Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Saskia Project Update

My youngest son and I are on the road for a few days, driving all over the Northeast.  We spend a lot of time in each other's company at home, but we tend to stick to our routines.  We're hard-core homebodies and creatures of habit, he and I.  So, this trip is unusual for both of us, but it's so much fun!  I love road trips: chatting, listening to podcasts, eating too much food.  The only downside is that hotel-hopping leaves little time for blogging, and I've been really eager to show you my progress on the Saskia Project.  At the moment, my son is catching up on some homework, so it's the perfect chance to give you the scoop!

For anyone who stumbled on this post but isn't familiar with the Saskia Project, I'll give a quick recap: my idea for this project was to purchase and complete a reborn doll kit--something I've never done before.  These kits are popular (and can be expensive) and they only include the basic components necessary for making a baby doll.  For example, my kit included unpainted vinyl limbs, an unpainted and eyeless vinyl head, and an un-stuffed cloth body.  To successfully complete a reborn kit, a large investment of time and additional materials is necessary.  I was curious about how accessible (and expensive) this whole process would be for someone with very little experience.

In the first installment (which you can read here), I was able to find Saskia some glass eyes and paint her limbs and head.  After I painted her head, however, I got frustrated with her mouth and tried to erase most of the paint I'd applied.  This is how she looked at the end of the last post, with her arms and head perched on a drying rack (or rather a paper towel roll holder):

The Saskia kit by Bonnie Brown (partially completed).
The first time I painted Saskia's face, I put too much color on her mouth.  The biggest problem with this was that the paint pooled at the edges of the lips, making it seem like Saskia was wearing lipliner.  

Here's a reminder of what that looked like:

Before the paint was completely dry, I rubbed the lips with a wet paper towel to remove as much of the paint as I could.  

When I sat down to re-paint the mouth, this is what I was dealing with:

The tongue was still painted (with the exception of a few stubborn areas that would not grab the paint), but the lips were mostly stripped of color.

So, the first thing I did was re-paint the lips and touch up the tongue.  I took BlackKitty's advice and didn't layer the outer part of the lips as much as I layered the inner areas.  This fixed the lipliner problem.  I also added several coats of skin-colored paint to the gums to lighten them and generate a bit more contrast inside the mouth.

The other change I made to the head was to layer everything (including the mouth) with a thin coat of Base Skin paint.  I read somewhere that this can soften the blushing and give it more depth.

Miracle Blend "Base Skin" paint.
I couldn't use my cosmetic wedges for this step (remember that they were infused with a vitamin E additive that made me cautious...), so I just blotted the paint with my smallest mop brush.  During this process, the paint would bubble and pool into tiny dots, like this:

But I would just keep dabbing away with the brush, spreading the paint until it started to dry.  By the time the paint was completely dry, the bubbles had all disappeared and the little dots were practically invisible.

Here's what Saskia looked like after I finished her face paint:

I was happy with how the extra coat of skin-colored paint looked on the head, so I repeated this step on the limbs:

After this paint layer had dried for an entire day, I accented the tiny little finger and toenails with my Nail Tip white color:

As a reminder, these are the Miracle Blend air-dry paints that I purchased for this project:

I only ended up using the sealant/primer, Skin Base, Crease Red, Perfect Lip and Nail Tip.

At this stage, I took Saskia into the studio for some clearer pictures:

Here are my two face-painting attempts side-by-side, so you can see the subtle changes:

First attempt at painting the face (left) and second attempt (right).

There's not much difference, frankly, but the lipliner effect is gone now and the blushing is just a tad less red and blotchy.

Here are some other views of Saskia's head and mouth:

I laid Saskia's head on its side to try and get some light to shine into her mouth, and managed to get this slightly creepy picture in the process:

It looks like she's just been decapitated.  Creeps me out.  

The neat thing about this face mold, though, is that the open mouth can convey a whole spectrum of emotions.  In this picture, for example, Saskia looks terrified.  Other times she looks like she might be babbling--about to speak her first word.  She can also look hungry, or like she's about to suck her thumb.  It's a dynamic face mold and I really like it.

Ok, so this is a really strange tangent, but the decapitation reference reminded me of something I spotted on my travels and meant to share with you!  

We went to this great restaurant in Boston that had (somewhat randomly) a bunch of doll items being used for decoration...including these two decapitated heads inserted into a planter:

The baby on the right vaguely reminds me of Horsman's Dimples, but I think it has gum stuck in its mouth.  Yuck.  I'm not very fond of this display, to be honest, but I did enjoy the full-sized Barbie doll that was at the same restaurant:

She was teetering precariously on itty bitty little feet, but man--she had attitude to spare!

There were all kinds of other interesting decorations in this restaurant, too, including this adorable white poodle:

The food was excellent, too.  The place is called "The Friendly Toast" and it was a super-fun stop.

That was strange, right?  But getting back to Saskia, here's a close-up of her mouth (with a couple of paintbrush bristles still stuck inside!):

You can see how the lips get very pale towards the outer edges--especially on the upper lip.

It was difficult to photograph the details in the coloring of the skin, but I really like how the red blush mixed with the Base Skin overlay to create some very realistic areas.  For example, on the ears, some of the fine lines of red paint look like little capillaries:

The layer of skin-colored paint also gives the ear a soft appearance--almost like it's covered with fine, downy hair:

None of these results were planned or achieved by skill, they're just the lucky effect of applying the paint in thin, contrasting layers.

It's harder to see any change in the paint on Saskia's limbs, but here are a few pictures of how those looked when I was finished with the paint:

After the paint had dried for a day, I applied a few layers of sealant (this is the same stuff that I used to prime the vinyl pieces before painting).

Miracle Blend matte sealant and primer.
I mixed the sealant with water (about 3:1 water to sealant) to create a thin mixture.  I forget if I mentioned this before, but tap water is not recommended for mixing this paint.  I guess the chlorine in tap water can interfere with the paint's chemistry.  When I first painted Saskia, I just boiled a pot of water in the morning and used that all day.  This time around, a water main had just broken in our town and so I had a lot of bottled water in the house that I could use.

I tried to apply the sealant layers with some small sponges that I had, but ended up being happiest using the good old mop brush again.  

Blotting the sealant with the mop brush gave me the same fine dots and bubbles that I got with the Base Skin paint... 

...but again, those little dots disappeared after the sealant was dry.

I layered on about four or five coats of sealant, which might have been too much.  Saskia's vinyl parts all have a sheen to them now, which is something I was hoping to avoid by using a matte sealant.

Here's Saskia in the studio:

Shiny baby.
For comparison, here she is before sealant and after sealant, so that you can see the difference:

Before sealant (left) and after sealant (right).

The lighting is slightly different in these pictures so it's hard to make a perfect comparison, but Saskia is definitely shinier now than she was before I applied the sealant.  Her coloring also looks a little bit darker.

The shininess is most obvious around her mouth and nose, I think:

It's not as pronounced on the sides and back of the head--perhaps because I wasn't quite as generous with sealant in those areas.

Once the sealant had dried for several days, I got up my nerve to attempt hair rooting.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, I tried micro-rooting once before, but the attempt lasted all of four minutes.  I jabbed a needle through some hair and into a vinyl head, but never managed to get a single hair to go into the head.  Not a single one.

I was determined to do it right this time, and gathered some new equipment to help me:

Mohair ($20, $6.99), rooting needle holder ($11.99), scissors ($5.50), German rooting needles ($9.90 for 10).
I actually purchased two different kinds of rooting needle because I had no idea which ones would be best.  I chose the 43 gauge forked needles ($9.90 for 10) and 43 gauge single barb needles (also $9.90 for 10).  I'll talk more about these in a little bit.

The "g" abbreviation for gauge is a little confusing here.  It does not reference grams.

I also purchased two different kinds of reddish-brown mohair.  One is OOAK Yearling Mohair (in reddish brown) from McPherson Arts & Crafts (0.25oz for $20) and the other is Sophia's Heritage Collection mohair from Dolls by Sandie (0.25oz for $6.99 on sale):

In fact, all of the supplies I purchased for this post are from Dolls by Sandie unless otherwise noted.  Sandie is nice, knowledgeable, and has super-fast shipping.

I like the color and feel of the Yearling Mohair best...even though I was not very fond of the crimped texture.  I also wasn't fond of the patch of missing color in these bundles of hair:

I assume that's just where the mohair was tied together when it was dyed.  I cut off all of the white parts before I started rooting.

I didn't know anything about rooting needles when I began this project, and I still don't know much, but I'll share what I've learned:

Needle Size
1. I've seen a range of needle sizes from 38-46 gauge.
2. Higher numbers mean smaller needles.  So, 43 gauge needles are smaller than 40 gauge needles.
3. Smaller needles will grab fewer hairs and have a more realistic effect.
4. Smaller needles also break more easily.
5. Smaller needles tend to be recommended only for experts...but I ignored that.

Needle Tips
1. The tips of the needles come in two basic types: forked or barbed.
2. Barbed needles have tiny notches along the side that grab the hair (some have only one barb, some have many).
3. Forked needles have microscopic forks at the very tip, and these forks grab the hair.

That's all I know.

At first, I tried the 43 gauge forked needles because I heard they were awesome:

I tried to take a picture of the tiny fork at the tip of this needle, but it's too small for even my closest zoom:

I imagine that I see a little divot at the very tip of this needle, but it could be a reflection (or my imagination):

Anyway, I took a single forked needle and a chunk of mohair and got started!

I rested the cut ends of the mohair against Saskia's head and just started jabbing the needle into the patch of hair:

I held the needle in my bare hand, which felt pretty comfortable.  In fact, I never ended up using that pink needle-holding pen.  I like the control that I have by holding the needle directly.

I captured one lonely hair:

The loneliest number.
This is a lame result, but it was better than I'd ever done before, so I persisted.  

I jabbed about fifteen more times into the head and got...one more hair:

I lost patience at this point and got out the barbed needles:

These are single-barbed needles, so they only have one little notch along the side (which is easily visible in photographs):

I jabbed this needle into the head about twenty times and got one more hair:

I also got a bent needle (and a hole in my finger):

It's not like I had any luck with either type of needle, but I definitely preferred the feel and performance of the forked needle.

This was so discouraging.  It seemed like there was no possible way that I would ever be able to root Saskia's head, and so I started thinking about wigs.  But the thing is, I've wigged a ton of dolls in my time, and so there was nothing new or exciting about the idea of a wig.

So, I pulled myself together and went in search of a YouTube video that might help me.  I was fortunate enough to find a Miracle Babies Nursery video that came to the rescue.  In this video, Annette patiently and thoroughly explains her rooting technique.  I followed along trying to do exactly what she did.

First, I bundled the mohair and tied it (loosely) at one end with a rubber band, like this:

I balked at this step because I assumed that the rubber band would hold the mohair too tightly and prevent the strands from going into the head.  I should not have worried.

Next, I laid the mohair across the part of the head that I wanted to root, like this:

(The shorter section of hair to the right of the rubber band, above, is the part that will be rooted into the head.)

Then, I held the hair down and jabbed a 43 gauge forked needle through the hair and into the head (like I was doing before), but the difference was that I positioned the needle perpendicular to the direction of the hair strands:

I couldn't take a picture and jab the needle at the same time, so I just set the needle on Saskia's head in the correct orientation.

This worked!  I got more than two hairs in the head!  Look!

After this seemingly miraculous step, I got serious.   Here are the basic rules that I used throughout the rooting process:

1. The needle has to enter the head in the same direction and at the same angle that you want the hair strand to emerge.  That's common sense...which apparently I was lacking.  So, for example, if the needle is pointing straight up and down when you insert it into the head, the hair will come out of the head pointing straight up...so it's better to insert the needle at a shallow angle. 
2. The curved back part of the needle should be facing straight down.
3. The mohair strands should be laid across the head perpendicular to the needle--in other words, the needle and the hair strands should be at right angles to one another.
4.  The section of mohair in front of the rubber band (the short section) is the part that will be rooted into the head. 

With these rules in mind, I rounded up a picture of my son as a baby (to see what a newborn hairline should look like), I set up my computer nearby (so that I could be entertained while I worked), and I got started:

One other thing I should mention is that I never found the need for a rooting pillow--a $20 item that is often recommended by shops and professional rooters.  Rooting pillows are doughnut-shaped and are designed to support the head while providing protection for the parts of the head that aren't being rooted.  This seems like a good idea, but I didn't want to spend the extra money.  I rooted Saskia's head against a glass table (my dining room table) and never noticed any of the hair rubbing off.

Both of my boys had a lot of hair right at the top and center of their heads when they were babies, so I began by filling in this area as densely as I could:

I was still getting as many empty holes as I was getting rooted hairs at this point, but at least I could see some progress!  It was exhilarating!

I was actually beginning to get the sense that rooting an entire baby head might be something I could do.

The nice thing is that rooted hairs can be pulled out if you want them out (like if they're in the wrong place or if the hair looks clumpy) but they don't fall out too easily.  I could move these rooted strands around and even comb them gently, and they'd stay right in place!  

Fun to play with!
At this point I brought out an old plastic comb and a small squirt bottle ($1.59) to help me manage the expanding hairline:

Some of the tutorial videos I watched recommend drawing the hairline in with pencil.  I tried this...

...but I was uncomfortable with the dark marks on the vinyl (what if they left stains?) and I couldn't follow the lines very accurately, anyway.  

So, I erased the lines and just did my best to adhere to my planned hairline, making little adjustments as I went:

At this stage, I found the rooting process addictive.  It was so satisfying to see the hair grow thicker and thicker by the minute.  Also, I'd discovered Gilmore Girls on Netflix and started binge-watching that show from the very beginning (I'd never seen it before).  

The time flew by.

I got this next picture midway through rooting the front of the head, just to show you the position I was using:

I held the mohair weft with my thumb and forefinger (stretched tight against the head) and then angled the needle perpendicular to the hair strands, pointing in the direction that I wanted the hair to fall.

So all of the hairs at the top of the head are pointed forwards:

There has to be some transition point on the head where the hairs switch from going forwards to going backwards.  This is usually accomplished by inserting a cowlick or a swirly.  Before I got too far in my rooting of the front of the head, I picked a spot off to the side and towards the back where I wanted to place Saskia's cowlick.  

In this area, I rooted the hair in a circle.  I wasn't very good at this step.  My circle started off well enough...

But then I'd fail to get the hair lined up with the existing circle and my newly-rooted hairs would trail off on their own path:

Part of the problem was that the mohair weft blocked my view of the hair that had already been rooted, so it was hard to see exactly where the needle should go.

I finally got a full circle of hair, which seems great, except that I was actually trying to get a spiral that would spin its way out into wider and wider circles.  Oops.

I added a few more layers to this circle, trying to make it into a spiral, but I didn't have much success.  

I took Saskia into the studio to get some pictures of her at the end of the first day of rooting.  And she...ah...well, she looks kinda confused:

The number of hairs that stick straight up in the back are good evidence that I can't even follow my own rooting rules...and also the fact that it gets hard in some positions to stop the needle from going straight into the head.

The cowlick looked like a calamity at this stage, too.  There's no clear spiral in sight, just a bunch of clumps sticking out every which way:

In this partially-rooted state, I have to say that Saskia's half profile is her best angle.  It's a real treat.  Are you ready to see it?  Are you sure?

Ta da!

It's like she has a sea anemone growing out of the back of her head.

This doesn't look like a lot of progress, I know, but the rooting steps I've shown so far took me about eight hours.  A full work day.  For another perspective, that's about ten episodes of Gilmore Girls.

I can't say that I felt encouraged by Saskia's overall progress at the end of the first day.  Far from it.  I actually felt uneasy about the total number of hours that might be required to finish her.  But, I was enjoying Gilmore Girls, and I was unreasonably pleased by the realism of the tiny little hair plugs.  

I know that some reborn artists can blow this result out of the water, but it seemed pretty miraculous to me.  

The hair looks and behaves like real hair--especially as it gets thicker.

Poor Saskia, though.  The combination of her shiny complexion, the shaggy hairstyle, and the bits of mohair stuck all over her face...well, she looked depressed, kinda sweaty, and maybe stoned:

Anyway, day two dawned and I got right back to work, catching up with Rory and Lorelai and making some real progress with Saskia's hairline.  

I didn't take many photos during this session (it was pretty repetitive...) but for some reason I snapped a picture while I was rooting behind Saskia's ear:

This was a tricky area to access.  Saskia's ear made it difficult to angle the needle correctly, and so I ended up poking the needle straight up and down into the head more times than I'd like to admit.

This was a brutal day.  I spent another eight hours rooting, but I didn't finish the head.  In fact, it didn't even look like I was getting close.  At these seemingly random times, the needle would stop grabbing any hairs.  I'd poke ten or fifteen holes, but there'd be nothing to show for it.  It was like going back to the beginning.  I'm still not exactly sure what caused these gaps in my progress.  I'd try different things to correct the problem--like swapping needles or re-bundling the mohair--and I'd eventually start making progress again, but I'd never be completely sure what the problem had been or why it was fixed.

Worse than all of that, I actually ran out of mohair at this point.  McPherson's is in Canada, so even though I ordered more mohair immediately, I knew it'd be a week before it arrived.  Sigh.

Here's Saskia at the end of the second day of rooting:

She looks as frazzled as I felt.  She also reminds me of a cave man.

Encino Baby.
She looks a little better from the front than she did before, though, I think.  The thickness of the hair helps offset the scraggly appearance of the uncut strands...and of course the red color is getting more and more vibrant.  

However, the side view was a glaring reminder of how much I still had left to do:

Does she have the mange?
On another positive note, the sea anemone in back had been tamed, and the clumsy cowlick was less glaring:

After about a week, my new mohair arrived.  I was a little nervous about the "OOAK" (one of a kind) description of this mohair, because I knew there was a chance that the color of the new hair I ordered would not match the hair I already had.  Each dye lot in this series can be different.

I was thrilled to discover that the two shipments of mohair are a perfect match:

I got right back to work and actually finished rooting Saskia's head faster than I thought I would.   It was a little difficult to root the very bottom of the hairline (there wasn't much for me to brace my hand on in this area) but for the most part, everything went smoothly.

After I'd covered the head with hair, I spent some time pulling out strands where the hair looked too thick and adding more plugs to the thinner areas.

Once I was happy with how everything looked, I coated the inside of the head with glue.  For those who have dealt with the ickiness of a glue-filled Monster High head, I want to emphasize that I only coated the inside of the head with glue--I didn't fill the whole head with glue.

As gross as this might sound, it's a necessary step to secure the rooted ends of the hair.  It allows the hair to be brushed and cut without too much shedding.  I mean, it took me about 20 hours to root this hair, I was not about to let it fall out!! 

Here's a peek inside Saskia's head so that you can see all of the hair ends that needed to be glued:

Spot the cowlick!
I'm not sure what the best product is for this process, but I decided to use my trusty Modge Podge.  I already had some in the house, and it's water-soluble and non-toxic.

I used a long-handled brush to paint the glue onto the hair.  I tried not to let the glue get too thick:

While this glue was drying, I used some glossy Modge Podge to coat the inside of Saskia's mouth.  Mode Podge is white when it's wet, so this looked disgusting at first...

Foaming at the mouth...
...but the glue dried into a nice, clear, high-gloss shine:

I coated the inside of Saskia's lips with glossy Modge Podge, but used the matte glue on her outer lips. That part of her mouth would be dry most of the time.

I also used the glossy Modge Podge to attach the eyelashes.  

I had two types of eyelash to choose from.  Here are some wispy carrot-colored lashes ($2.39) from Dolls by Sandie:

I also considered using the brown human hair lashes from Dolls by Sandie (also $2.39):

But these lashes bent in a strange way when I inserted them into Saskia's squinty right eye:

So, I decided to use the wispy carrot lashes.  I did not use any lower lashes on this doll...and I might not add any eyebrows, either.  I'm still trying to decide about that.  If I did decided to try eyebrows, I'm not sure if I should root them or just draw them in?  Any tips or suggestions are welcome!

This is what Saskia looked like at the end of the day:

I rubbed Saskia's face very gently with a dry Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (which apparently acts like fine sandpaper) hoping that it would lessen the shine, but I'm not sure it worked.  I was too nervous about removing the paint to get more aggressive.

The hair looked reasonably uniform at this stage:

I purposefully rooted the hair a little thicker on the very top of Saskia's head and along her hairline in back.  My kids always had a bald patch in back from where their heads rested on the bed...and then a strip of thick hair underneath that.

Here's how the mouth looked after all of the Modge Podge was dry:

I like the contrast between the matte lips and the wet-looking interior of the mouth.  I think the mouth is still a bit too pink and too uniform in color, but it's better than my first attempt:

I really wanted to give Saskia a haircut, but the glue on the inside of the head took forever to dry.  I had to step away from the scissors, turn off Gilmore Girls, and let everything sit overnight.

The next morning, the glue still wasn't dry!

I waited one more day and finally the glue turned clear and was hard to the touch.

Is badly as I wanted to cut Saskia's hair, I was also really nervous about this step.  There was a lot at stake.

I invested in some tools to improve my chances of a good outcome:

Razor comb ($5.99) and thinning shears ($3.95).
I used both the thinning shears and the razor comb, but the razor comb ended up being my best friend.  This is a magical thing.  I highly recommend buying one if you're interested in micro-rooting...or giving any kind of haircut for that matter.  By just combing a doll's hair, you can achieve a nice layered style.

Before I started to cut any of Saskia's hair, I wet it down with my little spray bottle and made sure all of the sections of hair were positioned where I wanted them:

I started with the front section of hair, and at first I was too timid to do anything except give it a blunt cut so that all of the ends were shorter.

I was a little more aggressive along the sides where I used the thinning shears to try and sculpt some sideburns out of the strands in that area:

It was only when I got to the back of the head, where there was a lot of long (wavy) hair...

...that I decided I had to get more serious with the razor comb.  I started off by just combing the ends of the hair with this tool, but after a few swipes I got brave and began to (lightly) comb the entire length of the hair, cutting it close to the head in a series of short layers.

After I realized how well this technique worked, I repeated the same thing along the sides of Saskia's head and a little bit at the top of the head, although the top of the head was the one section where I didn't razor the hair really short.

I took Saskia into the studio while her hair was still wet:

The haircut makes a huge difference, doesn't it??

I've noticed that a lot of eBay auctions for reborn dolls show the baby with it's hair wet.  I think this is because the clumped sections of wet hair look realistic--how a newborn;s naturally oily hair might look.  In Saskia's case, the wet hair also did a good job of controlling the frizziness.

There are still some sections of hair that are thinner (or clumpier) than I'd like, but I think this is a decent representation of baby hair.

I was hoping that I'd be able to straighten some of the crimped waves in this mohair, but no matter how many times I wet the hair and combed it straight, it'd dry back into waves.  If I ever do this again, I'll choose straight mohair.

While I was wetting the hair and trying to get it to straighten, I discovered that I could shape the bangs into a little curl.  This reminds me of my own kid when he was a baby, so I left the curl in place while the hair dried:

While I was waiting for the hair to dry, I added a bit of glossy Modge Podge to the corners of Saskia's eyes.  I tinted this glue with a bit of Perfect Lip paint:

Even after Saskia's hair was completely dry, some of the clumps of hair stayed together--including the little curl I made:

The glue in her eyes also dried to a nice dark pink:

Here she is with her hair all done!  I can't believe I finished this part of the project!

Saskia's head has a lot of personality now, so I wanted to pose her for some pictures...but of course she has no body, so this was a difficult challenge.  

I decided to try and pose her with just her arms.  The results are a little bizarre:

Ideally, I only wanted to show Saskia's head and hands in these shots, but of course to get that kind of picture, my hands had to be in the frame because they're holding everything in place:

I used some photo editing tricks to minimize my hand.  First, I tried to make my hand blend into the background:

Which wasn't very successful.

Then I decided to black out parts of the picture and try to disguise my hand as a cozy blanket:

That's a little better.

These pictures still look pretty weird, but they give a hint at what Saskia might look like when she finally has a body.  I think she's going to be really sweet.

In the middle of the rooting marathon, I was swearing that I'd never do anything like this again--it was tolerable only because it was going to be the only time I would ever root a doll's hair.  The funny thing is that by the time I was giving Saskia her haircut, I'd changed my mind.  It was so rewarding to finish the rooting job (and rooted hair is so realistic!) I might actually try this again some day.

This part of the project was expensive, though, especially because of the mohair I chose.  Here's a rundown of the materials I used:
Rooting needles (43 gauge forked): $9.90 (I used about four needles--none of them broke)
Mohair (Yearling OOAK): $40 (I have a lot left over)
Little pink scissors: $5.50
Eyelashes (wispy carrot): $2.39
Razor comb: $5.99
Thinning shears: $3.95
Spray bottle: $1.59
Modge Podge (glossy and matte): ~$6 each, $12 for both
Total: ~$82 (not including shipping)

And here are the things I purchased but never used:
Rooting needles (43 gauge single barb): $9.90
Mohair (straight): $6.99
Eyelashes (human hair): $2.39
Needle-holding pen: $11.90 (I never even considered using this)
Total: ~$31 (again, not including shipping)

There are some websites that offer rooting kits (for $50-$100), and while I appreciate that it can be difficult to choose which materials to buy, all I needed for the rooting part of this project was mohair, four needles, a razor comb and Modge Podge (about $62...most of which was the cost of the high-end mohair).  I also needed YouTube, which is free.  I could have wet the hair with my hands (or a comb) and used scissors that I already had in the house for the blunt hair trimming.

I think a fun follow-up project would be to complete a reborn kit on the lowest budget possible, and then compare the results to this no-holds-barred attempt.  Would anyone be interested in that kind of comparison?

The last stage of Saskia's reborning process will be to weight her vinyl parts, stuff her body, assemble everything, find a cute outfit...and then take lots of pictures!  All of that sounds fun and (relatively) easy to me.  My goal is to try and finish her before the holidays.  She has become my special Christmas present, and I can't wait to see how she looks when she's finally done!



  1. Wow, I'm so impressed with how she is turning out! The mouth looks very realistic after glossing and I like the mottled effect of the skin paint. About the matte sealant... been there, done that. You have to find the optimal varnish/water ratio, wait a full day between coats and experiment to find out how many coats you can do before it becomes irreversibly shiny. It doesn't look too bad though, and I'm sure it's less shiny in real life. It's not unrealistic, just not the effect you were going for, I guess.
    The hair is unbelievable. I didn't dream you'd attempt micro-rooting this head. To me, even rooting a tiny Barbie head with normal plugs is a colossal effort. While I have no intentions of making reborn dolls, I can't lie and say I wouldn't like a "budget reborn" comparison. Trying to find the cheapest way to accomplish this project may cost you a heap of money in the end, not to mention the effort, but since you asked - it is my honest opinion that it would be very entertaining to read. I would love to see that after you complete Saskia and I'm sure she can be ready in time for the holidays. Good luck!

  2. She looks amazing! I absolutely adore her new hair. She looks like a sweet, curious little baby. I think if you did the eyebrows, you should root them, because I think that would look more natural.

  3. She is adorable! I enjoyed watching her hair "grow". I also liked both lashes each one gave a special look. Her possible poses are so cute! Cant wait to see the completion!

  4. I love what you did with her hair! She looks so much like a little baby I knew once.

  5. Saskia is turning out to be absolutely beautiful, and this might sound a little weird, but my favorite feature is her eyelashes and the corner of her eye; they both turned out so realistically! I've considered rerooting some of my dolls whose hair is too fried and frizzy to do anything else with, but mostly I've gone with wigs because I lacked the experience. It's a relief to see you do it with nothing but Youtube tutorials and gumption, so I may give it a shot one day. The budget reborn sounds really fun, I think you should go for it! I think little Saskia would look cute in one of those baby reindeer outfits, if you're looking for clothes suggestions ;) I can't wait to see her with her completed body! Oh and for eyebrows, if you have patience, I think rerooted ones would look very nice and natural - customdollbaby.com has some very good tutorials. Best of luck! :)

  6. I am amazed at the effort it took to root the hair. No wonder we see mostly wigs!

  7. Emily, I'm so impressed. Saskia looks like a real baby and this is your first reborn.
    I like the idea of using glossy MP in her mouth and eyes and matte elsewhere. That's so clever.
    A comparison with a budget reborn sounds great, especially now that you have a bit of experience to offset the problems that lesser quality products might cause.
    After seeing the brows you painted for the toddler dolls I think painting might be better. There won't be any way to hide the needle holes on her face that don't get filled like you can on the scalp with more hair.
    Thanks for this update. I can't wait to see the doll completed.

  8. She looks amazing!!! :) <3 Your wonderful summary is making me want to try doll customization...something I haven't done a lot of! :) Amazing, as always!

  9. She is so cute! I honestly was a but nervous when I saw the first attempts (sorry!) and was thinking the hair might turn out like the reborn "Emily" doll by Ashton Drake that you've shown before,expressing disappointment in the rooting. I think Saskia's hair looks great though! I love the curl on her forehead, it reminds me of pictures of my father when he was a boy :) She looks like she's going to be amazing once she's all completed and I can't wait to see her all dressed up (and assembled!).

    Aaaand just when my interest starts to wane in realistic baby dolls, you post this. My wallet is not going to be happy with you ;)

  10. Wow! She's absolutely gorgeous! At first, I had preferred her bald, but the hair is so realistically done I've changed my mind!

    I would definitely like to see a low budget comparison!

    Thank you for another awesome review!

  11. Wow! She's absolutely gorgeous! At first, I had preferred her bald, but the hair is so realistically done I've changed my mind!

    I would definitely like to see a low budget comparison!

    Thank you for another awesome review!

  12. Wow! You did an amazing job on Saksia so far. I wouldn't have the discipline to sit there for hours micro-rooting her hair like you did. She is really staring to come alive and I can't wait to see her fully bodied and dressed.

  13. I'm so glad to see the forehead curl. My kids all had fine hair (maybe straight mohair?) but their hair would curl on the forehead. The auburn color isn't too far from what my son had (he turned dirty blond by about 6 months) at birth. Suggestion for choosing an outfit? Baby eyes have a hazel quality to them because of the depth of pigment structure so they basically reflect more than ours. If you put her in something that would reflect close to her color, that would feel more realistic. Note that red reflects as a gray eye so I'd avoid red. Put her in green! Likewise, very pale babies often have very pink looking lips because of the blood vessel concentration especially after nursing. Her lips do not look too pink to me at all. Looking great!

  14. Wow! Just Wow!. I'm so impressed with your work. How long did it take just to do the hair? 10-15 hours? You are very talented.

  15. Omgosh she looks amazing!! You're doing a great job with her, honestly. She looks amazing. I can't wait to see more about her.

  16. She's astoundingly beautiful. Well done.

  17. She looks precious! I'm interested to see one done on a budget.

    Thanks to this, I may finally remove the hair from a doll my daughter has that's glued on, badly! http://www.bradfordexchange.com/products/302036001_realistic-baby-doll.html The doll looks realistic enough that it's freaked people out...with a cap on. Exposed, the hair looks awful. I may also replace the violet eyes.

  18. Wow, she is beautiful! I can't believe this is your first time micro-rooting hair, and it turned out so realistic! Even the little swirly part on the top of her head looks natural. I'm really enjoying watching this project come along. I'd be very interested in seeing a budget comparison. It'd be interesting to see what kind of a difference using expensive vs inexpensive tools make in the final product.

  19. The hair is just wonderful and I like that it is wavy. I am amazed at how so very realistic you have made her look. I am wondering how realistic she will feel when she is done. I know she will be weighted and the body will be squeezable, but I am curious about the arms and legs. Is the vinyl soft? Thank you for sharing your creativity with us.

  20. she looks awesome! what a transformation!

  21. I'm not sure what else to add, except that she looks amazing. What a precious work of art you are creating!! The hair looks phenomenal and the addition of the eyelashes (which are perfect) really add so much to her face!

  22. jestem pełna podziwu - ogrom pracy
    i jakże delikatny choć realistyczny

    zauroczyła mnie jasnowłosa panienka
    w niebieskiej bluzeczce - pod kluczem
    wiolinowym :)))

  23. I would love to see the lower budget reborn comparison if you were still thinking about doing it!