Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A My Twinn Project Update

I'm almost done with the My Twinn Project!  For anyone who is just tuning in, today's story is the follow-up to a previous post (which you can find here).  I really love projects like this--where something that has lost its shimmer becomes beautiful again.  When I was a kid, I liked to flip through my mother's magazines to find the makeover stories.  I've always been fascinated by the magical transformation of a good makeover.  Not that show Extreme Makeover, though.  I did not like that.  Anyway, I suspect it's all wrapped up in my obsession with the Cinderella rags-to-riches story.

I feel a little bad for Curvy Barbie and Lammily, though.  They're lovely dolls and I had a great time reviewing them, but I kept wanting to sneak away and work on the Twinns.  And speaking of Barbie, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who informed me about the articulated Curvy Barbie (oh, yay!) and the hidden charms of the Petite and Tall Barbies.  What wonderful news!  I will have to check those out.

There will be one more My Twinn Project post after this one--a finale where I'll reveal the completed 23" dolls (and the baby).  Today, though, I'll just be checking in with the larger girls and updating you on their progress.  I'll also show you how the eye replacements turned out on my 18" dolls.  And...maybe I'll introduce someone new.  Because, as I mentioned, I always seem to go overboard with this kind of venture.

Holly with her new wig.
To recap very briefly from last time, my three 23" girls were all bald and clean:

Audrey (far left, above) needed eyelashes, hair and clothes
Holly (middle) needed eyebrows, eyelashes, hair and clothes
Tasha (right) needed eyelashes, hair, some face paint, clothes...and her body!

Just a little disclaimer before I get started: I list in detail all of the steps I took to fix these dolls, but I am by no means an expert.  These aren't necessarily steps of what you should do, just what I actually did do--for better or for worse.

Whenever possible in this project, I used materials that I already had in the house:

I had some tacky glue on hand to use for wigs and eyelashes.  Modge Podge works nicely for doll eyelashes, too.

I also had a bin of acrylic paints left over from my sculpting days, so that's what I used for the face painting.  I'm not sure what the paint-of-choice is for My Twinn dolls, but I like acrylics because they can be watered-down and put on in very light layers.  Also, any paint mistakes can be erased with water.  

I used Liquitex acrylic paint in a few different shades of brown for Holly's eyebrows.  I'm not sure these were the ideal shades (as we'll see...) but this is what I had.  I relied most heavily on the "Raw Umber" brown in the front of the picture, above.

One thing I had to purchase was a super-tiny paintbrush.  I didn't have any of these lying around.  I don't know anything about paintbrushes, so I simply bought the smallest brush I could find at AC Moore.  This is a Princeton brand Velvetouch 18/0 "spotter" brush ($2.99):

It makes really tiny lines, but I still had to practice using a very light touch to get the lines as thin as they needed to be for the eyebrows.

I also had some watercolor pencils on hand from my sculpting days.  These will last forever.  They make very fine lines and are also easy to erase with water.

These particular pencils are the Derwent brand from England:

The two colors I used are Burnt Umber and Venetian Red:

I sat outside on my deck for a lot of this project (because the weather has been spectacular, but also because heated vinyl gives off fumes).  Unfortunately the outside pictures aren't great because of some strange lighting on our covered porch.  Nevertheless, I'll show you a few snapshots of my attempts at painting Holly's eyebrows.

Things started out pretty well, I think.  I used a watery mix of browns and painted a very faint outline of the left eyebrow:

Nice and delicate.
I was really trying to mimic the hair pattern on Audrey's artist eyebrows.

Then, however, I tried to layer on some darker reddish brown...which I should not have done.

That's getting a little intense.

Whoa.  I might have been able to live with this color, but the brows are off-center.  Also, they don't match--the left one has a nice arch while the right one takes a more angular turn towards the ear.  As it turns out, I'm good at painting that left eyebrow, but my hand can't figure out how to make the brush strokes work on the opposite side.  I erased the brows and started over.

My second attempt only got worse:

Know when to stop, Emily.
I layered on way too much color with these eyebrows:

Ya think?
Those brows have gone fully into the exotic caterpillar zone.

I backed away from the red colors and tried again with a more basic brown mix.  I added some Burnt Umber pencil on top of the paint.  

I also discovered that if I paint that right eyebrow with the doll upside-down, the shape comes out better:

This came out pretty well, but I wasn't thrilled with the mix of paint and pencil.  Some of the pencil lines are too dark and clunky:

I can't un-see that caterpillar.
I should mention something else important about painting eyebrows:  I went outside to start painting at 8:30am and when I came in to check the clock, it was 2:30pm.  Obviously eyebrow painting messes with the space-time continuum.

After these attempts, I erased Holly's face and left her alone for a while.  I needed a break from eyebrows, caterpillars and time warps.

Several days later, I took a much simpler approach to the brush stroke pattern--no longer trying to copy Audrey.  I also kept the color palette light:

I got to this point and declared the brows done: 

Drop the paintbrush!
It's not really that these are perfect eyebrows or anything, but just that I got tired of the process...and it seemed good enough.

The best eyelashes I could find for the 23" My Twinns were the Monique lashes offered at Dolleanne.  These are great, but the upper and lower lashes have to be purchased separately, and there aren't many color choices.  

For the top lashes, I chose auburn (AU) for Holly and light brown (LB) for the other girls.  All of the lower lashes are light brown...because that's the only option.  They look fine together to me.

I used half of a lower lash strip on each eye--so one pair of lower lashes allowed me to do two dolls.  

I applied the lashes with tacky glue using another small paintbrush that I have.  I was a little sloppy with the glue, as you can see in the picture, below.  The nice thing about tacky glue is that it dries clear and can wiped off of the eye with a wet Q-tip.

Here's a close-up of the final eyebrow and eyelash combination:

It's just a cute little baby caterpillar now.
These Monique lashes are not as thick as the original My Twinn lashes, but I actually prefer the lighter, more delicate look of the Monique lashes.  They seem appropriate for a child.

My next mission was to paint Tasha's head and give her some eyelashes.  

Tasha had beautiful eyebrows, but they were very faint.  I used the Venetian Red watercolor pencil to accent the old eyebrows.  I also blushed Tasha's cheeks with a very light mix of red and brown acrylics:

The paint spots on the paper towel in that picture, above, were from me trying to match the color of Tasha's lips so that I could fill in the missing paint on her mouth.  

I used a lot of thin layers and stopped before the repair got darker than the original lips.  I think it turned out fine:

I used Audrey's old eyelashes as a guide for cutting Tasha's new eyelashes:

Once again, I could have been neater with the glue...

Last, I added some very faint freckles and a bit more cheek blush.  I tried to cover the pink mark on Tasha's forehead to make it look like a mole or a birthmark.  I'm not sure how successful this was.  

Here she is with all of her painting complete and her eyelashes dry:

There's a faint pale streak on her left cheek (where I did a lot of sanding) that wouldn't capture the paint as well as the rest of the face.  It's not very noticeable in real life.

I also put some light brown eyelashes on Audrey, but I didn't take pictures of this.  It was pretty straight-forward.  Audrey didn't need any paint on her face.  She was really low maintenance overall.

Next, it was wig time!  I actually had a tough time selecting perfect wigs for these girls.  The best place that I've found to shop for My Twinn wigs is Dolleanne.  However, a few of the wigs didn't fit as well as I'd hoped.  For example, I ordered a Kara Lynn wig for Tasha (size 14-15) but it's really big on her.  I probably could have stuffed the wig cap with Poly-fil or something to make it work, but the bangs were also really long and would have required extensive and expert cutting--which I think we can all agree is not a strong skill of mine.

In general, the Monique wigs at Dolleanne that are custom made for My Twinn (size 13-14) fit perfectly. The 14-15 wigs can be big...and this presents a challenge to people like me who don't have a lot of wig experience.

I settled on a Monique Majesty wig (13-14) in Ginger Brown for Audrey ($24.95).  This wig is custom-made for My Twinn and fits perfectly.

I ordered a 14-15 Monique Paulette wig in Light Ginger for Tasha ($23.50).  This wig fits really well--better than the other Monique 14-15 wigs.  It was custom-made for another doll brand, so maybe that's why?  Not sure.

Last, I chose the Monique Doris wig (14-15) in Auburn for Holly ($21.60).  This wig is a little big and gave me some trouble.

I used as little glue as possible with these wigs.  I'd like to be able to take them off some day if needed.  

I started by tacking Holly's wig in the back--just to be sure that the center of the wig was in the right place.

Next, I glued down the edge of the wig in the front, checking symmetry and bang length before letting the tacky glue dry.

Once the front of the wig was securely in place (with the glue dried overnight) I glued down the back and the sides of the wig.  I made a big mess in the back because this wig cap has an adjustable strap that doesn't behave itself.  There must be a better way to manage these straps.

I used a similar approach with Audrey and Tasha's wigs.  It was incredibly easy to put Audrey's wig on because it fits so well.  It almost doesn't need any glue!

Here are Audrey and Holly waiting in my kitchen for their wig glue to dry:

When the glue was thoroughly dry, I snapped a few pictures of the girls.  Here's Audrey:

Audrey in a Monique "Majesty" wig (Ginger Brown).
I like this wig, but it's not quite as red as I'd hoped it would be.  Also, I have two other My Twinn dolls with this same style of wig, so it's a little repetitive.  

I was thinking maybe I'd cut the hair shorter to make it look more like Audrey's original hairstyle.

Holly's new Doris wig is a great color, and it looks adorable when the hair is a little mussed:

Holly in her Monique "Doris" wig (Auburn).
Unfortunately, the bangs are too long and so the hair can't be combed without it poking poor Holly in the eye:

I decided to take Audrey and Holly outside to the porch and give them little haircuts.  I probably should not have done this.

Here's Holly with her bags combed straight, ready to go:

I used little clips and tried to be very professional about my approach, trimming the bangs one layer at a time:

Does she look nervous to you?

I did not have huge success at getting a nice, even line of bangs in the front:

I think part of the problem is that Holly's wig has a cowlick on her right side that refuses to lay flat (even after I wet the hair):

I pulled a baby hat over her head to straighten the cowlick, did my best to trim the bangs one more time, and then left her alone with the hat on--hoping for the best.

My experience with Holly made me nervous about cutting Audrey's hair, so I chopped off much less than I'd originally planned.

I pulled her hair into a single ponytail in back and then hacked off about three inches:

Then I brushed the ends forward (they were a little uneven at first):

And trimmed the sides until the hair looked even.  

Then, I wet the hair and curled it up around some plastic clips, hoping to encourage the ends to curl under:

Spoiler: this curling technique didn't work.  At all.  I also tried using a curling iron (on its lowest setting) but that didn't work, either.  I did not want to melt the wig, so I left it alone after that.

Meanwhile, Tasha got her beautiful Paulette wig.  I think this color is gorgeous:

Tasha in a Light Ginger Monique "Paulette" wig.
This wig comes with two side ponytails, but the left ponytail got messed up while I was applying the wig:

I replaced the ponytails with two small clips:

I was so eager to put Tasha's wig on, I didn't think ahead very far.  

In order to get her head back on her body, the vinyl of the neck needed to be softened with a hair dryer.  However, this high heat runs the risk of damaging the wig, so I had to find some way to protect the wig.  I tried a layer of aluminum foil:

I got Tasha's body prepared for the arrival of its head by wedging two sections of pantyhose under the neck disk.  These will be tied up over the head to hold it in place until the glue dries (this tip is from Logan's Ladies):

Once the hole in Tasha's neck was soft, I squirted out a globby circle of tacky glue onto the neck disc and popped the head back onto the body:

Then I tied the pantyhose up on the top of Tasha's head--as tight as I dared without risking the wig.

Which was nowhere near tight enough.
It's pretty dark out there on the porch, so here's a picture of Tasha in the studio with her panty hose headdress:

Here's a close-up of the pantyhose looping under the neck disc (and the wet patch where I had to clean oozing tacky glue off of Tasha's body...).

The lessons I learned here are:
1. Put the head back on the body before you apply the fancy, expensive wig
2. Go easy with the glue

The other thing I learned is that tacky glue is probably not the best option.  It didn't hold the head very well and I had to go back and squeeze in some Fabri-tac to try and secure the joint.  I think Logan's Ladies recommends a hot glue gun for this procedure, and they're surely right.  I just don't happen to have a hot glue gun.

I still don't feel 100% confident about the security of Tasha's head.  It was reassuring to remind myself that the factory glue was not super-strong and the head seemed nice and secure when I got her.  That neck peg is doing a lot of the work to keep everything in place.

After the glue was dry and the head connection double-checked, I re-attached the cloth body to the neck with a new cable tie.

At this point all Tasha needs is some clothes and a final photo shoot!

Tasha was a lot of work.  But the thing is, even though I felt some relief when I saw how clean her body was, I'll admit to a slight pang of disappointment that there was no need to test out the deep body cleaning strategy I learned about over on Logan's Ladies.

With this mild disappointment in the back of my mind, I kept surfing the My Twinn offerings on eBay.  This is a dangerous pastime for me.  It's like going "just to look" at a new litter of puppies.

Sure enough, before too long I found a filthy little Ariel-faced doll that looked absolutely charming.  Like a scruffy little orphan who needed my help (this kind of reasoning is how I get myself into trouble...).  Here's Ariel:

Little Orphan Ariel.
Her white cloth body gives a clue about her date of origin without even having to look at the body tag. These white bodies were used from 1997-1999.  The body tag reveals that Ariel is from the early end of this range: 1997.

She's the same age as my eldest son.
This Ariel is well-loved.  She has a matted, thinning wig, plenty of scuffs and marks on her face, and mangled eyelashes:

Her eyes are a beautiful royal blue.  The color is a bit unrealistic (and the pupils are huge) but the eyes themselves appear to be in good shape.

I love the color and thickness of Ariel's factory wig, but it's really dry and hard to manage.

I'll have to order a replacement.
Her white body is covered with brown stains and her vinyl limbs are all extremely dirty.

It's hard to show the dirty limbs in these pictures, but let's just say that the paper towels and Magic Erasers I used to clean the vinyl were covered in black by the time I was done.

Ariel's cloth body also definitely needed to be cleaned.  So...I crossed my fingers and got started disassembling her.

The first step was to remove Ariel's wig and head.  I thought this would feel familiar (since I'd just done it with Tasha), but it was actually a slightly different experience.

First of all, there was a lot of factory glue connecting the wig to the head.  It took some force to pull the wig off.  It came off without the wig cap ripping, though, which is nice.  It also took a while to pick and peel the large patches of glue off the scalp:

On this head picture you can see the My Twinn mark for Ariel: JD (0).  The My Twinn name for this mold is Judy.

This is actually one of several different Ariel head marks.  Logan's Ladies explains that there are actually six Ariel variants.  Mine is considered the "96 JD (0)" variant because of her 1996 neck date coupled with that scalp mark.  

The other difference I noticed between Ariel and Tasha is that there was a lot more glue connecting the head to the neck disc.  Furthermore, the peg that held Ariel's head onto her body is very blunted compared to what I found on Tasha.  I forgot to get pictures of this difference in the moment, but here are some cropped pictures to try and show you the basic size and shape contrast:

Ariel's neck connector (left) and Tasha's neck connector (right)

The last surprise was that the bottom of Ariel's neck is slit in three places, like this:

It almost seems like somebody worked on this doll before I did.  I really doubt it, though, because everything about her has aged uniformly and appropriately for her 18 years.  Perhaps this is just what the early heads look like?

Here's a quick peek at Ariel's detached, de-wigged head:

She's very pale (it messes with my camera...) with eyebrows so faint, they've almost completely disappeared:

This doll has several light brown marks on her face that look like freckles.  In the previous picture you can see three of them near her left eye.  I'm not positive that these are intentional (they could be dirt--there's a lot of dirt).  However, I suspect that they're part of the customization of this doll--that the little girl who owned this doll has similar moles or freckles on her face.  To me, this detail makes Ariel seem even more special.  I wish I knew what her name used to be.

I will try to preserve those marks as I clean and touch-up the face.

The first step to cleaning Ariel's body was to undo the top seam at the back of her body slip:

Logan's Ladies mentions that I have to remove the foam stuffing so that I can wash it...but they don't give a lot of specifics about how to remove the foam.

I played around with the body for a while, trying to figure out how it was put together.  With only that small open seam in the back, though, the tight cloth slip limited my exploration.  It was not immediately clear to me how I should get started.  

I finally decided to try and separate the foam from the vinyl arms.  The foam is glued into a small well at the top of each arm--and it's glued pretty well.  On the right arm, the foam ripped away from a white ring of glue inside the well of the arm piece:

On the left arm, the white ring of glue stayed attached to the foam and the whole thing separated from the vinyl:

After getting the foam detached from the arms, I was stuck again.  The foam body looked like one solid, torso-shaped piece.

Then I found this side seam:

I started to pull apart the two sides of the body along this seam:

At this point I had to stop and take in the view for a moment: the segmented plastic armature looks just like a backbone, and the foam sticking out through the seam reminds me of an exposed lobe of liver:

Doll Anatomy 101.
The seam continued up underneath the arms.  As I pried apart the seam, the foam padding on the arms came away from the armature:

I continued working the seam apart all along both sides of the torso and under both arms:

Next, I pulled the foam out of the front part of the vinyl legs so that I could unfold the body and get a better look at what was going on underneath:

Each side of the torso has an extra rectangle of foam glued to the main structure.  At the back of the doll, there's also a little bit of stuffing to shape the bottom:

Once I freed the foam from the vinyl legs, the whole big piece could be separated from the armature:

These pieces went into a laundry bag so that I could run them through the wash a few times (I used the delicate cycle and very little soap).  I set the foam outside on a drying rack and left it there for several days to dry.

The extra rectangles of foam padding came detached from the main body in the wash, but these were easy to glue back in place with Fabri-tac.

Here's what was left after the foam padding was removed:

A tiny slip of a thing.
The cloth body is sewn onto the tops of the vinyl limbs, so these parts are permanently connected.  The armature is attached to each vinyl limb and cannot be removed, either.

Here's a back view of the exposed armature.

Speaking of the armature, here's a little aside: I've seen plenty of eBay auctions where sellers will say "no squeaks in the body!"  This has always struck me as odd.  None of my other My Twinn dolls squeak, so I've never really recognized the importance of this statement.  I just read those auction descriptions and thought to myself, how bad can this issue be?  

Well, have a listen to this (picture-free) video clip of me moving Ariel's arms back and forth:

I get it now.  That's pretty bad, right?  I squirted some WD-40 into the joints of the armature, staying away from the sections that were close to the cloth body--just to avoid getting grease stains on the fabric.  

I let the WD-40 sit on the armature for days and then wiped the excess off...and then I let the armature sit for several more days before I got the foam anywhere near it.  I have no idea if this was a good idea, but it worked.  Kind-of.  Let's just say that it improved the situation.  It was not a miracle fix.  

Here's another video of Ariel's arm sounds as they are right now:

The armature extends into the vinyl limbs to some extent.  I know this because the armature on Ariel's left arm had ripped through the surrounding vinyl, exposing a limited view of the hollow interior of the arm:

This damage was making the left arm really wobbly and hard to pose.

Here's the right arm--with the vinyl perfectly intact:

And the arms side-by-side:

There's also a missing octagonal flange on that left side.  The missing piece is not rattling around in the arm or anything--I think it was just left out of the original manufacturing.  It clearly serves a valuable purpose.

My fix for the left arm was not elegant, but it was quick and cheap.  I simply lined the damaged vinyl with a thin layer of multi-purpose Gorilla Glue.  Gorilla Glue expands as it dries, and it's super-tough.  The inside of the arm looks bad, but there's no longer has any wobble in that joint.

After inspecting all of the parts of this body, I positioned it like this...

...and then dipped the cloth body (armature and all) into a sink filled with warm water and a few tablespoons of bleach.  I didn't get the vinyl parts of the doll wet at all.  In fact, I kept the water level about 1/4 inch away from the vinyl seams.

I let the body soak for about 5 minutes and then dipped it in bleach-free water a few times to rinse it off.  Afterwards, I placed it on a folded towel to dry (limbs still pointing up in the air).  It dried very quickly.

While all of the parts of Ariel's body were drying, I removed her eyelashes and got started cleaning up her face:

I decided that I wasn't too happy with the dark blue eyes after all.  They give Ariel an unfocused stare.

I usually want dolls to remain original in whatever ways possible, but I kind-of threw that notion out the window with Ariel.  This doll really had nothing to lose.

I found these pretty blue eyes at Dolls by Sandie:

They are Eyeco PolyGlass eyes (20mm) in "Baby Blue (#A223)."  They cost $9.25.

I swapped out Ariel's eyes.  I won't show all of the details (since I already did this with Tasha).  Suffice it to say that these eyes went in much more smoothly than Tasha's eyes.  There's definitely a learning curve with this technique.

I also painted Ariel's face with acrylics, augmented her eyebrows with watercolor pencil, sanded some of the marks on her cheek and nose, and gave her eyelashes.  All using the same materials and techniques I described before.

She ended up with sparse freckles across her nose and cheeks, but you can see that among these new freckles are the larger brown marks that were part of the original face paint:

Her eyes are a little wonky.  The problem with these front-loaded eyes is that there's not much maneuvering that can be done once they pop into position--they're either well-aligned or they aren't.

Her cheeks are a little more ruddy than I intended, but it took some effort to cover the sanded patches on that left side.

I like how this face came out even more than I like Tasha's new face.  I'm excited to see her all finished!

I was feeling pretty good about my efforts to clean Ariel's least until I tried to put everything back together.  It just didn't look like the foam was going to fit back in place:

Once again, it took me a while to figure out how to get started on this whole process.  It's really daunting.  I eventually decided to just reverse the steps I used to get the foam out.

I lined the back half of the vinyl leg wells with Gorilla Glue and stuffed the back half of the foam into the top of each leg.  I used large hair clips to hold the foam in place while the glue dried:

I honestly don't know how I would have completed this project without having hair clips of various sizes on hand.  I highly recommend them!

Here's what the whole body looked like with just the backs of the legs glued:

You can appreciate the flexibility of the armature in these pictures, I suppose.

Once the glue had completely dried at the back of both legs, I folded the foam body over the armature and attached the fronts of the legs:

Once this glue dried, I switched to Fabri-tac and started to inch my way along the side seams, slowly gluing the edges back together.  Here's the body with a few inches of leg seam re-attached:

I feel like Ariel was trying to do her exercises while I glued her back together.  Just to pass the time.

Fabri-tac dries really quickly, but I still appreciated the help of a few--you guessed it--hair clips to hold the edges as I worked my way up the body:

I actually used a few heavy-duty snack bag clips as I got close to the armpits because the tension on the foam was making it hard to keep everything aligned.

As the glue in the seams dried, I pulled the cloth body up over the foam...

...until the cloth body was right up to the armpits.

At this point I was still skeptical that all of the foam was going to fit back inside the body.

Gluing the foam back into the tops of the arms was probably the hardest part of this procedure.  The foam gets really bulky in this area and it took a lot of maneuvering and double-checking to make sure everything was lined up the way it was supposed to be before the glue dried.

I used Gorilla glue (and hair clips!) again on the arms to ensure a good connection between foam and vinyl:

This process took a long time.  I could not find a way to do it quickly.  I just had to inch my way (literally, one or two inches at a time) along the seam and close it up, holding the glue (or clipping it) until it dried.  It took several hours.

Fabri-tac was a life-saver because of its fast drying time, but I can feel the hard lines of the seams now because of the dried glue.  I was not able to feel the seams before.  Perhaps I just used a bit too much glue?

Next, I attached Ariel's head to her body before I attached her wig to her head.  See, I'm learning!

This allowed me to crank the pantyhose down really tight and make a good connection to that neck disc.

I also remembered to protect the cloth body with paper towels:

Now all I have to do is wait for the glue to dry, insert a new cable tie at the neck, sew up the back of the body slip, and put a new blonde wig on (another Majesty wig--because the fit is so good!).  Ariel will be ready to join the other girls for the final post.

The last thing I have for today is a wrap-up of the eye replacements on the 18" dolls.

Here's Ramona outside waiting for her new eyes.

I wanted to avoid removing the wigs on these dolls, so I covered their hair with a big black sock before I heated the eyes with my hair dryer.

Ramona in da hood.
Here's a reminder of how foggy Ramona's eyes were:

Ramona was a lot calmer about the hair dryer therapy than the baby boy (whose name is yet to be revealed...):

I found it much easier to deal with the eyes on these smaller dolls.  Part of it was the confidence of knowing what I was doing, but the smaller eyes also just pop out (and back in) much more easily.  I used the same huge screwdriver that I used on the larger dolls, though.  I don't mess around.

This was a terrible time of day for snapping pictures on the deck, but here's a quick shot of Ramona without her eyes.

I gave Ramona the same green eyes that Tasha has.  These are the Eyeco PolyGlass #A255 (16mm):

Sabrina got some new dark brown Secrist Real Eyes that suit her well.  

I actually had a hard time picking eyes for Annie, though.  Part of me liked how she looked with her faded, cloudy blue eyes, so I decided to try some blue eyes instead of another shade of green.  The problem was, I couldn't decide between the Victorian Blue Real Eyes and the Baby Blue Eyeco eyes (the same ones Ariel has).

The Real Eyes (left, below) have wonderful iris detail, but the pupils seem way too large for the size of this doll.  The Eyeco eyes have nice pupils, but less realism in the iris:

Real Eyes (left) and Eyeco eyes (right).

At one point I actually had one of each eye in Annie's head:

Real Eyes (left) and Eyeco eyes (right).
I actually put both Real Eyes in and then rejected them for the Eyeco Baby Blues.  Here's a close-up of the unused Real Eyes for anyone who wants a closer look:

Real Eyes "Baby Blue," 16mm.
Real Eyes "Baby Blue," 16mm.
The old My Twinn eyes didn't melt when I heated them up (like the baby's eyes did).  They have some glue residue, but are otherwise in pretty good shape with just a random scratch here and there.  

These are Sabrina's old brown eyes:

And here are Annie's green-turned-blue eyes:

Last, these are Ramona's hazel eyes.  This used to be favorite My Twinn eye color!

I took a close look at the eyes to see if I could learn anything.  The back of this hazel eye has a pink tint to it:

The other eye colors look slightly different on the back.  Annie's eyes look blue-ish and Sabrina's eyes are relatively free of color.

The other thing I noticed with these eyes is that the white part of the eye (the sclera) is painted onto a clear dome.  With the Eyeco and Real Eye eyes, the sclera is a separate piece of white plastic that sits inside the clear dome of the outer eye:

The back of an Eyeco eye.
The older My Twinn eyes that I removed from Tasha and Ariel have a white plastic sclera just like the Eyeco eye. They're not painted.

I scraped away at the paint on Ramona's old eye and it came off pretty easily:

There are also several visible layers of paper (?) behind the iris.

You can see the pink tint in these pictures pretty well.

I stripped away three separate circles that were layered on the back side of the iris part of the eye:

I couldn't see a design on any of these circles.  It wasn't immediately clear where the iris pattern was coming from.

With the layers of paper removed, there's actually a faint, transparent image of the iris left on the plastic part of the eye:

This picture kind-of shows how transparent the iris is without its backing:

It's really faint and hard to see.
In the end, my dissection of the eyes didn't teach me much...except that the scleras of these eyes are painted and prone to discoloration.

Here's what the girls looked like right after they got their new eyes--before the eyelashes were applied:

Startled eyes!

Here's Miss Sabrina:

The vinyl around Sabrina's left eye can make her look a little angry.  I don't know if this is a new thing caused by the eye extraction, or if she's always been like this.

Angry eye.
Annie was looking a little bug-eyed to me at first...which made me fret about my eye decision.

Terrified eye.
Incidentally, the black sock did a decent job of protecting the hair while I was heating up the eyes, but Annie has a section of hair on the right side of her face that got kinked during the process.  Ramona also has a slightly wonky area of bangs.  I would protect the hair better (or remove the wigs) if I did this again.

My next challenge was to find eyelashes for these smaller dolls.  I love the Monique lashes for 23" dolls, but they're too big for the 18-inchers.  

I found some strips of eyelashes at Dolls by Sandie that I thought I might be able to cut down to size. I ordered them in dark brown, light brown and medium brown ($2.99 each).  I was hoping to use these for both the upper and the lower lashes.

The website suggests that 2-3 dolls can be re-lashed with every strip.  This seems accurate.   It might even be possible to get 4 lash sets for smaller dolls.

I used Annie's old eyelashes as a guide for cutting the correct lengths on these strips.  I also trimmed the length of the hairs on the lower eyelash segments.

For Sabrina, the dark brown color looks good:

The eyelashes are really long for these dolls, though.  I figured I could glue them in place and then trim them after the glue had dried.

I used a pair of curved fingernail scissors to trim the lashes, and this worked least on the left side of the doll's faces.  For the right side, the scissors curve the wrong way to be helpful.  With a certain amount of fumbling around, I managed to trim the lashes on both sides.  I did not do a fantastic job, though.  

Eyelash application was a much bigger challenge in this project than I anticipated.

Now I'll show you the 18" girls all finished!  It's reveal time!

First, here's Ramona (she has the medium brown lashes--they look red):

Here's a quick reminder of Ramona before and after, just so you can see how much different she looks now:

(Before and after shots are my favorite part of a makeover!)

I really love these green eyes on her.  They go really well with her red hair, and they make her look very alert and inquisitive.

I like Ramona more now than I did when I first got her.

Here's Sabrina:

With her before and after portraits:

I left her eyelashes a bit longer than I did with the other two dolls.  The length suits her fancy look.  She's girl who enjoys dress-up.

(Here's another before and after comparison because I think it's really striking!)

I wish Sabrina's eyes were just a tad darker, but I'm still happy with how she came out.

Last, here's my sweet Annie:

Here's her before and after:

I'm still not 100% convinced that these are the best eyes for her.  What do you guys think?

Here's an enlargement of her cloudy old eyes...

...compared to her new eyes:

I like how focused Annie looks now.  Even her eyes when they were brand new were really large and slightly vacant.  I find this version of Annie more engaging:

Part of the problem with her eyes is that I redressed her in that blue dress because I thought it might enhance her eyes...but the shades of blue do not match.

To see if it would help, I re-dressed her in this grey Maplelea top with a My Life As plaid skirt:

I think the grey suits her better.

Bottom far?  I'm feeling excited about where the 23" girls are in their transformations.  Holly's bangs might not look great when I take that hat off, though.  I probably should not have cut her hair.  Big surprise.  But still, the wig is the easiest thing to fix down the road if I'm still not happy.  The other wigs are beautiful and fit very well.  I'm especially eager to see the final versions of Tasha and Ariel.  I've put the most work into that pair and have grown very attached to them in the process.  My plan is to take all four of these dolls somewhere special for their final photo shoot next week.

As for the 18" dolls, it was an easy decision to try and fix the eyes because I could no longer bear to look at them.  I know some of you didn't mind the cloudy (mystical!) eyes, which is completely understandable.  For me, though, it was too sad to see the eyes slowly fading away.  I felt like I was losing my dolls' personalities.  My only options were to give the dolls away or try to fix them...and I'm very glad I fixed them.  However, things could have gone dramatically wrong for one or all of the girls.  I was braced to lose a doll to crumbling vinyl, an error on my part, or some kind of freak accident.  But most things ended up being easier than I expected--especially compared to wrestling with the larger dolls' eyes.  The hardest part of the 18" doll project was finding, fitting and applying the little eyelashes.  I did not expect this to be so challenging.  The new eyelashes are not perfect, but if they bother me in an ongoing way I can always re-apply them.  There are plenty of lashes left over. 

Here's the cost breakdown for the 18" My Twinn eye replacement:
Two pairs of Eyeco 16mm eyes: $18.50
One pair of Real Eyes: $5.50
Three eyelash strips: $9 (and there are a lot of leftovers)
Tacky glue: I already had this, but it costs $2-3 for a bottle
Total = ~$35.00

Plus, the entertainment value of a good project?  Priceless.

I'm happy with how all of the 18" dolls turned out.  I love Ramona's new expression and I feel like Sabrina got her old self back.  Annie has a very new look, though, and because she's a special doll to me, I'm the most conflicted about her final appearance.  I suppose I can always change her eyes again some day, but for now I think I'll just relax and spend some time getting to know this new, bright-eyed character.


  1. What a lot of work you've put in! It's great that you've had fun too. I have my eye on watercolor pencils myself, for my Makie doll. Yours look like they're very nice quality.

  2. I really love the Project and can't wait to see the final results :D. You're doing such a great job!
    Tasha is my favorite, she's beautiful now :").

  3. Looks like you did a great job! I have a My Twinn that needs her head reattched, so this will be helpful.I use Fabritac a lot and I found out that on certain types of plastic or vinyl it will actually act like acid and cause it to disintegrate! So be careful. By the way, I think Ramona would make a very good boy.

  4. I love how your dollies turned out, especially Sabrina and Tasha! I'm an Ariel fan, so I'm looking forward to seeing how yours turns out.

  5. Thanks so much for showing us this process step by step Emily. It's a lot of work but definitely worth it.
    I'm going to put an armature in an old doll I have and seeing how Ariel was constructed is really helpful.
    Your dolls look fabulous.

    Oh, and to cut natural looking bangs it's better to find the length you want and then hold them out at a 90 degree angle to cut. When you comb them back down the bangs are slightly layered so they're feathery instead of too blunt and boxy.
    Thanks again, Emily.

  6. I think Annie looks wonderful with her new blue eyes. They are perfect on her. All of your Twinns turned out beautiful actually.

  7. This step-by-step process is fascinating! As for Annie's new eyes, I can see how you'd say they make her look bug-eyed, especially in comparison to the old ones, but once you take a minute to get used to them, they look just fine. Although, being a green-eyed redhead myself, I could say I have a preference for her old color...;)

    Also, I've never commented on this blog before, but I'd just like to tell you what a lifesaver this blog can be...I've never been a big doll collector myself (I will admit though, you've tempted me to start...or at least start bingewatching some of those Monster High webisodes), but there's just something about reading your in-depth, adult reviews of, well, kids' toys, that's simultaneously fascinating and quite an effective escape from the anxieties of everyday life. I'd honestly never had much interest in dolls before finding this blog, but you've given me a new appreciation for them as more than just a vehicle for twelve-year-old-me's burgeoning sharpie tattoo artistry. :)

  8. I collected BJDs but I find to tame the bangs down, you should hold them down with a sock or a hat then use a hairdryer on very low heat and blast the wig for a minute or so. The heat should help the fibre hold its shape and using the heat on low should help it not melt the fibre.

  9. I was so excited for this My Twinn update-- can't wait for the final installment! It's been so much fun to watch you take these dolls through their transformations, and so fascinating to watch the step-by-step process. Your girls look amazing!

    I'm so invested in seeing how Ariel turns out. She's very endearing, with that rags-to-riches story. ;-)

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  11. GOOD EARLY MORNING, The photographs of the work that you accomplished on reworking these dolls is excellent. Are you going to write a book on this since the subject is worth learning? The dolls are really lovely and you do seem to have an eye for using products on what people call like "re-born" ? dolls? Remaking baby dolls? Best wishes, atk

  12. Ohh they look so much better than before you did a great job! If you still have the littlest pet shops from your blythe review could you do a review on them?

  13. Wow, I love all the transformations. Annie is my favorite, her new eyes look gorgeous with her hair and skin color. Congratulations on all your hard work. I'm most fascinated by Ariel. She is a special doll and I'm happy you found her. I can't wait to see her finished look! These project posts are awesome.

  14. You did such a wonderful job on all of them! Now I want to find a well-loved 23" MyTwinn to fix up! I've browsed through Ebay a bit, but I can't seem to find any inexpensive ones, regardless of condition. : P

    I replaced the eyes on my 18" MyTwinn, but I actually did it through the back of the head, cutting through the eye sockets with an Ex-Acto. Your method was probably MUCH easier.

  15. I cannot tell you how wonderful your blog is to me. This was an especially exciting "episode". For me, it's like reading a mystery that's too good to put down or "oh no!, it's going to end!". I truly look forward to everything that you write and have written.

    So, thanks for the priceless fun and letting us walk through your wonderfully detailed process with such amazing and inspirational results. I can't wait to read the "next chapter"!

  16. The 18" girls look fantastic! Annie is so adorable, and I love her new bright-eyed look! :) As you know, I LOVE redhead dolls, too. :) Thank you so much for documenting this--I'm learning so much! :)


  17. Everyone looks wonderful! Can't wait for part 3!

  18. Though I miss Annie's dreamy seer-eyes just a bit, I love how focused and studious the new ones make her look. I almost feel like she needs a tiny pair of wire-frame glasses now.

    I'm also very jealous of your ability to draw eyebrows nicely. Even the big caterpillar-brows were kind of nice in their own right. Please give me some of your talent...!

    Overall I think you've done a wonderful job restoring these dolls, especially considering how daunting the task seems to be. Can't wait to see the final update. c:

  19. ;_; I had about three paragraphs written out when I accidentally logged out of my Google account and now I can't seem to log back into it. Oh well. Emily the gist was that these dolls are absolutely lovely and gave me a renewed interest in the 24 inch Lee Middleton doll I have solely on height. I would love to buy a My Twinn but considering the fact that my Lee Middleton doll say in the closet for 10 years I probably shouldn't. I can't wait to see the completed dolls!

    1. And of course it logged me back in but didn't keep my original comment. Ah well.

  20. You're good at this. If I had tried to put eyes in, they would be a hot mess. These dolls are lucky to have you.

  21. I just wanted to say: I'm so glad you're back!! I've really missed your reviews, but more than that, I was so worried something had happened to you. I don't know you, but I still hope for the best for you.

    I personally don't mind the announced alterations in content to the blog at all, I never came here to read reviews on the latest items. Rather, I come here to read your detail-oriented and humorous thoughts on any doll. I'm actually really looking forward to hearing more about your existing collection, it's been delightful hearing about it up until now.

    Wishing you much happiness in any and all dollventures!

  22. I just got caught up on all your posts, and I really enjoyed them, especially the project posts. And as always, I appreciated you linking back to older posts whenever you were reminded of them; it's always a good time, digging through your archives. I can't wait to see what else you get up to in the future *-*

    I used the same huge screwdriver that I used on the larger dolls, though. I don't mess around.

  23. Your eyebrows are so perfectly done, I think I'd rather have you do my eyebrows every day instead of doing them myself, ha! I think it's funny that you mention the process of drawing them on with the head upside down- many eyebrow artists have the customer lay their head down and do them in a similar way. Great minds think alike!

    I love this series of posts; I'm not an 18'' doll collector but I'm fascinated with the way you restore them.

  24. Emily, you could write a blog post about going shopping for pasta, and it would still make me feel incredibly happy. My favourite aspects of this blog are your amazing perspective on things, your detailed and logical analyses of everything you interact with, and your incredible sense of humour. So you, basically :) I'm thrilled that you are finding ways to make this blog work for you!

    I also second what another commenter said - Annie looks different, but she looks great to me! I like that she had such a definite gaze now.

  25. So glad you're OK and back writing about dolls (whatever way you do this makes me happy!) I received an email about this post, but before that no emails since the Hermione one, which is weird... I'll have to pop in and check more often, instead of waiting for emails, just in case. Don't want to miss one! :>) Thank you for making an effort to share your interest in dolls with us!

  26. Once this make over series is done I would love to see something on your old baby dolls or redoing parts of the disney animator dolls possibly?

  27. I'm just now catching back up with your blog and I absolutely love these project posts. Theres something magical about restoring a well loved doll, and you did such a great job on these!

    One thing I thought I might suggest when dealing with the squeaky armature (or any dplastic doll with a stuck joint) is 80w 100% pure sillicon rc shock oil. It's comes in a small clear bottle and is used in remote control car racing so it's safe to use on plastic and won't degrade over time like wd40. You just dip a tooth pick in it and touch it to the stuck joint and wait a few seconds for gravity to pull it onto the joint. Then carefully work the joint around and presto! It moves smoothly and silently. The only thing to remember when useing it is to use a miniscule amount, I mean just a touch! Too much will leave the joint floppy and it have to be removed with dish washing soap and water so less is always a good idea.

  28. Emily, I'm late to the party but wanted to tell you how much your My Twinn project inspired and helped me. Thank you!

    Two things: when you use watercolor pencil for your eyebrows, do you then apply a sealant after?

    And the second: when I tried to use nylon hose to tie down a doll's head when I was re-gluing, the darned hose kept sliding off her shiny bald head! My second try, I reglued with hair in place which held much better. How did you manage that?

    Really enjoying your blog.

  29. This has been an extremely informative journey of doll rebirth! I need to replace the eyes of a 23" My Twinn doll for my granddaughter. I notice you used 16mm for the 18" dolls. What size eyes wouldbe appropriate for the 23" doll? Thank you for the wonderful details & photos. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

  30. Hiya. Great article! Will be referring other folks to your blog via FB My Twinn Collectors. One suggestion on reheading. Take a paper plate and cut through from the edge to the middle, making a small hole in the center for the armature under the neck disc Slide this under your pantyhose or bungee cords to catch glue drips. It’s less likely to absorb glue and transfer to the doll body

  31. Fwiw several of us have taken tlc Twinns and washed them with the foam in. Peggy’s method on Logansladies is by far the most careful of residual moisture Jmho u can still keep the interior of the vinyl dry if u raise the arms legs and head up from the body lying down in a tub of warm soapy water and also let her dry in a similar position on a rack after squeezing out the excess moisture with towels Pump soapy water and rinse water through the foam with strong squishes. I’ve done this with dolls exposed to smoke and done well with it.

  32. I wish I could send my twinn doll to you to fix up. You do beautiful work. I can't find anywhere to fix her for my daughter. Her eyelash fell off, the blue of her eyes faded and her hair is a tangled mess. :( I keep researching but haven't found anywhere to fix her yet. If you have any suggestions please let me know. Thanks!

    1. Hi Heather, you could try Westport dolls, I'm not sure if Peggy is still accepting My Twinn dolls for restoration, but that would be the place to go if she is!

  33. Thank you so much for documenting your process!