Saturday, August 29, 2009

Madame Alexander Wendy Ann - doll repair story

When I first started to collect composition dolls, I decided that I had better learn how to repair them since they are quite old; and unless I wanted to pay premium prices for premium quality dolls, I needed to be prepared to buy dolls that were less than perfect.

In some cases, I was lucky and bought near perfect dolls for a reasonable price at auction, but in some cases, I deliberately bought dolls that needed some help, so that I could learn how to restore them without detracting from their original beauty.

I have nothing against dolls sold as "One of a kind" restorations with custom face paint, but that was not my intention. I wanted my dolls to look somewhat close to factory perfect.

My first "victims" are these Madame Alexander Wendy Ann face dolls, made some time in the 1940's. The smaller Wendy Ann has a Mayfair twist waist and human hair wig. The larger Wendy Ann has a mohair wig.

Here's what they looked like when they came to me:



Both dolls needed their wigs cleaned and re-set. The larger Wendy Ann needed to be re-strung and re-painted. She had been left in the sun to bleach. The smaller Wendy Ann's eyes were completely crazed. Neither doll had any clothes to speak of.

Since their composition was still good, I figured it wouldn't take much to bring them back to their former beauty.

So, for both these dolls, the wigs were cleaned and re-set using doll curlers. I bought an old set of curlers that had been sold with Toni dolls. I figured if they were good enough for Toni, they were good enough for Wendy Ann. I could have saved money and cut up some straws to use for curlers, but the doll curlers were a lot more fun. The mohair wig was completely removed from the large Wendy Ann. It was caked with dirt and would have to actually be washed. The wig was still nice and full, however - so it would have been a waste to throw it away. It was dried on a form so that it didn't shrink. The human hair wig was lightly cleaned with a wet cloth and a little bit of conditioner. That wig wasn't as dirty. It was just a bit ratty and needed detangling. Both dolls' wigs were set with a little bit of white glue greatly diluted in water.

I re-strung the large Wendy Ann. She was my first re-stringing project, and I used cotton-wound elastic. While her wig was off, I repainted her face. It was an interesting exercise in recalling my fine art training in order to mix her face paint to match the rest of her body. It's a very close match, but if I had to do it over, I'd just take her down to my local hardware store and get their computer to match it. Since she is composition, I used oil-base paint. I used an oil crayon rub to give her a soft eye shadow and blush, and a modelling detail brush to do her lashes. If I had to do it over again, I would just use an artist's black illustration pencil for her eyelashes, although the brush is closer to factory. Both dolls had their composition sealed.

The eyes of the small Wendy Ann were crazed, so I cleaned them and gave her new pupils with highlights. Now, they were ready to be dressed.

The large Wendy Ann, I believe, was a bride or bridesmaid doll, as the shape of her burnt-out d├ęcolletage looked very much like the shape of the original Madame Alexander bridesmaid costume. I may dress her one day with an original bridesmaid costume, but for now, she wears a factory-made tartan jumper and blouse that complement her red hair. Her underwear and shoes are modern replacements.

The small Wendy Ann is wearing a dress made by a very talented doll dressmaker. I made her pearl and glass bead necklace. Her shoes and underwear are modern replacements.

Would these dolls fetch exorbitant prices on the market if I sold them? Probably not; however, the things I learned while restoring them to their former beauty are priceless.


14 comments:

  1. I have a Wendy Ann composition doll with a crack on her chin. How can I fill it in and cover the mend? Thanks

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  2. Hi there - I use a kind of putty especially for composition dolls. It's great for filling in cracks or even for building new fingers, etc. I got mine from an eBay seller in Colorado. The name of the product is Care Repair. You just fill the crack or hole with the putty, allow it to dry, sand it with a fine grade sanding paper, and paint it afterwards to match your doll. It works great! Just go to US eBay and do a search for Care Repair for composition dolls. Good luck!

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  3. I just recently purchased a doll just like yours. Her eyes are blown, is there a way to repair them? Thank you!

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  4. Hi Marcie

    If you look at the before and after pics of the smaller Wendy Ann, you'll see that her eyes look blown in the "before" pic, and fixed in the after pic. To do that, I used: clear nailpolish, a thin tipped permanent black marker, white-out (liquid paper). First, I gave her new pupils using the black marker, and then highlighted them with the smallest of white dots in the upper right quadrant where her pupil meets the iris part of the eye. Since she has sleep eyes, I had to use one hand to hold her eyes open, and the other to do the painting. After everything was thoroughly dry, I gave her eyes a coat of clear nail polish (I did this while she was standing up so that I didn't have to hold her eyes open). You have to look pretty close to see that they were blown. Good luck with your doll repair. :)

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  5. Thank you so much Melanie! I will give that a try. Your doll looks gorgeous! I love your blog and love all of the restorations you have done. Thank you again! ;-)

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  6. Thanks, Marcie, I have more dolls to add - I just need more time to add them. :)

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  7. Can anyone help me? My mother is 80 years old and had a composition doll when she was yound with a loop her hair to hold a bow. After reading the article on Patsy dolls, I now know she is not one of these.
    I want to try and find her one for Christmas.

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  8. Hi Anonymous. That sounds like a Cameo Joy doll. I have one of these dolls (I haven't put her photo up yet.) She has a sweet face and a loop to tie a hair bow. Here's a photo from Doll Reference: http://dollreference.com/images2/cameo_joy.jpg (I hope this helps.)

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  9. lyzeebella dollsApril 8, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Thank you for all of the great advice. Your first restorations look wonderful. I was wondering what product you used to seal the dolls after you painted them. I used to repair dolls, and want to start again. In the 80's I used future acrylic floor wax - but sold the dolls so I don't know how it held up - it was supposed to stay clear and not yellow. Do you know of any reasons not to use such a product - or can you tell me what you prefer. Thanks again

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  10. Hi lyzeebella - I use an artist's clear spray acrylic - the kind one would use for sealing a canvas or a painted piece of sculpture. Depending on the original finish of the doll, use either a matte spray for a flat finish, or a satin spray for a slightly shinier finish. I would not use a full on gloss finish spray, as I find they reflect too much light and can make it hard to see fine detailing. There are several good brands out there and you can get the liquid acrylic if you prefer to paint it on. If you do use the spray, be sure to remove your doll's wig before use.

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  11. Hi Melanie! I am so thrilled to have found your blog--you have so much great information and pictures, and you're doing just what I love to do too. I'm following you now and hoping you're able to post again soon, but in the meantime I'll have a wonderful time discovering all the treasures in your older posts! ~ RuthM

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    1. Hi RuthM - glad you're enjoying the blog. I hope to have more entries, but it's taken me much longer than I ever expected to re-plant myself in the USA. My collection is still in Australia, but I hope to have it out here within the year for more entries! I definitely have more to share. :)

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  12. Hi, Melanie. Do you have any advice for me? I have several Madame Alexander Dolls that need to be restrung. Where can I find someone who can do that or figure out how to do it myself? Love your work!

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    1. Hi Docnaz - it really isn't too hard to learn how to restring your dolls. You can purchase doll restringing kits online (eBay is a favorite of mine) that include a pair of clamps/hemostats, some hardware, and various gauge covered elastic cordage. Be sure to use the covered elastic unless your doll originally used plastic bands. You'll need some good hand strength to get the tension right - too tight, and the legs and arms won't "relax." Too loose and everything will feel loose and come apart easily. I learned by practicing on a "practice doll" and by following these instructions: http://www.thisolddoll.info/hosp/restring/restring.htm Why not give it a try? If it becomes too difficult, I would take her to your nearest doll hospital. Best of luck!

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