl wigs. I boiled the head and pried off the wig with a spoon. I don't understand why a doll company that uses wigs instead of rooted hair would make them so difficult to remove unless they are trying to force people to buy a whole new head from their doll hospital. Samantha's new identity was entirely determined by my stock of supplies. I had a red curly wig and handpainted electric blue eyes to fit her, so I decided she would use those to become Merida, the Celtic princess from the movie, Brave. I'm quite familiar with Merida because my daughter was obsessed with the movie when it came out. It's odd because my daughter is Chinese so you would think she would be all about Mulan, but something about Merida's independence and her archery skills really appealed to her.

The doll before repainting

The re-painted face with new eyes

The limbs are also painted.

Her face and arms have freckles.

She has a tiny "scar".

The doll with a new wig
Merida got a whole-body re-paint. I emulated the great Madame Alexander and blushed her hands, knees, elbows, and earlobes to make the doll more realistic. Her finger and toenails are blushed and glossed to make them look real. Even her arms are freckled like her face! The cloth body had a tiny pinhole so I darned over it to fix it. Now I say Merida has a scar from an early archery accident! Merida's arms are replacements and her limbs are all re-strung.

Making the bow

Merida's bow and arrow set. You can really shoot the arrows!
Merida's whole deal is that she is an archer, so she had to have a bow and arrow set. I made a bow from wood and elastic cord and made tiny arrows from bamboo. You can shoot the arrows, although my daughter is better at it than I. When I try it the arrows fly backwards! I never have been athletic, even on a small scale. My son is obsessed with the tiny bow and arrow set and I keep catching him messing with it. I think I will have to make him one for Christmas!

The chemise can also be a nightgown.

Merida's indoors outfit.

The jacket protects her arms.
I have a bunch of vintage doll clothes patterns from the 1990s and I've been using them for years to draw my own patterns. I use the pieces for sizing and combine them in different ways and re-draw various parts so now I can pretty much create any kind of outfit I want. I made Merida a chemise and bloomers she would wear as a nightgown and under her clothes. Back when clothing was much harder to produce and launder it was not often washed. People wore layers of clothes so they only had to wash the dirtiest pieces, worn closest to their skin usually. I made a velour dress for Merida and then a jacket with gauntlet sleeves to wear over that. The jacket has split elbows to make it easier for Merida to shoot arrows.

Merida's cloak has a shield closure.

The cloak is cashmere.

Back view
The trouble with me is once I get interested in something I literally can't think about anything else for a while. I just can't stop myself from working and working and expanding an idea. So, although I ought to have just stopped and listed this doll I just couldn't. I decided she needed a cloak. My husband's cashmere sweater got a hole in it (after he left it in the garage for ages) and look at that... it's a perfect match! So, Merida got a real cashmere hooded cloak. I found a vintage button with a heraldic shield to make the perfect closure.

She has a belt with tartan rosette.

Back view

Gaiters to protect her legs

Tartan Rosette

The belt has a toggle clasp.

The quiver attaches to the belt.

The bundle from the witch

The enchanted cake
Then, of course Merida needed a quiver to hold her bow and arrows. And then she needed a belt to attach her quiver. And she would need gaiters to wear over her shoes to protect her legs while horseback riding. And then, as a Celtic princess, she would have displayed her family tartan somewhere. And let's not forget, in the story she gets the enchanted cake from the witch...

More views

So, as usual, I got completely carried away and spent WAY too much time and money on this doll. I would have to charge $1000 to get paid for all the time I put into it. Luckily, I have her listed on Etsy for quite a bit less! And because now I'm afraid I have become addicted to American Girl restorations, I have more on the way. Look for vintage Glorex dolls restored as Harry Potter and Hermione Granger coming soon, and for more American Girls restored as Elsa from Frozen and Mulan. To see a Merida slide show, head to my website.

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