Friday, January 15, 2016

Restoring Felicity

In which mother and daughter bond over doll restoration.

My daughter's Felicity was a much beloved doll, but eventually she took up residence in her original box while her owner went away to college and then grad school. She didn't rejoin her former playmate until Fillia moved to another state for her first full fledged, adult job. And she didn't really come out of the box until Fillia noticed how much fun her mother was having playing with dolls in her old age. So on one of her visits she brought Felicity with her for a dolly spa session.

Fillia had been a very careful little girl, so the years had been kind to Felicity. She didn't need much treatment except for a light cleaning of her vinyl and a proper brushing of her hair.

We knew we'd need to spray her hair with water when we brushed it, so we wrapped her body in a towel and a plastic bag. 

Then we protected her eyes with cotton pads and painters tape.

The combing out process was long and painstaking. For those who have never done it, doll hair requires a doll brush with metal bristles or wig brush. The hair must be spritzed with water, and then it is brushed from the bottom up. It's also advisable to hold the lock of hair you're working on between your thumb and forefinger while brushing. All of this helps prevent hair loss. 

It's a very tiring procedure, so we took turns. I guess it was one of those mother-daughter bonding experiences. I was never one of those moms who enjoyed playing with her daughter's hair. A short, practical bob was my philosophy when poor Fillia was young. But I did enjoy working on the Felicity's hair. And here is the final result. 

Felicity is looking quite well, though her pin curls have disappeared as have the tiny straight pins that used to secure her pinner apron. Fillia said that Felicity would need a steam punk outfit because she is going to be a time traveler. That was quite a challenge for my dolly dressmaking skills. Felicity is a Pleasant Company doll and therefore has a chubbier build and broader shoulders than the American Girl dolls made by Mattel today.

Also wider feet. "All the better to stomp you with!" says Felicity. I bought her some adventure boots from The Queen's Treasures which were a rather tight fit. Of course she also needs an outfit to match. Fillia requested something sort of steam-punkish. Simplicity 1392 seemed like a good possibility.

Current 18" doll patterns are sized for the slimmer Mattel dolls. I'm not very good at alterations, so there was a good deal of trial and error before her new clothes were completed.

But at long last I was able to ship them to her. The pattern calls for amazingly cool clasps for closing the short-waisted jacket, but the jacket as sewn was too tight to close in front, and altering it was beyond my skill. So Felicity wears it open with two rows of decorative buttons because style trumps function -- she's just that kind of girl!  However, I was successful in widening the back of the corset so that Felicity can be both stylish and comfortable.

Here's a close-up of the nifty hardware that allows her to hike up her skirt -- though I haven't quite figured out the reasoning behind that feature. It can't help you run any faster because you'd still be impeded by your petticoats. (Yes, I know I'm talking like a mother now.)

Well, they do help Felicity show off the embroidery on her petticoat and her seriously awesome adventure boots. 

All in all, I enjoyed helping Felicity equip herself for her second career as a time-traveling, alternate-world, adventurer. And my final contribution was  this:

Because if you can't have a tiny pearl handled pistol for your adventures in Victorian London, a Japanese sword is probably the next best thing. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Welcome, Part II

In which the author encounters many changes...

Many years went by. As my daughter grew older, the American Girl catalogs began to arrive less and less frequently. Eventually, they stopped. (Yeah, that'll happen when you never buy anything.)

My children grew up. My husband died. I moved 60 miles east in order to help my elderly parents.

I'd completely fallen out of touch with the world of American Girl until 2012 when my granddaughters inherited some well-used AG dolls from a family friend. Their daddy hinted that these mostly naked dolls might appreciate some doll clothes if Grandma felt so inclined.

Which of course she did -- because 18 inch dolls, such as American Girl, are the perfect size to sew for. Their clothes are more interesting than a baby doll's. And they aren't impossibly tiny like Barbie's. And there are so many lovely patterns for them. Not only can you dress them in clothes from many different time periods, but you can make Star Trek uniforms, or Star Wars costumes, or Steam Punk outfits, or almost anything you can imagine.

Of course, since my granddaughters live so far away, I really needed a doll of my own to use as a dressmaker's dummy. Not an American Girl, of course! Even now, as a widow living alone and financially on my own, I couldn't justify buying myself such an expensive doll because I'm an adult, and wouldn't actually play with it. Would I?

So I bought Alejandra, an Our Generation doll from Target who is the same size as the American Girls. She had a cheerful, appealing face, the long dark braids I'd always wished for as a child, and she was Hispanic. (Something you never saw during my childhood.)

KwikSew 2921: a classic dress.

Soon "Allie" was helping me fit all kinds of outfits for her "cousins" in Ohio. And even for my niece's doll in California.

I discover free patterns on the Internet!

Kwik Sew 2830: my favorite nightgown pattern.

Always wear nice underwear in case you get in an accident!

And I do think that I've ended up playing with her and the other dolls that have found their way to my "Fortress of Dollitude." I not only sew for them, I also have fun making (or finding) tiny artifacts to complete their imaginary worlds. (I enjoy that more than just buying stuff.) And I mentally construct their backstories and current adventures. (Hint: Time traveling is involved.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Welcome to the Fortress of Dollitude

In which the author introduces herself...

Hello. My name is Catholic Bibliophagist. That's also the name of my book blog because a bibliophagist is someone who devours books, and that's what I do.  But when I'm not reading, I quilt; it's my other mad passion. So of course I started a second blog about sewing and quilting.

Lately, both of these blogs have been languishing. I still read and quilt, but I find myself spending more and more time playing with (and reading about) dolls, specifically 18" dolls such as American Girl. So of course, I need a third blog devoted to the 18" denizens of The Fortress of Dollitude.

I've wanted an American Girl doll ever since the late 1980s. I loved pouring over the Pleasant Company catalogs just as much as my little daughter did, but I never expected to own one because 1) I was a full grown woman; and 2) they were way too expensive for a one-income family. My husband always had one or more part-time jobs in addition to his full-time gig so that I could stay home with the children. So in good conscience I could never say, "Honey, I'd like to buy an outrageously expensive historical doll and her amazingly cute little accessories even though you work so hard that you fall asleep every time you stop moving for more than 30 seconds."

In fact, I had to tell my daughter that we could not possibly buy her an American Girl doll, and that if she really wanted one, she would have to save up for it -- which, surprisingly, she did.

I asked her recently if she remembered how long she had to save up. Her answer was, "FOREVER!"

I'm sure it must have seemed like forever since at that time an American Girl doll cost more than $80.00 and her allowance couldn't have been more than 25 or 50 cents a week. She does remember saving the dizzying sum of $20.00 and then falling off the wagon to buy ice cream. But she climbed back on again. And by doing extra chores for money (and requesting donations for her doll fund when relatives asked what she wanted for birthdays and Christmas), she eventually bought Felicity, the colonial doll.

But my own desire for an American Girl doll would not be slaked for many, many years.

At one point I bought a Gotz doll (for a much reduced price) from a toy store that was going out of business. But it wasn't the same, and poor Elizabeth, as I named her,  did not fill that AG-shaped hole in my heart. Alas! She spent most of her time in a box in my closet, though every now and then I did take her down to admire her exquisite ringlets. 

It would take a while for me to realize that sometimes it really is okay to buy exactly what you want. (Not to mention cheaper.)