Thursday, October 15, 2015

The '30's Girls

They cleaned up pretty nicely! Here are Elizabeth, Sally, Jane, and Elizabeth. (Names came with them from the manufacturers.)

The Elizabeths are Madame Alexander dolls with "Princess Elizabeth" stamped on the back of their necks. Their blonde plaits are standard, so I was careful to re-braid them after giving their hair a much-needed spritz of conditioner and a bit of a brush to get all the stray bits back in place.  

Sally is a Petite brand doll and the back of her neck and back have stamps ("Petite Sally") that say so. Her tin eyes are rusty which gives her a bit of a frightening look (Dave says "CREEPY DOLL!" and scoots away whenever he sees me working with her) and her hair was one big mat -- with a braid stuck on with a single rusty bobbypin. 

Oh, girl. Let me get my brush.

Braid Spray, folks. The stuff is a miracle. Composition dolls shouldn't get wet, so I couldn't wash her hair like I wanted to -- and also I figured her wig would come off! -- but I spritzed on some Braid Spray and as soon as I started brushing, Sally's dull grey-yellow hair turned golden and soft, and fluffed up like a baby chick! I left her braid off so she's got a sweet blond bob. I'll put the braid in with her clothes and if a buyer wants to restore her further, they'll have it. I think she looks just as cute without it.

And yes, she's wearing a pink bathrobe because she's having a spa day. She's 80-some years old; I think she deserves some comforts in her life.

Jane, in the pink plaid and molded hair, is a Horsman doll. There's no mark on her, but apparently that's the way they made them that year. She's the only one with eyes that don't make me itch, and she has a very sweet face. Unfortunately, she's missing half of her right foot, but we can't have everything. 

So now you've seen the dolls and some of their outfits that came in the barrel. There's one more blog post I'll be doing that will cover the rest of the barrel's contents. I promise you it's not dolls or doll-related. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Barrels: not just for monkeys anymore!

A friend contacted me with a question: would I be interested in his mother's dolls from the 1930-40s? They were taking up space in a storage unit and he'd be glad to have them in the hands of someone who would appreciate them.   I said I didn't know much about doll value, but I'd take a look. Because there's nothing I like better than rummaging through boxes of old stuff, it's true. So we drove over to the unit and there was a literal barrel that held treasure once we got the lid pried off.

There was more in the barrel than just dolls, and I'd like to spread them out in a couple of posts so things don't get too long-winded around here.

Too late, you say? Hush, you. Let's look at the doll stuff first.

What is it about tiny clothes? They're just so darn cute! Imagine if you tripped on a stone in the pathway in a forest, and landed flat on your face in the dirt. You turn your face to the side and start to get up, and that's when you see the tiny door in the side of a fallen log.

"That certainly is unusual," you might think (or maybe not, depending on your acquaintance with wee folk), and scooting closer on your belly, you open the tiny door. Peek inside, then, and observe the home of a woodland elf: a miniature table, set with an equally miniature mug and plate; a hearth rug that would fit in the palm of your hand; and on the bed, laid out as if ready for a special occasion, some wee outfits knit in wool...

To give you an idea of scale, that red jacket is about four inches tall (10 cm). And don't you just love the tails on the blue coat? There were four dolls in the barrel, and none of them were tiny enough to fit these clothes, so they must be for an elf.

I really wish these socks were big enough to fit one of my dolls, but alas, they are made for someone bigger than our elf, and daintier in foot than my girls. I love how they open down the front. I  wonder if they were meant to be turned down and cuffed like a boot? Maybe? They're the only wee socks in the bunch, about three inches long (8 cm), and I'm keeping them just because they're so stinking cute I can hardly stand it. Can you imagine the slender needles used to knit these? What intricacy!

There were many handmade dresses, and once they're washed and pressed, I'll take some pictures of them, too. I thought this commercially-made dress was interesting, though. It's a Madame Alexander and besides the usual delightful attention to detail that is the hallmark of that company's vintage items, it has a feature that I've never seen before: The underpants are attached to the dress!

That's a way to keep your bloomers from falling down! Look at the detailing on the cuffs, and the rickrack decorating the neckline. Too cute! Too, too cute!

But the sweetest things I found in the doll clothes were these:

At first I thought they were just scraps, but on closer inspection, I realized they were a little girl's handiwork. Wobbly white stitches on a folded-over hem of blue cotton made a little cloak and a hood that ties on with a bit of ribbon. Absolutely precious. This is what I'm talking about, you guys, about little girls learning to sew! This is where it all starts!

And here she learns how to manage a mistake:

"Mama, I made the neck too big!" And she just put in some shoulder straps and pretended like she meant for it to look that way! I love that one buttonhole is done, and the other two are marked but not started. Buttonholes are yucky, kid; I agree.

Pictures of the dolls? I haven't taken any because those ladies look pretty wretched. Once I get their clothes tidy and on them nicely, I'll take a group shot. I've always thought that vintage dolls have kind of a creepy look to them, so I won't be keeping them. Except for a few things I'm keeping because they work for my dolls or are just too adorable (socks!), I'm going to help my friend find a buyer for these items.

I have to go put some more Woolite in the machine and send another load of tiny things through a delicate cycle. I'll show you more things from the barrel next time!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dr Who Sonic Screwdriver, a post with no dolls at all. Except in this title. Oh, darn it.

For years friends have been going on about Dr Who and how great it is, and I tried a few episodes and just could not get into it. I've always had trouble with time travel in books and movies because of the paradox and everything. It's so hard to keep track. Then Dave started watching episodes of the 9th Doctor, and I figured it was worth another shot. I mean, when so many people have raved about a show, there has to be something to it.

David Tennant as the tenth Doctor sold me. I was never a huge fan of his companion Rose, but I liked Martha, and once Donna appeared, I was hooked.

The local chain bookstore had some Dr Who merch on their sale table, so we picked up a customizable sonic screwdriver kit for half price. I snapped together the pieces I liked into a kind of steampunky screwdriver, but it didn't feel like mine until I took it into my workshop and added a red leather wrap to the handle, and used Rub-n-Buff to bring all the different metal colors to a more match-y union.

There's a little flippity tab that I can press to make nine different scanning sounds. My favorite is number four, which sounds like an engine winding up, coughing, and failing. The blue parts at the end light up and flash, which is very fun in a dark house at night. 

We went to the EMP in Seattle to see the science fiction exhibits and it amused me to take my screwdriver out to "scan" things. 

I'm such a geek. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bad Hair Doll.

Remember Mary Alice, the bald doll? The other day, I found her polar opposite. Same place: the thrift store shelf in a tangle of baby dolls, but this doll had hair.

She had... PLENTY... of hair.

I do love a challenge, so I paid the 99 cents to bail her out.

Girl's been living rough. There were sticks and pine needles in that mess. And some narrow, tight braids in random places. And some green streaks that I hoped weren't permanent. Look at those mats. Girl, what have you been up to? I hope you had fun. 

A quick shampoo and condition later, I squeezed the excess water from her hair with a towel and grabbed my Braid Spray, a trick I learned from Neth at American Girl Outsider. (Link Warning: Neth speaks her truth with NSFW cussin'.)  A few spritzes and some brushing later, and I had this:

It's a little blurry, but much better, I assure you.  The green even washed out.

Now, Madame Alexander makes some fine dolls, and has been doing so for decades, but I have to say that I'm not impressed with the hair they put on their 18" line. Like Sangeeta in an earlier post, this doll had a tag saying not to wet the doll's hair. Remember how the company representative I contacted said getting the hair wet would ruin it? Well, obviously that's a bunch of nonsense, and as I searched all over the internet to clarify the meaning of that label and found nothing, I will share my findings/opinion here in the hopes of helping others:

What they mean is that the Madame Alexander dolls have hair that comes styled. There is a starchy product in the hair to help it stay neat. The hair is rooted in the scalp to make the style's hairlines and parts look natural. If you want a different style-- like two ponytails-- bare patches and rooting plugs are going to show. If you wash the hair, the starchy product will be gone, so the hair will be more fluffy and prone to messiness. The hair is washable. But it is cottony and tangles easily, so keep that in mind. Washing won't ruin the hair, but it will ruin the pre-set hairstyle, and your styling options might be a little limited after that.

Why on earth they would make a doll with hair like this for children, who have "brush and style hair" in the top five favorite things to do with dolls, is beyond me.

Good thing she's got a pretty face to get by on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Let There Be Light!

We bought our house ten years ago. I can hardly believe it's been that long, but I've got an aging dog and a kid out of college that assure me the passage of time continues despite my disbelief. Ten years ago we stepped into the place as brand new homeowners and looked around us. "First thing we do is paint," Dave said.

As my eyes scanned the blue tropical seascape mural painted from floor to ceiling of the dining room, I nodded in agreement. "And a new light fixture," I added.

So we went to the DIY home store and bought gallons of paint and got to work. But we could not agree on a new light. Everything was ugly, expensive, or similar to the boring round medallion we already had.

And ten years passed.

Then one day, when we were looking for electrical wire at a second-use warehouse, we saw it. Each of us shot out an arm, pointing. "THAT." Dave says I pushed a woman out of the way to grab it, but I'm sure I was never so rude.

It had been spray painted black and silver, but I knew with a little freshening up, it would be just the thing. And we were right. All it took was a black basecoat, a touch of brown spraypaint here and there to "age" it, and some of my "secret ingredient"-- Rub-n-Buff, and we have an awesome new victorian/steampunk/gothic/what-have-you chandelier -- see?

It came with tiny paper lampshades for each arm, but we found that we liked it better without those. It's much brighter, too. The LED bulbs mean we'll never have to replace them for, like, 20 years.  There are tiny holes on the top branches where prisms used to hang, so I'm keeping my eye out to see if I can find some replacements. No rush. We've been thinking strings of colored glass would look good too. Maybe in another ten years.