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 décolletage 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.