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My Handmade American Girl Bunk Bed

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posted by alias A Thousand Splendid Dolls on Wednesday 7th of July 2021 10:34:58 AM

This is one of a few pieces of American Girl sized furniture that my dad actually did not make. Back in the late 90s, it had a twin. I believe this one was technically Colleen's when we were growing up. Hers was a very light pink color, mine was white. My Memere bought both bunk beds as Christmas gifts for us the year we got Kirsten and Felicity. That way, all our dolls would have beds. At the time, we had three dolls each. Mine were Addy, Samantha, and Felicity. Colleen had Molly, Josefina, and Kirsten. Addy and Molly had their very own handmade beds (created by Dad...one of the many perks of being our first American Girls). Anyways, Memere made bedding for both bunk beds, but asked Dad to paint them for her. My guess is that they were purchased from the Mill Stores--a chain that sells real wood items (most that aren't stained or painted so you can customize them). Anyways, the bunk beds were staples in our bedrooms as little girls. At some point we moved downstairs when Memere came to live with us (Mom and Dad wanted her to have the upstairs, so she didn't risk the basement stairs what with her old age). I think that's when both bunk beds ended up with me. Colleen decided she just wanted Molly, so I "adopted" Kirsten, Josefina, and Valerie (the Girl of Today #16 doll she got as a birthday gift). I believe my bunk bed was starting to break at this time, or had already broken. I recollect that we used it as an informal stool before? I can't quite remember...but we were both very thin, small girls as kids, so there is a chance we could have successfully stood on the bunk bed a few times without breaking it. It did eventually break--well the top bunk collapsed. Dad always told me he'd fix it. But like all his promises and projects, there was not any follow through. After Mom died in 2002, the house became enveloped in disaster (it looked like an episode of "Hoarders"). The last time I remember seeing my bunk bed was sometime in 2013. It was in the middle of the basement, on top of the brown bureau (which for some reason had all its drawers yanked out of it). That was the year I cleaned up the entire basement by myself. Those were fun fifteen hour days (I'm being mildly sarcastic...I do like cleaning, but there was a lot of stuff to move around, trash to take out, bulky furniture to deal with, etc). I didn't think I'd be able to fix the bunk bed by myself due to its horrible condition. So I threw it away, but it was easier knowing I had Colleen's old intact bunk bed still. Maybe I could have fixed it now...I've become the resident handyman since Dad passed away, but it was pretty far gone. Colleen's bunk bed lay tucked inside the basement closet for several more years. It wasn't until 2016 that it found a permanent spot in my bedroom. However, the bunk bed was NOT ready for display at the time. All the light pink paint had turned dark yellow. The knots in the wood were especially visible (you can kind of see them in this photo). Memere's old bedding also needed an upgrade. The original stuff didn't match itself--she must have used leftover fabric for them. The mattresses and pillows were made from white and blue angel print (the kind that looks like it is from a craft store). The blankets were made from pink and white bunny print. We still have both sets, but I don't use them on the bunk bed. Anyways, I'd been thinking of buying another table for my dolls that they could sit at in my room. But being frugal and liking to recycle what I already have, I decided it might be more practical (and more fun) to use this shabby bunk bed. It was sort of a disaster. I tried to use some of Dad's spray paint on it at first. But it was so old it didn't cover the bed properly. Then I had to sand everything all down and buy another can of spray paint. I wanted it to match my green bedroom. I then hand painted the little heart designs on the head and foot boards of both bunks. These were inspired by Bitty Baby's old logo. In retrospect, I should have primed first to prevent the knots from showing through. They were covered when I first painted, but in the five years I redid this bunk bed they have started coming back through. I also think that buying a can of regular house paint would have done the job better--that's how I made over my Cabbage Patch crib. I documented the process (or part of it anyways) in my old dusting tutorial video. I sadly did not take any photos. I bought this fabric special at Walmart to make the new bedding. I'm a terrible sewer, and at the time I had my Memere's old machine to work with (I since donated it and bought a new one for myself that was easier to use). It is kind of sweet that both sets of bedding this bunk bed bought were made on Memere's sewing machine. I had no idea what I was doing...so if you were to look at my mattresses, pillows, and blankets carefully you'd see a million mistakes. I chose green and butterflies to match my own bedding at the time (a kid's comforter that Dad bought me back in 2008 when we redid my bedroom...it since died and has been replaced). It was all thanks to my choice in bedding that this became Jess's bunk bed. Butterflies are a strong theme in her collection, and she was one of my new American Girls at the time. Plus, she's sort of an unlisted favorite. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I've always been weirdly obsessed and attached to my Jess. Colleen frequently jokes that if we were to ever move and pack all our American Girls up, I'd be moaning the most about missing Jess (she's right). I thought that this hand carved wooden butterfly ornament (that was a 2016 Christmas gift from my friend Lisa) was the perfect decoration. Seeing how I was able to breathe new life into a special childhood keepsake makes me extra happy. I still have a piece of Memere, a piece of my parents, a piece of my childhood, but in an updated way to suit my current needs/interests/style! I'm sure Dad would have loved seeing this transformation. If he'd been alive when I decided to use this bunk bed, he definitely would have helped me with the project.



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  • Published 12.02.21
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