Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The My Twinn Project

One of my new ideas for the blog is to write about the doll-related projects in my life.  I could call this series of posts "regular person attempts tricky things that you can learn from the internet!" but I'll probably just put the word "project" somewhere in the title.  I love a good project.  I've documented project-like things in the past, but I'd like to make it more of a regular occurrence.  The basic formula will be to set the scene in a relatively short post and then publish a few progress updates--interspersed between my more conventional reviews.  This way you'll get to follow along and share in the suspense as I succeed (or fail!) in my endeavors.  When the project is complete, I'll put together a cumulative post with some concluding pictures and statements.  Let's see how it goes!

The first project involves My Twinn dolls.  My Twinn went out of business in January.  I was sad to hear this news, but it didn't come as much of a surprise.  By late 2015, the quality of the 18" dolls was plummeting, there was a glut of unsold, mega-browed 18" Adopt-A-Friends, and the company had ceased production of dolls with darker skin tones.  The situation didn't look promising.  The way I see it, My Twinn dolls were made great by four critical things: a great range of customizable options (including over 40 face molds), overall high quality of construction, beautiful inset eyes, and carefully hand-painted eyebrows.  Many of these features had gone out the window by the time My Twinn closed its doors.

Like many collectors, I think the best versions of My Twinn dolls are the ones assembled in Denver, Colorado from 1995 through 2001.  These dolls have high-quality vinyl, beautiful (durable) eyes, nice wigs, a variety of faces, and (occasionally) artist-painted eyebrows.  To commemorate the end of My Twinn, I decided to add one more of these vintage gems to my collection.  The Denver dolls are all at least 15 years old by now, though, so adopting one is likely to involve a bit of restoration.  This project will document what kind of work can be required...and how I struggled through it.

My Twinn Audrey from 2001.
As many of you have probably noticed, I tend to have a strangely obsessive reaction to My Twinn dolls.  Every time these girls grab my attention, they seem to keep it for days or even weeks at a time--at a feverish level of intensity.  

My first blogging visit to the My Twinn website ended with me compulsively scouring lists of discounted 23" Adopt-A-Friend dolls (and then bringing two of them home).  Next, I became enamored with the idea of ordering a custom doll (the result of which was my beloved 18" Annie), and most recently I took it upon myself to try and identify all of the 18" versions of the face molds...a fun challenge that consumed several entire days out of my life.

18" My Twinn Annie with my 23" Adopt-a-Friend, Hazel.
Oh--speaking of face molds, now there's a comprehensive (and correct) 18" face mold list over at Logan's Ladies that has the names of the dolls included.  The Logan's Ladies site is my go-to resource for everything related to My Twinn.  I could not have done this project without the help of that website.  In particular, the doll care tutorials and 23" face mold reference have proved completely invaluable to me.

So, my mission here was to purchase a Denver era My Twinn doll from eBay--with no concern about the condition of the doll.  Denver dolls in excellent condition can cost $100 or more, but the dolls that need work often go for much less.  This kind of scenario is dangerous for me because whenever I feel like I'm getting a deal, I tend to go overboard.

Long story short--and in my typically obsessive way--I ended up with three dolls.  Let me introduce them to you (all shown exactly as they looked right out of their shipping boxes).

This is Holly:

Holly was made in 1999.  Incidentally, you can tell the manufacture date of a My Twinn doll by looking at the body tag.  Most dolls also have a date stamped on the back of their neck (often 1996 or 1997), but this date tells you nothing about when or where the doll was made.  For more information about the neck stamps, see this helpful page from Logan's Ladies.

That's the date you're looking for.
Because the neck dates all fall within the Denver production period (1995-2001), some eBay sellers will cite this date and claim that they have a Denver doll (and charge accordingly) without ever looking at the body tag.  They're not necessarily doing this to be sneaky, many vintage dolls are valued by their neck marks.  Worse, though, the seller will show a post-2001 body tag and claim the doll has a "Denver head" simply because the neck date is 1997.  This is not a valid conclusion.

I suppose a body-swap could have occurred at some point in a doll's history, but typically--especially for dolls that show their age--the body tag dates are accurate.  If you really want a Denver doll, always ask to see the body tag date.  If the body tag doesn't match the claim of the seller, ask about the history of the doll.  Occasionally you might come across an actual Denver head that has been re-bodied.  But, again, you can't tell this by just looking at the neck date.

I'm certainly not an expert (and I would have a hard time identifying some Denver heads if they were disconnected from their bodies), but I've found that it helps to approach the My Twinn secondary market armed with a bit of background.  Incidentally, if anyone knows--definitively--how to identify a Denver head without its body, I'd love to learn!  I just look at the eyes and eyebrows and make a guess.

Anyway, back to Holly.  She has the "Danielle" mold, which is my favorite My Twinn face.

So cute.
The 23" My Twinn dolls in my collection typically keep the name of their face mold as their official name.  But since I already have a Danielle, this new girl had to be called something different.  She looks like a Holly to me.

I meant to purchase a doll with a face mold that I didn't already have, but...well, I find it tough to resist the Danielle face.  

Holly has beautiful grey-green eyes (missing the upper eyelashes):

Sadly, she does not have distinctive eyebrows.  If you look really closely at her eyebrows you can see that the brush strokes are delicate and carefully done, but the overall shape of the brow is really blocky and generic.

My original plan for Holly was:
1. Apply new eyelashes
2. Find her some clothes (she came undressed) 
3. Re-wig her (the original wig is dry and hard to manage) 

Now, after seeing the brows up-close, I'm starting to think about the possibility of maybe re-painting Holly's eyebrows.  I hope that's not a terrible idea.

The only reason I'm even considering a re-paint of Holly's eyebrows is because of this doll, my second eBay purchase:

This doll has the Audrey face mold and is from 2001.  She's my first Audrey doll.  She has beautiful, realistic artist eyebrows:

And freckles!
I won Audrey for about $30, which seems like an incredible deal to me.  In fact, I was pretty sure I wouldn't win the auction at all (my max bid was only $40).  She really doesn't need much work.  She's dirty, her eyelashes are damaged, and she might need a new wig...but that's it.

Here are her eyes and eyelashes up-close:


This doll's eyes look blue in pictures, but in person they have a faint purple cast.  This is not my favorite color (my Denver Kate doll has these same eyes).  I started to wonder if Audrey would need an eye-swap?  That's a huge undertaking.

Before doing anything hasty, though, I took Audrey outside to see what her eyes look like in natural light.  Here they are in the shade:

And in the direct sunlight (maybe you can see the purple a little bit here):

These eyes photograph beautifully in every kind of lighting.  They're also very sparkly and realistic...so I think I'll avoid an eye swap on Audrey.  Phew!  

What I noticed outside, though, is that the eyebrows are much redder than the hair and eyelashes:

This will certainly weigh in to my decision about whether or not Audrey needs a new wig.  I'm always looking for an excuse to have another redhead in the house....

The plan for Audrey is:
1. Clean her up
2. See if I can fix her eyelashes (or replace them)
3. Maybe re-wig her

At this point I had two nice older dolls that only require minor work.  I should have been happy, right?  I searched my feelings, though, and realized that what I was really craving was a restoration challenge.  Painting new eyebrows on Holly will not be easy for me, that's for sure, but I wanted something more.  Something like this: 

Challenge accepted!
My husband refers to this one as Glue Girl.

I could see from the auction photos that Glue Girl is from 2001, but I couldn't identify her face mold (there were no front-on pictures of the head).  I thought she was an Emma, or maybe Doris.  It was an addictively fun mystery to think about.

It might have been silly to pay for a doll in this condition, but there was just something very appealing about her happy face...and she seemed in desperate need of help.  Which, by the way, is the rationale by which most of our pets have joined the family.  I got her for--again--about $30.  It's so weird that she and Audrey sold for the same price!

In person, I know for sure that this is the Tasha face mold.  I do not have a Tasha yet, so I was thrilled with this discovery.

As perhaps you've guessed, Tasha is going to be the star of this project.  She's lovely, but she needs a lot of work.

When I purchased Tasha, I was braced for the fact that she might need everything fixed (vinyl cleaning, deep body cleaning, re-wigging, eyelashes, paint...).  The one thing I didn't think she'd need was new eyes.  Her eyes looked beautiful in the pictures, in fact, I pretty much bought her because of her gorgeous dark eyes.

My biggest concern was the white glue leaking out from under her wig:

It's hard to miss.
Without any knowledge of the type of glue, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do anything at all with this doll.

She has other issues as well, including some dark spots on her face, missing paint on her upper lip, and three areas where the vinyl on her face has been damaged (on the tip of her nose, on her left cheek and in her left eyebrow):

The other thing I noticed when I was inspecting her is that her eyes are not as beautiful as I thought they'd be.  The left one is yellowing (which is hard to see in these pictures):

The eyes also lack the luster that's typical of My Twinn eyes.  

Overall, Tasha looks a little tired to me.  And no wonder, I suppose.  She's clearly been on some epic, harrowing adventures during the last 15 years.  I wish she could tell me about them.

I took Tasha outside to see how the eyes look in natural light.  This lighting shows off the defects in her vinyl really well, too.

Her eyebrows are delicately painted and have a great shape, they're just very faint--and missing a patch over that left eye.

The eyes look better in pictures than they do in real life.  This shot in the direct sunlight shows the mismatched colors the best:

The plan for Tasha is:
1. Try and remove her wig (and all of that glue!)
2. Clean her vinyl
3. Replace her eyes (ack!!)
4. Touch up her paint
5. Replace her eyelashes
6. Re-wig her

The pleasant surprise was that her cloth body is very clean and has no odor.  Spot cleaning the body will be more than enough.

Fixing these three 23" dolls would have kept me plenty busy for the next week or so.  However, a few of the My Twin dolls I already own also have problems.  Perhaps you remember that my 18" Kate-faced doll, Frances, had eyes that were turning purple back in 2014?  Well, now all of my 18" dolls have cloudy or discolored eyes.  I gather that this was a pervasive problem among the smaller My Twinn dolls, and probably (although this is just speculation) a contributing factor to the company going out of business.

Here's a picture of my Sabrina (the Cai face mold) that was taken back in 2014:

Beautiful brown-eyed girl.
I love her impish smile!
Here's what she looks like now:

Suddenly that smile looks sinister....
I enjoy brains for breakfast.
Her eyes went from lovely deep brown to cloudy, pink-ish zombie brown.  It's awful.

And here's my sweet Ramona (who has the Helen face mold):

In 2014 she had the most realistic hazel-green eyes.

So earnest and kind.
This is how she looks now:

So lifeless and possessed.

Worst of all, my beloved green-eyed Annie is also suffering from this eye affliction.  Here's a picture of Annie from back in 2013 when I first got her:

I think I actually complained that her eyes were too dark back during that original review.  I should have enjoyed them while they lasted.

She has really nice eyebrows, too.
This is how Annie looks today:

Her eyes are a cloudy, pale blue.  They look dead.  It's really creepy and depressing.

I'll save you, Annie!!
These 18" dolls are ruined unless I can fix their eyes, so the My Twinn Project will also include swapping the eyes (or trying to, anyway) on all of these smaller dolls.  There's a lot of work to do!  I'd better get started.

The two things in this project that I found the most daunting were removing Tasha's wig and extracting all of the eyes.  So...I decided to start with those things.

Brace yourself, Glue Girl.
I pulled off Tasha's remaining eyelashes with a pair of tweezers.  Then I turned my attention to the wig.

The glue looks and behaves a little bit like Fabri-tac, but I don't know exactly what it is.  It's white, foamy and slightly soft in some places.  I was relieved that it wasn't rock-hard and permanently welded to the doll's head.  The wig actually peeled off with no trouble whatsoever:

There was a lot of glue residue left on Tasha's head, though.  I thought maybe I could soak the head in a bowl of water, but (after doing this for about five minutes) I remembered that there is a hole in the back of the head...

...which was allowing water to leak in.  I'd been determined not to get water inside of the head (mold can grow in there over time...), so this wasn't a great start to the project.

I worked quickly to remove the head and drain it.

The heads on these dolls are secured to the cloth body with a cable tie:

I snipped the cable tie and pulled it out.  

Underneath the cloth body cover, the head is attached to the doll's armature with a peg that's sitting on a cog-like disc.  The peg inserts into a hole in the head, and the bottom of the neck is glued to the disc:

Here's the head peg and disc after the head was removed:

Underneath that yellow foam is a segmented plastic armature.  Logan's Ladies has some great pictures if you're curious.

Tasha's head was easy to pry off because that glue is old and wasn't holding on very tightly anymore.  To be on the safe side, I used a large screwdriver and inserted it between the head and the neck disc, gradually working around the neck to free the head.

The head was much easier to work with after it was detached from the body, so I'm kind-of glad that I made the mistake of soaking the head.

With the body safely out of the way, the first thing I did was wash the entire head with some mild soapy water.  This removed a lot of the smudges and smaller spots of dirt.  It also helped loosen some of the glue globs.  I grabbed a pair of tweezers and started to pick and pull away the bits of white, foamy glue.  This was a painstaking process.

Removing the glue on the back of the head revealed the My Twinn factory marks, including the word "Yena" at the top: 

My Twinn gave many of their head molds names, but these names were not part of the marketing.   They were (literally) hidden away under the wigs.  

My Twinn collectors catalogued and named the face molds to help keep track of them (there were more than 42 faces in total) and these names are the ones that have stuck over time.  Tasha's My Twinn name is Yena.

She also has the number 12 at the back of the head:

After about 30 minutes of picking away at glue, I decided to concentrate my efforts on the parts of the head that would be visible after re-wigging.  Tasha's forehead, in particular, was covered with tiny streaks of shiny glue that were very hard to strip away.  You can see them in this picture:

I tried soaking a paper towel in water and leaving it on her head for a while to soften the glue.  This worked pretty well for the larger streaks.

I could insert some nice spa treatment analogy here, but it's tough when poor Tasha is separated from her body.

While she was soaking, I inspected the damage on the rest of her face.  She had two deep gashes in her vinyl and two very dark spots on her face that would not wash away with soap and water.

I found some very fine grain sandpaper (600) in my garage and tried this on an inconspicuous area of the head to see if it would leave marks.  I was pretty happy with the sanded finish, so I crossed my fingers and started to sand the doll's cheeks and nose.  I used very light pressure and worked in small circles--alternating direction every so often.

I ended up sanding down the two vinyl defects a little bit.  I also used the sandpaper to remove the two stubborn dark spots on the cheeks...and the smallest streaks of glue on the forehead.

Here's Tasha after the first round of sanding:

The spot on her nose is almost completely gone:

The mismatched eyes are really obvious with those eyelashes gone.
The gash on her cheek is still visible, but it's less glaring now:

Sanding the cheeks caused the doll's coloring to be uneven, though, so I sanded a little more until most of the cheek paint was gone:

There's a pink spot and a dark stain on her forehead that I could not remove.

Not only does the face look better now, but it feels amazingly smooth!  I'm very impressed by the quality of this vinyl.  I have no idea if this sanding technique would work on the newer dolls, but it worked beautifully on this 2001 doll.  I see now why this older vinyl has been likened to porcelain.

Ok, quick warning: this next part--where I remove the eyes--might give some people the heebie-jeebies. 

The Logan's Ladies website has a great tutorial for removing My Twinn eyes.  I read this very carefully several times before I got stared...and I'm glad I did.  My Twinn eyes are best removed from the front of the head.  Honestly it never would have occurred to me to try this technique.  In my limited experience with removing eyes, I've only ever approached them by cutting a hole in the back of the head (like I did with my Masterpiece Snow White).

The basic procedure is this:
1. Go outside so that any toxic fumes from the heated vinyl don't make you sick (or give you a panic attack)
2. Heat the head with a hairdryer (high setting, holding about 1 inch away from the face)
3. Heat until head is squishy (about 5 minutes)
4. Pop eyes out--maybe with the help of a screwdriver and some curse words

Logan's Ladies also recommends practicing on a few dolls before attempting an eye replacement on a valuable or beloved doll.  Tasha certainly isn't valuable, but I'd invested a lot in her at this point and didn't want to mess her up.  I was also getting really attached to that cute face.

Fortunately, I happened to have a My Twinn baby kicking around in the garage.  I ordered this fellow from eBay several years ago.  He was in the garage because I freaked out when I de-boxed him and saw his eyes in person. They looked like nice hazel eyes in the auction pictures, but in real life they're very buggy, faded and freaky.  He never made it inside the house.

I should have taken a better "before" picture, but this is all I have:

The constantly startled expression makes me jumpy.
This guy is from 2005, so I was a little concerned that his newer vinyl might not hold up to heat and stress as well as the Denver vinyl.  Apparently, some of the newer dolls will crumble if you try to pry out their eyes.  That reminds me of my Masterpiece Snow White's crumbling vinyl.  I would never try this technique with a doll like that.

I crossed my fingers and turned on the hair dryer:

Now he has good reason to be startled.
Logan's Ladies recommends using an eyeglasses screwdriver to pry the eyes out, but I had to resort to a huge, full-sized screwdriver and a lot of force.  More force than I was comfortable with, in fact.  But the vinyl did not crumble:

I'll admit that startled eyes are better than no eyes.  
Another rookie mistake I made was to not heat the head up for long enough at first.  It really has to be squishy and stay squishy throughout the whole process.  Doing one eye at a time made this easier.

I wasn't really prepared with supplies to replace eyes on this size of doll, so I rooted around in my old sculpting bin until I found some Eyeco SoftGlass (silicone) eyes that are the right size (22mm).  

Silicone eyes pop into the sockets really well because they're rubbery and bendable.  I don't know how these eyes will react with the My Twinn vinyl over time, though.  I do know that they attract lint and dust like nobody's business.  I prefer glass or acrylic eyes.

The eyes went in a little crooked at first:

Not startled anymore...just dizzy.
But I just pushed and squished them around until they were straight.  I won't have this luxury with rigid acrylic eyes.

Hey!  That's a cute baby!
The old eyes took a beating during the extraction process--one whole side is crushed in:

That's where the screwdriver was pushing.
Here's a better picture of the removed eyes:

They each melted and were crushed to some degree.

Here's my little guy:

I actually like him a lot now.  Maybe he can have some clothes and move in from the garage?

Armed with this experience, I tried the same procedure on Tasha's head.

I had to heat Tasha's head for quite a bit longer than the baby's head.  This is how squishy it got:

Usually My Twinn heads aren't compressible.
Once again, a thin eyeglasses screwdriver offered nowhere near enough force to pry the eyes out:

I ended up using the same monstrous screwdriver that I used on the baby:

I never thought I would be doing this to a doll.
The challenge is to get the eyelids soft enough so that the screwdriver can be stuck up underneath the lower edge of the eye.  It's brutal.  

Once my screwdriver was in place (which took forever), I pulled it forwards and the eye popped out and went shooting across the room.  Then the dogs tried to eat it.  There was a lot of excitement.

But I ended up with an undamaged, eyeless head:

Mission accomplished.
Here are some studio pictures of eyeless Tasha:

It's fascinating to me how much personality is lost when the eyes are gone.  I'm reminded of my Little Apple doll, Erro.

The empty sockets are made extra-spooky by the fact that they have crossed lines at the back that look like Xs.

The negative of this picture is even creepier!

This makes me think of Coraline's Other Mother...

Crazy nightmare bait.
...and it also reminds me of the x-eyed BEGoth dolls, like Storm:

Sorry.  There's more doll horror in this post than I anticipated.

Back to work, Emily!

The older, Denver-era eyes are apparently made out of stronger stuff than the newer eyes I pulled out of the baby.  They did not crack or damage in any way as a result of the heat and stress.

I ordered multiple pairs of new (20mm) eyes so that I would have a few options for replacement.  I chose several pairs of Secrist Real Eyes and two sets of Eyeco PolyGlass eyes.

It's really hard to tell what the eye colors are going to look like in real life.  I'll quickly show you the eyes I bought in the hopes of helping someone else who is trying to choose colors.

First, here are the Real Eyes that I bought from Dolleanne:

Secrist Real Eyes "Dark Blue Dusk."
Secrist Real Eyes "Dark Blue Dusk."
Secrist Real Eyes "Dark Brown Green."
Secrist Real Eyes "Dark Brown Green."
Secrist Real Eyes "Ocean Green."
Secrist Real Eyes "Ocean Green."
Dark Brown Green was my favorite of these, Ocean Green was my least favorite.

The Eyeco eyes have a slightly higher dome on the iris, and the tip of the iris has a section of acrylic that distorts the color of the eye in profile.

Here's a comparison of My Twinn eyes, Secrist eyes and Eyeco eyes from the side so that you can see the difference:

From left: My Twinn eyes, Secrist eyes, Eyeco eyes.
Here's a closer look at the Eyeco eye--it's that bright reflective section at the tip of the iris that I'm trying to describe:

It seems to me that the colors and patterns on the Eyeco eyes are less vivid because of this style of dome.  

I bought my Eyeco eyes from Dolls by Sandie.  Here's the blue pair I bought:

Eyeco PolyGlass, "Stormy."
These pictures are in focus--promise--it's just that the iris pattern always looks blurry.

Eyeco PolyGlass, "Stormy."
Despite the funny optics of this brand, I ended up settling on a pair of Eyeco eyes for Tasha.  

I just love the clear, vivid green color and the realistic iris pattern on this particular pair:

Eyeco PolyGlass #A255.
As it turned out, putting the new eyes in place was even harder than getting the old eyes out.  I heated up the head again until it was squishy, and then pushed one eye in towards the top of the head.  It got this far pretty easily...

Epic eye roll.
...but then I had a heck of a time getting that bottom edge to snap into place.  It was very hard work.  I ended up using the same large screwdriver to pull down on the lower eyelid while simultaneously pushing up on the eye (and sweating a lot).  I found it extremely necessary to keep the head nice and soft for this part of the procedure.

I finally got one eye in:

And then I was ready to quit.
I covered the inserted eye with a damp paper towel before heating the second eye socket.  These newer acrylic eyes can withstand quite a bit of heat (275 degrees), but I covered the eye just to be safe.  At this point, melting an eye and having to re-do everything would have been a huge drag.

After a couple of tries I finally got the second eye in place:

This was a tough job.  It didn't help that it was about 90 degrees outside and I had a hairdryer running right next to me.  But even without the heat, there was more physical exertion required than what I expected.  I have to say that I'm not looking forward to replacing three more sets of eyes...but I suppose it's possible that I'll get better with practice.

It is pretty rewarding to see the new eyes in place, though.  They give Tasha a very different look:

I was worried that these particular eyes would look too buggy and startled--those pupils are really small.  But in the end, I think they're ok.  I hope they're ok.

Can we agree that they're ok so I don't have to change them again?
I should mention that I also had to clean the rest of Tasha's body.  This was straight-forward, though.  She had a lot of scuffs and marks on her arms and legs:

These came off with soapy water, for the most part.  I had to go after a few of the more stubborn stains with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  I also used a damp washcloth to spot-clean one small area of the fabric body.

She must have played outside barefoot a lot.
The only stains that didn't succumb to soap or Mr. Clean were these perplexing stains on the tips of Tasha's fingers:

From blueberry picking, maybe?

Despite the warnings on the Logan's Ladies site, I attacked these stains with benzoyl peroxide cream.  I did not leave the doll out in the sun, though (a trick that's said to enhance the effect of the cream).

I will let this cream sit for a week and see what happens.  I'm not especially optimistic because I've tried this treatment before with no success.  We'll see!

That's all I'm going to do with Tasha this week.  She will get her face paint, her new eyelashes and her new wig next week.  Then I'll re-attach her head to her body.

In the meantime, I made good progress with Audrey, too.  Here's her original wig brushed out:

It looks nice, but it's very dry.  I think I'll swap it for a new wig with a bit more red in it--to match those eyebrows.  I ordered a size 13-14 Monique "Majesty" wig in ginger brown, a color which sounded perfect.

Audrey's old wig came off very easily.

As you can see, there's very little glue under the original wigs.

I removed this glue using just my fingers.  It rolls off pretty easily, only leaving behind a thin sticky residue.

I'll use this glue pattern as a guide when I'm attaching the new wigs.

Audrey has the mark "AM (2)" on the back of her head.  This is probably in reference to My Twinn's name for the Audrey face mold--Amy.

Audrey also needed some scrubbing with water--and a little work with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  I usually tear off tiny bits of the Magic Eraser sponge so that I can be very precise about it.  I used to think that these (truly magical) Erasers were filled with abrasive chemicals--but no!  With huge thanks to an anonymous commenter, I now understand that they're essentially fine sandpaper!

I'll still only use these Erasers if water (or water with a tiny bit of soap) doesn't work.

I surrender!  Just--please--don't touch my eyes!
I used a damp toothbrush to try and straighten the eyelashes.

I also tried straightening them with a damp Q-tip:

The eyelashes still looked pretty ragged, though, and so I decided to just replace them.

It's interesting how different these dolls look without their thick eyelashes!

It's a bit easier to photograph the eyes when they're bare, though:

Audrey will get her new wig and new eyelashes next week.

My last mission for the week was to remove Holly's eyelashes and wig...and then see if I could erase those blocky eyebrows!  

I ordered Holly a size 14-15 Monique "Doris" wig because the page boy style matches her original wig really well.  I chose the auburn color because I see Holly as a redhead (of course I do).

I really love her grey-green eyes, especially without the ragged eyelashes getting in the way:

In the past I've used acetone to erase old paint from vinyl dolls, but I decided never to do this again.  Acetone is scary stuff, and it can melt the top layer of vinyl and instantly ruin a doll.  

Instead, I turned to my trusty Magic Eraser sponge to remove Holly's eyebrows:

I purposefully left a faint outline of the old brows so that I could use it as a guide for painting:

Holly looks apprehensive.  I think she saw the screwdriver.
I'm still waiting for delivery of the 16mm replacement eyes that I need for my smaller My Twinn dolls, so I was not able to make any progress with them this week.

At the end of week one, I have three clean, bald My Twinn dolls with lovely eyes...all of them waiting for hair and eyelashes, one waiting for new eyebrows...and the other anxious for some new face paint...and a reunion with her body!

For reference, here's a summary of the supplies I've used up to this point:

1. 20mm Eyeco PolyGlass eyes (for 23" My Twinn Tasha)
2. 22mm Eyeco SoftGlass eyes (for the My Twinn baby boy)
3. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
4. 600 grit sandpaper 
5. Regular hair dryer
6. Large flat-headed screwdriver
7. Tweezers
8. Lots of paper towels and Q-tips
9. Benzoyl peroxide cream

The bonus result for this week is that this little (slightly orange) baby was rescued from the garage and his adorable (but squishy) new blue eyes have given him a chance to join my cherished My Twinn collection.  I'll find him some clothes and get him some new eyelashes and you'll see him again at the end of the project.  If anyone has a good name idea for him, please let me know!  Otherwise I'll be unoriginal and name him Finn after his head mold:

See you next time!


  1. This is a really great detailed post about the steps you've taken to restore these dolls! It's very obvious you give them quite a bit of love and care. Just one side note though -- magic erasers don't actually have any chemicals in them! They are basically very very very fine sandpaper in spongey form.

    1. No way! That's so cool! Thank you so much for telling me this--I've always wondered what the secret was. :) I'll go change my post. Now it makes more sense why the 600 sandpaper was similarly effective. Oh, and also why I've seen suggestions to use these Erasers on shiny vinyl spots! It all falls into place.

  2. I really liked seeing your project so far. Im looking forward to the update, especially seing them with their new wigs.

    1. Thank you, Freja! I was just attaching the wigs today. You're right--that's the transformative moment! It's exciting! :D

  3. The project posts are an excellent idea! May I steal it? My projects take very long and I was always reluctant to write a post about something that is not finished... I felt like every post needs a happy ending :)
    Anyway, I love what you did here! Will you change the eyes on your older dolls? They are super creepy! Funny how yours all faded and the new purchases had more or less nice eyes (even Tasha wasn't nearly as bad as your old dolls). The baby turned out very cute, I think the name Finn suits him. The difference is incredible! I can't wait to see how the rest of them will change after your manipulations.

    1. BTW the generic name for "magic eraser" is melamine sponge, you can buy 30 of them on Aliexpress for like a dollar, which I imagine is cheaper than the name brand.

    2. Of course you can "steal" it! Please do. I completely understand what you mean about the happy endings, though. I'm also reluctant to publish something without a conclusion. But projects can take time, and the anticipation is half the fun! ;)
      I'm still waiting on new eyes for the 18" girls. They're coming directly from Secrist and there must be a delay. I definitely plan to change the eyes, though. Even if I have to order more eyes.
      Thank you for the tip about Magic Erasers. I rely on them for dolls and also for my bathtub!!

  4. This post was so nice to read! I am very excited to see more of your projects! Thank you Emily!

    1. Thank you, Micah! Doll projects are one of my favorite things ever, and so it's really fun to share them with you.

  5. I love it when a good project comes together! I'm not sure it'll work as well on the larger dolls, but to pop the heads off of my smaller (MH/Barbie/16" Integrity) dollsI wrap the head in a heating pad and walk away for a bit. They end up nice and squishy with less chance of scorched plastic.

  6. I just discovered My Twinn dolls recently and then found out they were retired! But I love doll projects and cannot wait to see how these lovely ladies turn out! I so wanna do the same thing, buy a 'well loved' one of eBay and fix her up! That'd be cool!
    Lydia's Dolls

  7. This post was fascinating! Love the way the girls are looking already.

  8. This is really interesting stuff! I can't wait to see the next installment.

  9. Ahh, this is awesome! I love this idea of doll restoration. I'm so glad you are back to blogging as I always enjoy your posts so much. Your tiny comments below each photo crack me up, lol. "Suddenly that smile looks sinister..." :D
    I really like the Audrey face and I can't wait to see what all of the end results look like. You've done wonders with Glue Girl already. Finn still looks a little creepy to me, but so much better. :)

  10. I actually think there's something kind of pretty about Annie's faded eyes. She looks like some kind of mystical seer or something. (Then again, this is coming from somebody who found Storm's weird X-eyes compelling enough to buy a BEgoth of her own.)

    You're being really brave with this restoration process! I get nervous even changing doll clothes. I think about Blythe owners, who seem to futz around with eyechips and eyemechs and swapping scalps and gaze correction quite casually, and it gives me the shivers, lol. Here's hoping that everything works out the best it can!

  11. Fantastic post, the writing, humor, attention to detail and amazing pictures are all there, absolutely your trade mark. You can write about anything and it will still be wonderful.

  12. Wow, what a difference, especially with Tasha! It was really fascinating to see all the steps you did to accomplish it! :D

  13. This was awesome!!! :) I'm SO glad that you're back on the blogging scene. I missed you a lot, and incidentally, I celebrated my 1 Year Blogiversary this past Sunday, which NEVER would have happened if you hadn't let me do a guest post!!! :) Thank you so much for everything you do.

    As a side note, this was an awesome post!!! I love doll restoration, but I usually stick to smaller playline dolls. I can't wait to see how these girls come out....and as you probably know already I'm WAY partial to redheads myself! ;)

    Your Finn is super adorable! :) I love that name, but I also love the name Eugene (I bet you can guess why ;) ), and I also like the name Jasper. Although, his eyes are blue, so maybe not. Anyway, I'm just so glad to be reading your fantastic posts again! :) <3

  14. You are brave to tackle such challenges, Emily, and you're doing an amazing job. It's fun to be along for the whole story, and I'm looking forward to seeing how your girls turn out. :)

  15. I love this new project series idea! Your adventure with the old Baby Dimples dolls is one of my most favorite posts from you, I've read and reread it countless times.

    The little baby is adorable now! Finn is an adorable name, but I think he looks like a Jacob or a Jasper. Good luck in the coming weeks, I hope everything goes smoothly!

  16. I ended up with 6(!) of the 18 inch girls thanks to you, and I've noticed lately that their eyes are turning cloudy as well. It's good to know there are options to replace them.

  17. I enjoyed this post a lot. I knew someone as detail-oriented as you would make it interesting and informative. Because I knew Magic Erasers are fine sandpaper I'm wary if using them unless I really want to sand something off. I find that Ivory soap removes a lot of stubborn grime that doesn't seem to be yielding to regular soap and water.
    Do you put tape on your screwdriver to keep it from scratching the eyes and face because they sure looked smooth despite what they'd gone through.
    I saw your baby doll and he looks like an Oliver :-) He's had a hard start and is now going to live the high life just like Dickens' hero. ( What a difference new eyes did!)
    Can't wait to see what happens to those fingertips, I have a doll with the same problem and even benzoyle peroxide hasn't helped. I know it can't be dirt because she has never gone on any adventures so this is a mystery and I'd really appreciate finding out how to get rid of this.
    Thanks for this post Emily and I look forward to see how these projects go.

  18. This was really cool to see (albeit unsettling during the no eyes parts)!

    Finn is a nice name, but he kinda looks like a Charlie to me?

  19. Benzoyl peroxide works, but only if it's heated. It's not about the sun/UV rays or anything. I put doll parts in my car during summer to warm them. And I know some people have had success with heat lamps or heating pads.

  20. Hey Emily!

    My Zoë's eyes are doing the EXACT same thing as your Cai's. I'm going to have to eyeswap her, and do some major limb tightening on both her and Quinn. Since 18" My Twinn dolls are built the same as American Girls, I'm thinking of buying a couple of those restringing kits on Ebay with the tension cups in them and doing away with the nylon washers that hold these girls together usually, because they do nothing for them in the "keep their limbs tight" department. It's just impossible to pull the cord tight enough for it to stay that way for long, even with using ferrules instead of knots. It took Quinn a week to be back to being so loose-limbed she couldn't stand on her own, and Zoë's gotten that way over the last few months.

  21. That was a lot of work but you persevered and so far, your dolls look great. I really enjoyed this makeover post. Can't wait to see the final product.

  22. Your dolls with the faded eyes look so cool! Though i am a fan of creepy. I'm glad the little boy was able to join your collection, he looks so aborable! He kinda reminds me of a boy i knew named Travis. Maybe Travis would be a good name for your boy. :)

  23. I am so happy to see another post so soon! These project posts seem like a great idea... Especially because I would never try anything like this out of fear of ruining something. The baby is so cute with his new eyes! Seeing him makes me want to get out my Lee Middleton dolls.

  24. This is a fascinating post! I really admire people with the guts to tackle custom and restoration work to this level. This is inspiring for my own custom project, which, while not detailed as this, still freaks me out a bit.

    And aww your baby is adorable now, and I don't even usually Luke baby dolls! He looks a little like a Collin to me. :)

  25. I think the baby's name is Isaac (meant to be sacrificed but saved in the end).

  26. Hi i have loved your blog for a very long time and am glad your back! I have a question: can you review LPS(littlest pet shop)? I saw your blythe review but you didnt review the pets that came with them.

  27. A little boy who got a second chance? Oliver!

  28. I adore this new series! I can't wait for next week and I'm so thrilled you're updating again. Restoring dolls and giving them a new life is just one of the most fascinating things for me to see I love being apart of it. Keep up the great work, your dolls are looking so lovely.

  29. SO glad to see you back! I've recently started repainting and restoring dolls I've saved from the thrift store, it's funny that we ended up doing the same thing at around the same time. This was very educational for me as I've often wanted to rewig a doll but been to nervous to try it; seeing you attempt it first has given me more confidence. ~Anais

  30. This is amazing, I'm excited to see where it all goes!

  31. This post was thoroughly entertaining. I cannot wait to see your progress. I think his name should be Finnigan.

  32. You got me into Tonner dolls, and now you're getting me into restoration. :D I always wanted to get a MyTwinn for my daughter, but the problem always was, and still is, now none of the heads are even remotely similar to her.

    Did you ever post a review of your Annette Himstedt doll? I can't find it, if you did.

  33. I love your blog!! It is so fascinating to see your project and I can't wait to see your finished dolls. I love how you're giving these dolls new life even after the company went out of business. That startled baby before picture had me in stitches. Whenever I read your blog I am reminded of the old magazine Barbie Baazar. I read it as a kid and it made me so happy to see Barbies both vintage and new. Your blog gives me that same nostalgic feeling. Thank you for the post.

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  35. Wow, Emily, you are so much braver than I could ever be! I am curious as to why the eyes discolor over time. I have seen that with some of the AG dolls too. Thanks for sharing your process for cleaning up and changing eyes on these dolls. I am so impressed with the transformation so far on Tasha! Can't wait to see her completed. I also love that Finn got a second chance. He is now actually very cute and deserves to come out of the garage.

  36. I, uh, I really like those faded 'zombie' eyes, lol! If the cloudy eyes survive the removal operation, would you consider adopting them out to a loving home?

  37. I purchased a new head for $1.50, a wig for $1.50 and a new body for just under $2.00 from My Twinn as they were closing out their stock. I bought eyes from Dollyann for $5. I found that using a small knitting needle to bring the lower eye lids up over the eyes was a good choice. I also used a knitting needle through the hole in the back of the head to help me straighten up the eyes. It works great! I am building this doll from scratch and when all is finished, it will have cost me $around $12 for everything to have a brand new doll. It's been so fun. I still have to learn how to paint eyebrows, but I have lips, cheeks and freckles down. I never knew ho to remove eyes, but I think I can change some of my other dolls eyes thanks to your blog. Thank you.

  38. Penelope Pickle-radishAugust 14, 2016 at 5:31 PM

    That last entry was actually mine, but I forgot to change the name from Janet Q, who is my friend. I would love to see comparative photos of the dolls you are restoring before and after. thanks

  39. I think the boy's name should be Charlie

  40. LOVE your post.I pulled our My Twinn dolls out this morning. Girl and boy, Sarah's doll went everywhere with us. People would come up to us in the store, because she was in the seat, to see if she was real. Eli's, well, it was just because I wanted one to look like him. Hubs almost had a heart attack. Ha. I won. :) Both of mine are missing lashes. What do I do? I check on doll repair here in South Alabama, and I couldn't find anything. I want the girls eyebrows redone, because Sarah has honking eyebrows, and those were so faint that you barely see them. Eli's doll's is the same way, but his aren't as dark. My dolls are marked, on the tag 1999, and head is 1997 for the boy, He has those beautiful eyes. Girl is 1996 head and 1997 on the body. Her eyes are a little fuzzy, and too light to match Sarah's. We always bought 3 month baby clothes and shoes for them. I just made AG furniture for a friend's gdaughter. It was fabulous, if I must say so myself. Hence the unearthing of the dolls. Hubs is wondering about me now...keep the man on his toes! Guess that I will start playing with dolls in my 50's. Thanks and let me know about the lashes.

  41. LOVE your post.I pulled our My Twinn dolls out this morning. Girl and boy, Sarah's doll went everywhere with us. People would come up to us in the store, because she was in the seat, to see if she was real. Eli's, well, it was just because I wanted one to look like him. Hubs almost had a heart attack. Ha. I won. :) Both of mine are missing lashes. What do I do? I check on doll repair here in South Alabama, and I couldn't find anything. I want the girls eyebrows redone, because Sarah has honking eyebrows, and those were so faint that you barely see them. Eli's doll's is the same way, but his aren't as dark. My dolls are marked, on the tag 1999, and head is 1997 for the boy, He has those beautiful eyes. Girl is 1996 head and 1997 on the body. Her eyes are a little fuzzy, and too light to match Sarah's. We always bought 3 month baby clothes and shoes for them. I just made AG furniture for a friend's gdaughter. It was fabulous, if I must say so myself. Hence the unearthing of the dolls. Hubs is wondering about me now...keep the man on his toes! Guess that I will start playing with dolls in my 50's. Thanks and let me know about the lashes.

  42. Larry, after Lazarus, who was given new life

  43. My daughter broke her My Twinn dolls leg off...she was doing a split. I went to the website to see about sending it back to be fixed, when I found out they went out of business so now what do I do?

  44. My daughter broke her My Twinn dolls leg off...she was doing a split. I went to the website to see about sending it back to be fixed, when I found out they went out of business so now what do I do?

  45. I desperately want to reach someone from the My Twinn Company, is there a number at all that would be possible to talk to someone!

  46. There is a Facebook page called My Twinn Collectors. Some of the members there do repairs if you are unable to do them yourself as described by this Toyboxsite😀 Or the referenced LogansLadies. We would be happy to see you there. We also have lots of pictures

  47. We are getting ready to move, and I just looked at our My Twinn dolls from the 90's. Their beautiful blue eyes are now pink and hazelly-pink. Does anyone know anywhere that I could go to get them fixed. They looked exactly like my daughters! Thank you!

  48. I have 3 My Twinn dolls. One might be from 1996 I have to check. I do have one doll that her brown eyes turned to red. What can I do?

  49. https://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr

    1. check out MyTwinnCollectors on FB. although this tutorial here has how to change out the eyes.

  50. My parents moved out of the home I grew up in and brought me my Twinn doll from 1996! I was more thrilled than I thought I would be, and bought her new clothes, have been looking at wig replacements, and even bought another My Twinn doll that needs a little bit of TLC, which brought me here. What is wrong with me!? It doesn't matter, I'm just glad I'm not alone. LOL

  51. Thank you so much for all of this information! I'm new to the My Twinn world (I was and still am an American Girl kid) and this makes me REALLY excited about the possibilities!

  52. Love your blog..was hoping it would help me identify my twinn's face..possibly a audrey or Berkeley? ..wood you be able to help me..2006 body and 2010 body. .thanks

  53. I learned quite a bit from this, thanks for posting it. I just got an Audrey from what I can tell at a Goodwill store, no clothes and just a good cleaning is all that was needed. Did remove the wig, after cleaning the scalp the id stamps say custom made in China for My Twinn and the number 6 below with another stamp of ICELAND I-P. How do I find out what the 6 and ICELAND I-P represents. Thanks in advance