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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
I used to be a more enthusiastic gardener but my outdoor gardening days have become pretty limited. I manage to get into the garden once a year and clip everything back and pull out all the dead stuff from the previous year, but that’s pretty much “it” for me.
I love my indoor garden. It’s not huge, but it’s pretty and I can manage it … which is a powerful reason to love it. I look daily at my soon-to-be blooming Christmas cactus and the shoot of upcoming orchids.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Pretty much what I already do. If I didn’t have to sleep AND I had more money, it would be a different question with more entertaining answers.
What job would you be terrible at?
I was the worst secretary of all time. I was really bad. I resented taking orders, resented being treated like a “second-rate” worker — and I quit after less than two weeks. I’m sure they were deeply grateful. Lord knows I was.
When was the last time you climbed a tree?
I wasn’t much of a tree climber even when I was a kid. The only time I remember, I stepped in a hornet’s nest which reduced my tree climbing enthusiasm by %150.
Do you count your steps?
Bonus question (just because it’s really silly) What’s the dumbest way you’ve injured yourself?
Mostly by chopping off the tip of a finger while cutting up vegetables. I’ve done it SO MANY TIMES that I’m sure my house is full of traces of my blood. For a while, no one would let me hold a sharp object.
“PUT DOWN THAT KNIFE AND BACK AWAY FROM THE COUNTER!”
I have also slammed my finger in my desk drawer, car door, front door, and one really BIG fire door at school. There are lots more. I just can’t remember them all.
I have a particular favorite color of pink for clothing and it’s the only color pink I wear that isn’t a nightgown or underwear.
I use to wear black and put a hot pink blazer over it. It looked great. Red works too, but hot pink has class. Otherwise, you won’t find pink in my furniture or even my sheets. I admit a few doll dresses are pink, but with dolls, you can’t entirely avoid pink. It’s a doll color.
To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!