THE RESTORATION OF ANA McGUFFEY – Marilyn Armstrong

I collected dolls for years. Collecting is easy. Restoring is more of a challenge. Before I gave up collecting, I learned to restore my old dolls.

Portrait of an old doll.

Up front, let me say that I’m not crafty. I can’t sew, crochet, knit, or carve. I can’t change the cartridges in my printer. I can write and I can take pictures. I can draw a bit. And I can cook. Otherwise, I’m pretty much a washout as a craftsperson. But I collected dolls for years. If you collect, there are things you need to do yourself because even if you have lots of money, finding someone else to do them is difficult … maybe impossible. I learned because I had no choice.

This is the best work I did. After Ana McGuffey, I pretty much stopped collecting and promptly forgot everything I ever knew. Use it or lose it.


Composition was the material favored by quality dollmakers such as American Character and Madame Alexander before the 1940s when hard injected plastic became the material of choice. The changeover from composition to hard plastic was gradual. Some composition dolls were produced as late as the 1950s, though not many.

Ana McGuffey – 1946 – Mme. Alexander – Doll’s faces are intended to embody the “adorable” factor of real toddlers.

Composition is basically sawdust, glue, varnish, and paint.  It is a very good molding material, but it disintegrates over time. Dampness rots it. Excessive heat will destroy it. Time will have its way with it. Many dolls I love are old composition dolls. Finding these dolls in pristine condition can be impossible. If available, they are costly. Lacking money, I decided to learn to fix them. Old composition dolls in a state of deterioration are not difficult to acquire. If you can repair them yourself, you can get rare dolls for short money … but you will invest many long hours of yourself.

Ana McGuffey 4

Ana McGuffey (of the reader of the same name) was one of Madame Alexander’s most popular character dolls for decades, from the 1910s through the 1940s. Although her face changed with the times, she always had her hair in braids. She wore a pinafore with a floral print dress. Stocking and buttoned shoes.

I finally got a 20″ Ana McGuffey. Half of each foot was rotted away. The paint on her face was chipped and faded and her wig and clothing were gone. She was in pieces and needed restringing.

I replaced her feet by modeling them using a clay-like epoxy material. This stuff is used for modeling all kinds of stuff. It’s difficult to use but forms a very hard, resin-like substance when it dries.

I restrung her, repainted her face — many failed attempts before I got it sort of right. I found a wig that looked like her original, though not the same material.

Her original wig was made of mohair. While you can get mohair wigs for restoring dolls, they are frightfully expensive and not particularly durable. I also don’t like the way they look, so I went with modern polyurethane. I made the dress and pinafore. This is not an area in which I excel, but no one was making clothing for this doll. It was me or no dress. I could easily get dresses that would fit her, but they wouldn’t look like her original clothing. I wanted Ana to look close to her original.

Ana McGuffey – 1948 by Madame Alexander

She also needed a flowery straw hat and I’d gotten pretty good at buying plain hats and decorating them. I found the stocking and shoes that sufficed, though they weren’t quite what I wanted. I haven’t mastered making shoes, but all things considered, I’m proud of this piece of work.

This is Ana McGuffey, Madame Alexander, circa 1930 – 1940. Restored by me.

TOYS – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Things People Play With


By the time you hit your retirement years, “play with” can take on an alarming tone. The problem is that our taste in fun has not changed, but we have. So even though we used to love formula racing, our aging bodies might not be up to the split-second timing required to handle them.

Some of us collect miniatures or just plain collect. Others of us see for a less perilous path to entertainment, foregoing mountain climbing, NASCAR racing, and deep-sea diving.

Then there are the rest of us who never did that in the first place. We have to give up other things, like powerful hallucinogenic drugs which don’t work well with pacemakers.

Fortunately, there’s a whole world of other stuff to try.

I play with cameras. Photo: Garry Armstrong
Garry plays with cameras, too
I play with Robbie.
I play with dolls
And we both play with dogs!

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TRUTH IS, TRY ART – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art

We have tons of art in the house. I like to think we also have a fair bit of truth, but if no one seems able to define truth, how in the world do you define “art?”

Is that the stuff which is just pretty but serves no “useful” purpose … or is it anything that has a certain eye-appeal, no matter what you might want to call it.

Monochrome with red dress

I collected dolls for years and antique Chinese porcelain … and for a long time, teapots and other oddities. Some people find the dolls creepy. I love them. We have paintings and photographic prints and small items that really are pretty, but currently (in this world) useless.

Is anything that makes you feel better about life not serving a useful purpose? If it makes you feel good, isn’t that enough?

I don’t know how people manage to live in houses without any art or pictures or prints. Don’t they need the color and the motion? Something to tickle their fancy?

DOLLS IN PINK – Marilyn Armstrong

DOLLS IN PINK


Pink is such a favored color by little girls, it’s no wonder that many of the dresses for dolls were in pink — or the second favorite — purple.

Even the wall is pink! Three Toni dolls, from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s.

 

SWEET SUE – AN AMERICAN CHARACTER DOLL IN FINEST PINK – Marilyn Armstrong

Sweet Sue – I made the hat myself 


American Character was never as popular a name as Tony or Madame Alexander … or for that matter, Barbie or even Ginny. But American Character dolls had the sweetest faces for dolls of that period.

Their best-selling doll was “Sweet Sue” of which this is an original. She was extremely popular from the early 1940s until the end of the 1950s when high-heeled fashion dolls became the trend.

Okay, let me rephrase. The doll is original. Her hair is original, but her clothing shredded. I bought her a made-to-order dress. I also made her a hat because Sweet Sue always wore a hat and usually one with flowers.

Quite a few of these days came through my world and most of them, I sold, but this one, because she was not as valuable since her clothing was not original, I kept for my own. She lives on my dresser along with two Cissy dolls from Madame Alexander and one Princess Elizabeth (as in the child queen of England), also by Madame Alexander.

I have many other dolls in the room, but Sweet Sue is a favorite, with her lovely face and gentle smile.

Also, the hat is pretty cool, isn’t it?

MEET PINK CISSY FROM MADAME ALEXANDER – By Marilyn Armstrong

Pink Cissy – Madame Alexander


This is Cissy by Madame Alexander.

The dress is an original, designed and sewn by a talented woman who wanted the outfit to look just like one her mother wore to church in the 1950s. The dress under the coat perfectly matches the coat, scarf, and hat.

Meet Miss Cissy by Madame Alexander. She is wearing a homemade outfit cut from an old dress I found at the Salvation Army and sewn by an exceptionally talented seamstress.

She is an original Cissy except for her wig which is not right. Usually, you can buy replacement wigs for old dolls who wear wigs, but not for Cissy. Nothing was available anywhere. I could not find an appropriate replacement wig for her, so she is wearing a wig that at least fits her head, but is absolutely the wrong style.

Otherwise, she’s one of the original fashion dolls and quite a beauty. Also, most definitely pink.

RDP #41 – VINTAGE STUFF – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #41 – VINTAGE

Each time I get one of these “Vintage” things, I think I should post pictures of Garry and I. We are definitely vintage, though today has been a yeoman’s effort at house cleaning — or at least cleaning the kitchen, living room, stairs, and foyer.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – circa 1928

It would have been less strenuous if Gibbs has not thought this was a great time to go swimming in the water bowl. Each time I cleaned up the gallon or two of water all over the floor, I’d turn around and there was another gallon there. And of course, the water bowl was all full of mud and the VERY clean kitchen floor had his muddy footprints on them. So you could say we have a thrice cleaned kitchen and hallway floor.

Qing dynasty rice bowl, typically used by field workers. The blue chicken is a cultural thing. The bowl is almost 200 years old — and it isn’t even close to my oldest piece of pottery.

This was the day I moved cabinets to get behind them (ew!) and under the feet (double ew!). Next time I have the courage of my convictions, I’ll move the piece in the middle where I store the pots and pans, as well as the dog, treats et al. It doesn’t get moved because it’s heavy. There’s a lot unloading of other things before we even think about moving it. Not an easy job for a couple younger than we and a huge job for us.

Ana McGuffey – 1946 – Mme. Alexander – Doll’s faces are intended to embody the “adorable” factor of real toddlers.

There are an awful lot of vintage things around this place, even discounting Garry and me as the primary vintage couple.

See the pictures for other vintage items and wave to us as the vintage couple who seem to collect stuff even older than we are. Old, older oldest?