Sunday, March 25, 2012

Where the boys aren't

Boy dolls in general don't interest me, but I sometimes appreciate them in photos posted online. Out of all the dolls I own (er... a lot?*) only around a dozen of them are male, and all but four were purchased at thrift shops. I can think of four male dolls I've purchased new: Shave 'n Style Ken (the African American version, I neeeeded that headmold), Ken as Mulder in the X-Files gift set, Frank Sinatra, and James Dean. The latter two were found at Big Lots many years ago at deep discount. (It saddens me to report the local Big Lots no longer exists.)

This is why I was a little surprised by how much I wanted Jake to still be available at Ross Dress for Less. On Monday I returned to the store, a week after I found the Blythe dolls, to see if the toy shelves were restocked. They had several new dolls but there weren't any girls I wanted or didn't already have. I examined Making Waves Jake again, he's the boy Liv doll from SpinMaster's 2011 beach line -- which means a very basic outfit: tank top, shorts, sunglasses... and no shoes. I'd been thinking about him all week, wondering if he'd still be there, and for $5 my Liv girls would have a male friend to hang out with. Sold!

I also bought Ken's "Barbie Basics" accessory pack ($6, better than $7 like I had remembered -- funny how a dollar can make a difference. OH, IT'S A DOLLAR LESS THAN I THOUGHT? AWESOME! I crack myself up sometimes.) Anyway, I was thinking Jake could wear the youthful Converse sneakers. Poor kid needs shoes. The belts and black shirt are nice looking too. Turns out the Converse openings are too narrow for Jake (I'll try softening them in hot water before giving up) but two pairs of shoes in the set fit him nicely.

Daniela and Jake, Liv girl and Liv boy

Jake is wearing the Shave 'n Style Ken burgundy shirt and black Ken pants from an old Fashion Ave outfit. The watch, shoes, and belt are from Ken's Barbie Basics accessory pack.

He has inset blue eyes like the Liv girls but they're smaller, which was an interesting choice. SpinMaster probably reviewed various prototype boy dolls with different eye sizes (certainly digital images if not actual prototype dolls), it'd be fun to see the guys they rejected.

I see where I'm going to trim his hair

I like this Jake a lot but doubt I'll buy another, unless he's discounted and has a great outfit with shoes (no more beach dolls). A new character with a noticeably darker skin color would be welcome. Jake is a handsome guy and a great deal at $5 (thanks Ross!), even if he didn't come with shoes.

Two cute kids

One odd thing about the Converse in Ken's accessory pack: the eyelets are painted white but there are no shoelaces at all, neither painted or molded onto the shoe. Compare them to the running shoes with molded shoelaces from the same accessory pack:

look ma, no laces

It would probably look good to pierce the eyelets and lace up the Converse with white string. Has anyone tried that with success?

 *I've never actually counted but I know the real number would freak me out if I did.

"Why does she do this to our photos?"

Monday, March 19, 2012

A knit dress for Little Pullip

I knit this wee dress while watching my beloved Seattle Sounders (eternal blue, forever green!) win their first match of the 2012 MLS season.

This ad made me laugh, I had to save and share it
The pretty blue and green yarn is left over from a pair of socks I knit a few years ago:

The Kelly (or Shelly, as she's known in Europe) dress pattern is #645 from "Sticka till Barbie," a Swedish treasure trove featuring hundreds of free Barbie knitting patterns. She even has a pattern for a Swedish football (as in soccer) kit, too cute. There are a good number of patterns for Ken, Tommy, and Shelly/Kelly too. Some of the Barbie patterns have been converted to Bratz size, which may fit Monster High dolls. I'll experiment with that later.

This Kelly dress was knit following the instructions pretty much as written. OK, I added 2 or 3 rounds to the skirt. Also, I knit it in the round instead of flat. Just remember to change the purl rows to knit rows if you do the same.

The dress starts out with 50 stitches and decreases to 25 for the waist, which results in a dress that fits Kelly perfectly. I pinched the dress around Pullip's middle and counted stitches. I estimate the dress will look fitted on Little Pullip if it has 15 stitches around the waist instead of 25. I think this dress looks cute on Pullip even if it's too big, but I'll make a new dress with her measurements in mind. The armholes could also be smaller, next time I'll bind off 2 sts instead of 3 (1 might be too small). When I cast on stitches for the straps I'll try 2 fewer stitches on each side. Also, I'll knit the skirt in the round until the waist and then switch to working it flat, this will make it easier to put on the dolls. Doing so will require a fastener be added to the back: snap, Velcro, or hook and eye.

(I'll keep notes on all changes when I knit the second dress and will publish the results with photos.)

Here is the same Kelly dress on LPS Blythe, she's a bit smaller than Little Pullip so the dress swims on her.

"Oh, it's really too big!"  "That just means there's room to grow."


In an effort to improve my digital photographs I made a simple light box using a U-Haul box and tissue paper, following the instructions here:

This lacks the infinity background because Blythe has issues*
 After I taped the tissue paper to the box it took about a minute to put my thumb through one of the tissue panels. Great. The thought of cutting and attaching a new panel every time the tissue tore wasn't appealing so I completely covered all three tissue panels with long strips of clear packing tape on one side. I would've used clear contact paper if I had a roll but I didn't want to buy anything new to construct the box.

This box hasn't solved all my photography problems, I'm still learning and want to improve more, but it helps. I'll be moving the box around the house to see which overhead lights look the best. I like the results I got from using the range hood lights today (shown in the photo above), but the laundry room lights might be even better.

Eventually I might make another box for larger displays. This box is plenty tall enough but I'm limited by the footprint. I have to make sure the inside of the box doesn't appear at the edges of the photos, which is a concern if I'm photographing 3-4 dolls.


Check this out, here's Blythe standing inside the box in front of a side panel:

I'm thinking I should put a single layer of blue tissue paper on the outside of the box (covering the white tissue already there, or maybe I'll remove the white tissue -- I can try it both ways). That should make a pretty blue glowing background instead of this plain white. The doll will need something to stand on so the cardboard box isn't visible. OK, colorful tissue paper is on my shopping list, I'll see if I can test it out this week.

*To see what I mean about infinity background compare the two pictures of Pullip and Blythe:

My Pullip's vinyl really is that white.

If your paper is long enough you can curve it so there's no line designating where back and bottom meet. Both dolls are balanced against the back of the box so I didn't have to use a stand. Pullip's hair is so poofy it clears the curve. Blythe's hair isn't poofy so I had to either adjust the paper (remove the curve) or use a stand. Does that make sense? It's almost 3 am, I have no idea.

Here's a photo showing the white background curving at the bottom edge of the box:

Pullip says, "Thanks for stopping by!"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Their new name is Ross Blythe for Less

I haven't been to Ross Dress for Less in years, I completely forgot they carried dolls and other toys. Someone mentioned finding a cheap Barbie Basics accessory pack at Ross so I mentally added it to my shopping route on Monday morning. I almost forgot to go but remembered right before heading home, and I'm sure glad I did!

When I first blogged about Littlest Pet Shop Blythe I mentioned it'd be nice if Hasbro sold the Blythe dolls without pets so she'd be a little cheaper. At the time I didn't realize they did this in the past, because Ross had these three (c) 2010 dolls discounted to $4 each:

"Swim & Sun" Her pretty blue eyes match her hat, they're washed out in this photo
"Hiking Trip" Don't cry! Her expression looks like she dropped her lollipop on the dirt trail
"Desert Fun" I'll pretend a water canteen is in that unfortunate bag.

"Look for the matching LPS pet (sold separately)" is written on the front of their boxes. $4?! No pets, no problem! I hadn't seen these pet-free Blythes before so I don't know when they disappeared from regular stores and moved to places like Ross. Maybe this is the situation in my area and everyone else can still find these at Target.

Then in the next aisle I found this "Fashions & Treats Boutique" set for $13 -- it's still a ridiculous $30 at my local WalMart and TRU.

I count 5 pets and 4 treats
I don't think it's worth $30, especially because the treat counter is not real, it's printed on the cardboard liner. However, $13 is a good price for one Blythe, three extra dresses, play food, four stools, and five pets. I only wish they'd have included more shoes, I'd gladly give up a pet in the box for more Blythe shoes. Most kids probably don't care and they'd lose the tiny shoes within 5 minutes anyway. I sometimes have to remind myself they make these toys for children. ;)

A few more words about the counter: I appreciate the effort Hasbro put into making the packaging something kids can play with, until it falls apart. I just want to be clear it's not a plastic playset, which you might reasonably expect if you were paying $30 for it online and couldn't get a good look at it. The food and stools are plastic but the floor, steps, and treat counter are part of the cardboard liner.

sad polar bear
There are four pieces of food (honey, sardines, apples, and cheese) and five pets: bee, cat, pig, mouse, and ... a polar bear? Yeah, the white animal looks bearish with his rounded ears and big paws, I can't explain the pink splotch on his head. (Homage to Gorbachev?) So Hasbro, why didn't he get a treat? Maybe he's supposed to eat one of the pig's apples. Blythe's four dresses depict her pets included in this set -- except for the bear. He also doesn't have a stool at the fake counter! No treat, no stool, no outfit with his picture on it, poor bear. What happened? I'm thinking...

1) They added a 5th pet to make the set even more appealing to buyers.
2) They cut bear's treat, stool, and dress with his picture to increase their profit.
3) Clearly he's working at the treat shop so he doesn't need a treat or stool.

I really have no idea, it just seems weird one of the animals is left out in the cold. Oh I get it, because he's a polar bear! haha. This is just a random observation, what's going on with the LPS pets doesn't influence my decision to buy. I only care about Blythe, her clothes, and the price.

Homer, that is not a giant donut, it's a swim ring
 Ross also had Jake the shaggy hair Liv doll for $5, I might pick him up next week if he's still there. They had one Barbie Basics accessory pack for male dolls, I think it was $7 and I didn't want it that much.

Check out your local Ross if you haven't been there lately, you might be surprised by what you find in the chaotic toy section. I was impressed by the prices and will visit again in a week or so to see if they've added anything new to the toy shelves.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Talking Barbie on mute

This is a 1968 Brownette Talking Barbie head on a TNT body. I found the head last year at Value Village on a tan TNT body. The vinyl didn't match but I had the body shown here already at home so it worked out nicely. What a lucky girl, she has had three bodies over the last 44 years! Oh, to be a doll! Her new body was also a thrift store buy. Its original TNT head needs a reroot, who knows when I'll get around to it.

She's missing some paint on her upper lip but she still displays nicely. That is an easy fix as far as paint touch-ups go, I'd much rather fix lips than eyes or eyebrows. I tied her hair in a side ponytail with thread as a temporary style, when I'm up for the challenge I'll find skinny pink ribbon and replicate her original 1968 hairstyle.

The pink one-shoulder ruffle dress is a recent buy from Value Village, it was bundled with some other clothes and two dressed Mattel dolls -- I'll blog about those later. Can you identify the pink dress? It looks like a very nice playline Barbie dress. There's no label and a Velcro closure. It was designed for a doll with a smaller bust, it doesn't close completely on the vintage TNT body. Pink is not my favorite color but I really like this dress a lot. I tried it on a few different dolls and thought it looked best on Talking Barbie.  If you click the above link (ok, here it is again) you'll see it's a similar color to her original outfit.

I'm still working on the photographs. I made a light box last week using materials I had around the house (which I can write about if anyone is interested) and today I bought a new desk lamp at the Goodwill ($2.50, it was a red tag which meant 50% off) so future pictures should look better than these Talking Barbie photos. She was my test subject, I tried out the light box with only one light, two should be better? I'll keep messing around with the box and lights to see what works, and will look into decent backgrounds too. :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Favorite Barbie Find (pun intended)

Today I will share my favorite Barbie find in recent memory. A few weeks ago this Steffie face beauty was waiting for me at the Goodwill (nude, $1.29). She is Mattel's 2010 reproduction of 1980 Black Barbie from their nostalgic "My Favorite Barbie" series.

Two big clues helped me determine this Barbie is a repro. Her back is marked China, which would put her manufacture date after 1986 according to information I found online. Here is a handy list of countries where Barbies were made:

A better gauge of the doll's age is to look at the country of manufacture:
1959-1972 JAPAN
1968-1970, 1989-1990 MEXICO
1970-1987 HONG KONG
1970-1987 TAIWAN
1973-1978 KOREA
1986 to present CHINA
1986 to present MALAYSIA
1992 to present INDONESIA

-- info posted on by Skippercollector

I can't vouch for the accuracy of this information, I'll assume it's correct until someone proves otherwise. :) Hey, it's on the internet, it must be true!

What was the bigger clue? The skin tone molded underwear. The words molded and underwear just don't belong together, but you know what I mean. I think this feature was introduced in the 1990s.

She's an excellent reproduction, very faithful to the original doll! I'm so pleased to have this Barbie in my collection.

Barbie is wearing 1970s fashions I found on thrifted contemporary dolls within the last year. The orange dress is from 1976 Quick Curl PJ Deluxe. The orange elastic loop in front is meant to hold PJ's white shawl, which was probably lost back in 1976. The green and pink granny dress is 1975 Best Buy #7416 (carded fashion). I tracked down the origins of these two dresses with the help of Google Images. My Barbie identification books are in storage but I don't have much incentive to go looking for them because checking Google Images is so much faster.

How does a modern collectible Barbie end up at the Goodwill? I've found a lot more vintage dolls than modern Barbie Collector dolls. I think that's because people who get out of the hobby (or obtain BC dolls via inheritance) know they're worth something so BC dolls are sold instead of being thrown out or donated. ("Mom sure spent a lot of money on all these dolls, they're NOT going to the Goodwill!")

Off the top of my head I think I've bought only five Barbie Collector dolls from thrifts over the last 12 years, and three of those were reproductions (this Barbie and two ponytails). All three repros were deboxed and found among the regular jumble of cheap dolls; two were nude. Maybe they were purchased for the repro fashion to put on a real vintage doll and the repro doll wasn't needed for display.

You might be curious to know the identities of the only two non-repro Collector Edition dolls I've found while thrifting. Several years ago I bought a NRFB Mrs. PFE Albee Barbie at the Goodwill where I used to live. The other is a NRFB Pioneer Barbie. Nothing too exciting. If I'd been in a more frugal mood that day I probably would've left Pioneer Barbie behind because I'm not a fan of the Superstar face sculpt, but she's a redhead (without scary neon eyeshadow, huge plus) and check out those cute apples in her basket. And I did grow up watching Little House on the Prairie after school.

Hmm, it's possible I saw maybe 2-3 other Barbie Collector dolls over the years but I didn't buy them because they were overpriced, out of the box and damaged, or not appealing to me. All I know is they are a rarity in thrift shops around here, especially in the age of eBay.