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Vintage Aranbee (R&B) Doll

Vintage Aranbee (R&B) Doll

This is a vintage baby doll from the 50’s. The owner of the doll obviously cherished her as a child, and still does. Dolly came to me a couple of weeks ago in need of repair on her cloth body. I was to recreate the original pattern. Here you can see the final result. Came out pretty good! I can understand why this doll is so well-loved. If she were mine, I would want to preserve her, too. I’ve gotten slightly attached to her myself!
I’ll tell you a bit about this doll’s restoration.

Happily, her vintage vinyl arms and legs, and “hard head” were in perfectly good condition. The eyes open and close. You can hear a charming “squeak” when they move, reminding us of her age. She wears an adorable pair of booties, which the owner says she purchased with her allowance for 25 cents. Her mother was quite upset at her spending “so much money” and she never got allowance again!

To restore the doll, I took the original cloth body apart and traced around it to redraw the pattern on paper. It is a very interesting pattern, and not easy to assemble. At one point when I was sewing the new body, I got scared that I would not be able to figure out what to do again. I had to use the old pattern and match up needle holes in order to solve the “puzzle!”

The stuffing was so decrepit, I am sure it wasn’t too healthy… it did not look like stuffing as we know it today, but more like some weird soft and lumpy fiberglass material. It made me very nervous and I disposed of it immediately. I wish I had a picture of the way the doll looked before I began her restoration, and the stuffing, but I forgot to take a picture.

Here’s the original cloth from the body:The doll’s head was painted in brown paint, and a wig was glued over that. Based on what I saw inside the body, I felt that there was bound to be something going on under the wig. I was right. The paint was disintegrating under there, and you could blow the dust off if you wanted to. I’m not sure if the paint contained lead, or whether some of that dust could be from the glue, but whatever it is, I’m glad it’s gone.
I decided to wash the wig as well. After all, it had been sitting on ‘that business’ for so many years! I used gentle shampoo, very good conditioner, and cold water. When the wig was dry, I noticed that the hairs are quite brittle. Some of the thread holding the wefts in place, and some of the netting, had deteriorated.

The washing definitely helped with the latter- at least put a stop to it. The curls came out though, and the original poodle hairstyle is no longer intact. It is possible to re-curl the wig. However, it will take time because it’s so short, needs repair, etc. And, the hair is brittle. She will be getting a new wig… stay tuned! The hunt is on.

I love this doll. I think she is wonderful! I can’t remember too many of my own toys because I was into weebles (remember those?!?!), jumprope and stickball, my dog and cat, tape recorder…. I didn’t really start “playing with dolls” until I was 30! Can you believe it? It’s true. I wish I had an old doll. They certainly do not make dolls the way they used to! This one is priceless, that’s for sure. I am inspired to buy an old doll like this on Ebay, and make it new. Does that count? *^*


  • October 26, 2006

    I think the hair is not a part of the original doll. It looks as though she has sculpted hair. Which was the way those dolls were made. Maybe you should leave the wig off. Is the head damaged from the glue holding the wig on? I think she is cuter without the wig. I’m trying to think back, & don’t remember if any of those dolls had wigs or not. But I don’t think so. Maybe some did, & some didn’t. Only a values book would be an authority on that.
    She looks a lot like the doll I had when I was a little girl. Mine was from the early 40″s. !942 or ’43, to be exact. The arms, legs, & head were made of a composition of that day. More of a pressed wood, & glue, then a finish put on it. Before vinyl. My dolls body was from a greyish muslin, & filled with a mohair type of stuffing. A lot like a rough cotton batting. Maybe it was cotton batting.
    I know that some dolls from that era were stuffed with seltzer. Which is a finely ground wood fiber. But mine had a cotton batting type stuffing. She was softer to the touch, where as seltzer had a crackely feel to it.
    So maybe this doll you are redoing was stuffed with a simular batting. It was not nice & smooth like we have today. It was a little bit clumpy. Just not refined out. Not clumpy from stuffing wrong. I am sure after 50 some years this doll was very well loved. But she looks great now. You have done a wonderful job of restoring her.
    My doll’s head cracked, & I didn’t know about restoring back in 1953 when I was getting married, so I let my mother get rid of her. I have come to regret that many times over.
    (Side note. I was only 18, so a child bride.)
    I have been able to find a couple of dolls from that era, but they a little bit taller, & with straight legs. Mine had bent legs, which made her appear shorter. I can still feel her in my arms when I think of her, & the joy she gave me as a child.
    I don’t know how I knew what she was made from, as I never took her apart. I just seemed to know how she was made. Maybe the seedling of the dolls I make today.


  • October 26, 2006

    I love your restoration. I had a doll very much like her from the early 1940s. I adored her and made clothes for her – first a nightie and blanket. Then later as my sewing skills developed I made many other lovely things for ‘Jeanie’…including a silk and lace coat and bonnet with matching ‘shoes’. Somehow she got lost in the late ’50s when I left home without her. I also still miss her!

    I agree with Jackie – that the hair was probably molded on rather than there. I don’t remember babydolls with other than that.
    Jeanie had a muslin fabric body with the seltzer stuffing.

    You have done a lovely job of restoration. THank you for posting her on your blogspot.

  • October 27, 2006

    Rivkah. what a great job. I, too, was in search of my old doll recently and ended up with 6 dolls that I purchased on ebay. The restored dolls cost more than I wanted to spend so I kept looking. I now have 3 dolls that I can redo that were treated quite kindly.

    Two are 14 inch dolls and I kept looking and have a 26 inch doll, too. I thought that mine was lagre but I think this one is too big. She will be moved on although she is very restorable.

    Thanks for posting and letting us look.

  • October 27, 2006

    Hi Rivkah, I can see how you would get attached to this doll and you are doing a wonderful restore on her. I agree with the others that the wig was probably added later, she has lovely molded hair, I like it that way myself but I’m sure you must comply with the owner.I have enjoyed visiting both your blog and website at different times, both are very entertaining with lot’s of interesting ideas and information.

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