Sunday, July 29, 2018

Another My Twinn Update and Some Random Things

I've been making a bit of progress in clearing out my dolls.  So far, I've focused mostly on larger play dolls because they take up a lot of space.  It's really hard to figure out who to keep and who to sell, though.  They all seem to be special to me for one reason or another.

So far, the dolls in this size range who are the most difficult for me to think about selling are the My Twinns.  This is partly because I had so much fun fixing several of them up (the My Twinn Project series was one of my favorite things to write about on this blog) but also because I'm really impressed with the quality and charm of the older Denver dolls.  I love the diversity of face molds, the poseable bodies, and of course the beautiful eyes.

Today, I'll mostly be catching you up on what I've been doing with a few My Twinn dolls, but I also have two other tangentially-related things to chat about briefly.  I'll start by tying up a loose end.  Do you remember the girl I showed you at the very end of the My Twinn Project?  She's a bedraggled Denver-era Caitie doll who I re-named Phoebe:

Well-loved My Twinn Caitie doll from the Denver era.
I usually keep the names that come with specific My Twinn head molds.  The names are nice, and they help me remember which face molds I have!  I re-named Caitie because I already have a Kissy Kate My Twinn who I call Katie.  

Phoebe came in a pink My Twinn dress and bare feet:

Her wig was beyond help, with several bare patches, lots of matted tangles, and a few pink streaks that I like to think were added by an aspiring young hairdresser:

Phoebe has a white body, which is a nice way to tell instantly that she's from the Denver era of doll production.

Disassembling and cleaning bodies is not my favorite restoration activity, so I was delighted to see that Phoebe's body is very clean:


Her vinyl was dirty (not stained) and sticky in some areas, but this is an easy thing to fix:

Best of all, Phoebe has bright blue original eyes that (like most of the Denver eyes) show absolutely no signs of discoloration:

She had a bit of missing paint on her upper lip and very faint eyebrows...

...but almost perfect eyelashes:

My list of tasks with Phoebe was:
1. Find her a new wig
2. Clean her vinyl
3. Touch up her face paint.
4. Find her some modern-looking My Twinn clothing.

As easy as Phoebe's makeover seemed, she had to wait patiently for almost two years before I got around to doing it!

Patient Phoebe.
Finding the wig was really fun.  I wanted to give Phoebe dark hair because I love how dark hair looks with bright blue eyes.  However, I also wanted to acknowledge what I perceived to be a remnant of her original owner's personality: those sassy pink streaks!  

I searched and searched for a wig that was dark, natural-looking, but also had a hint of creativity and color.

The wig I chose is from a shop called Custom Lolly Lue Stephens and the color is called "Dark Fade."  It's a beautiful, thick wig that's full of highlights--most of them red.  Perfect!  The wig didn't fit Phoebe's head very well though, despite it being marketed specifically for My Twinn dolls.  Maybe the Caitie mold has a smaller head circumference than an average My Twinn?  I had to cut a notch out of the back of the wig cap so that it would lay flat and not pucker.  This left behind a hard patch on the back of Phoebe's head (from all of the glue).  That was disappointing but...

...the wig makes huge difference!  Here's Phoebe as she looks now:

Here's the wig from the back...

I LOVE this wig.
...and from the side:

The original wig had a lot more red at the bottom, but I cut three or four inches of length off.  I did this because the hair was really long, and also because I wanted the red faded part to be a bit more subtle.

To touch up Phoebe's face, I darkened her eyebrows a little bit:

And also added blush and freckles:

Toy Box Philosopher

Here she is with her hair pulled back so that you can get a better look:

I don't actually think this doll looks like a Phoebe anymore.  She looks a lot like a Caitie to me, and also a bit like a Jennifer, which is the original My Twinn name for this head mold.

I'm so used to calling her Phoebe, though, I think I try to stick with that.

Here are some before and after pictures:

And a little animation:

I might go back and darken the eyebrows a bit more, but I'm pretty happy with how she turned out.  I just wish that the wig fit better.  Oh, well.

She's going to be really fun to have around!

I have no idea what skin tone Phoebe has.  I suspect she's a #2 or #3 because she's slightly darker than my #1 dolls.  I'm not sure how anyone knows this for sure, actually.  I don't think it's written on the head or body anywhere.  Do any of you know how to tell for sure?

I took Phoebe outside to try and get some photos of her in the natural light.  My trusty little point-and-shoot Cannon really struggled with this.  The colors came out totally wonky.  That camera is on its last legs.  

I got a few decent shots with my phone, though:

This is pretty much exactly what Phoebe's coloring looks like in real life, but the resolution of the photo isn't great:

Toy Box Philosopher

And here are a few color-corrected pictures from my Cannon, to show you a bit more detail:

The daylight shows off the color and the shine of the wig nicely, too:

Phoebe is a sweet little thing and has quickly joined the ranks of My Twinn dolls who will not be leaving my house any time soon....which is basically all of them:

In fact, I had so much fun finally fixing Phoebe up that I immediately went to eBay to search for another My Twinn girl in desperate need of help.  This is who I found:

This doll has the Lenora face, which is one I didn't have in my collection. 

The really cool thing about this doll is that I bought her from a lovely eBay seller who actually reads this blog!  In fact, the seller bought Lenora on eBay after reading and being inspired by the My Twinn Project!  Ahhh!!  I know all of this because the seller (Janet) wrote me a wonderful note that she included with Lenora.  That completely made my day.  The doll world is small and absolutely fantastic.  

Anyway, Janet intended to fix Lenora up herself, but she ran out of time and decided to re-sell instead.  I'm very sympathetic to that choice, especially because Lenora represents about every restoration challenge possible.

So, this update is dedicated to Janet.  And I'll say right up front that any trouble I had or will have with this restoration is not even remotely Janet's fault.  Her description and price were perfect and I knew full-well what I was getting myself into!

First of all, Lenora's cloth body is quite dirty.  She has several large stains that will have to be washed out:

This means that I'll have to pull the foam out of the cloth body, wash the cloth body, wash the foam, and then glue and stitch everything back together.  You can read how I did all of that for Ariel in the My Twinn Project Update.

Also, Lenora's vinyl limbs (mostly her arms) are badly stained.  And--oh yeah!  She's missing a finger:

The missing finger was the defect that gave me the most pause.  I wasn't sure I would be able to think of a way to rebuild it.  However, I found a great molding kit at This Old Doll that I'm hoping will be the perfect solution!

Lenora's legs have some paint marks and stains:

So her body will need deep cleaning, stain removal, and a finger re-build.

Lenora's body tag identifies her as a 2001 (Denver era) doll.  So, despite all of the work that she needs, I know she's a treasure in disguise!

Lenora's head was in about the same shape as her body:

Her original wig is dry and frizzy with a few bare patches.  

Here's a better look underneath those massive bangs:

She has faded hazel eyes and damaged eyelashes that do not look original:


She also has some missing paint in her blocky eyebrows.  I love her freckles, though!

Lenora's left eye is turning pink (it's even more obvious in real life), which is odd for a Denver-era doll.

Here's a better look at the eye with the most pink around the pupil:

The other eye is still a darker hazel-green:

Lenora has many minor scuffs and marks on her face and one larger patch of damaged vinyl on the tip of her nose:

There's also some evidence that Lenora was wearing lipstick at one point!

She will need some sanding on her nose and in a few other small places.  I'll also erase most of her eyebrows and re-paint those.  I'll leave as many freckles as I can, and I won't touch her lips at all.  Those look miraculously unharmed.

It doesn't look like Lenora's body has ever been taken apart (the stitching in back is original):

However, the large cable tie around her neck suggests that her head has been removed and then replaced (which I knew before I bought her):

Whenever there's evidence of a head removal, there's a chance that a doll is not wearing her original body.  

With My Twinn dolls this is especially important to know because the quality of the dolls changed dramatically through the years and the vintage of the heads cannot be pinned to a specific date without the original body and its dated tag.  The molded date on the neck doesn't mean anything about when the doll was produced.

So.  My seller was very honest with me and I knew this was a risk, but I also looked carefully at the pictures and thought that the wear on the head and body looked similar.  That's a good sign.

However, in person, Lenora's head doesn't seem to match her limbs very well:

I surrender!
To me, the arms have a pink tone while the head is paler and more yellow.

The top of Lenora's arm matches her face better, but it still looks off to me:

It's highly possible that the stains on Lenora's arms are just making them look darker overall, but it's also possible that she's had a body-swap at some point in her past.  The pink in her eyes makes me even more suspicious of this.  What if somebody took the original Denver head and found it a new (undamaged) body?

On the other hand, a previous owner might simply have opened the neck seam at one point to re-glue the head.  I'll never know for sure!

The wig was definitely re-glued at one point, though, because this is way more glue than the My Twinn company would have used:

The "Molly" stamp on this head confirms that it's Lenora.  My Twinn dolls have two face mold names: those given by the company (Molly in this case) and those given by collectors (Lenora).

I cut the cable tie and inspected Lenora's neck joint.  It's definitely been re-glued (there are bits of paper towel stuck in the glue!):

I carefully pried the head off with a large screwdriver:

Revealing an abundance of old glue:

Luckily, the glue peeled off really easily.  Phew!

I cleaned Lenora's head up, pulled off the scruffy lashes, and took a few more pictures of her:

The light brown color of her faded eyes is interesting (and would look neat with red hair!):

...but the eyes don't match well enough for me to keep them:

Also, the right eye has glue residue on the surface and a lot of blue staining around the edges...presumably from eyeshadow!

I like imagining a little kid putting makeup on this doll.  It's a neat piece of her history.

I don't know what skin tone Lenora has, but she seems similar to Phoebe.  Phoebe's limbs match the Lenora head, anyway:

Phoebe's face strikes me as paler and less yellow than Lenora's face, though, which could just be the blush I added, or maybe the effect of Phoebe's dark hair?

Here's a shot of the two heads together under Phoebe's hair:

I still think Lenora is yellower.

I got out all of my 20mm eyes to see if I had a good match for Lenora's coloring:

I narrowed my choices down to green, blue, and "Chuck Hazel."

This is the Eyeco PolyGlass "Stormy" eye.  The color is nice, but the details look blurry to me:

I dismissed this Secrist Real Eye (Ocean Green) when I was working on Tasha, but I like it better now for some reason:

And here's the EyeCo "Chuck Hazel," which has blurry detail and a bit too much pink:

I chose the green color and swapped Lenora's eyes out using a hairdryer and my large screwdriver, just like I did for all of my other eye swaps.

This time, though, the vinyl at the edges of Lenora's eye sockets cracked!  Ack!  It was so stressful.  

I wanted to show you the damage so I quickly photographed Lenora outside (it's too hot under my lights today):

I love the eyes, but if you look closely, you can see the cracks in the vinyl around them:

Both eye sockets cracked at the outer edge.  I super-glued those spots, which is why it might look discolored or shiny:

I you look really close, you can also see a whole series of small cracks in the upper eyelid of the right eye:

The left eye has a crack at the outer edge:

And some disconcerting white spots near the nose:

Now I'm really suspicious that this head is not from the Denver era.  I read on Logan's Ladies that post-Denver dolls can crumble around the eyes if an eye swap is attempted.  The Denver dolls that I've worked on in the past felt totally indestructible--one of the reasons I love them so much!!

Another possibility is that the head was exposed to too much sun or some other damaging storage condition.  No vinyl is completely immune to degradation.

Regardless of the cause, now I'm facing a dilemma.  Lenora's body is in the process of being cleaned, I'm all ready to fix that finger, I can picture her with new face paint and a gorgeous wig...but the head might not be original and even if it is, it might crumble apart some day.  It's also kinda yellow and doesn't seem to match the limbs very well.

What would you guys do?  Here are my options:
1. Continue as planned and hope that the head endures.
2. Keep working on the body but find a new head.
3. Throw up my hands and find a new project!

My inclination right now is to find a new head.  If only I knew how to accurately identify skin tones!  

Whatever happens, I'll continue to update you here on the blog.  Thank you again to Janet for starting me on this great adventure!  I have to say that despite the little surprises, I'm loving every minute of it.

In the tangentially-related topic of Eyes Gone Bad, I have another little update.  I was hunting for dolls to sell and uncovered my Extra Special doll, Grace:

I visit the Extra Special Dolls website every now and again (mostly to see if they'll ever acknowledge that they stole my photograph for their home page) and I saw that they were having "production issues."  Now I know what those issues are:

bad eyes

This is exactly what happened to all of the 18-inch My Twinn doll eyes, and I suspect it's why that company finally went out of business.

I have a second Extra Special doll (I was a huge fan at one point!), and her eyes are even spookier:

She also came with a bad wig and a paint defect on her mouth:

Anyway, as salty as I am about that company stealing my work, I wouldn't wish this kind of manufacturing flaw on anyone.  It's really sad.  I doubt I'll try to fix Gracie's eyes since I have no idea what will happen to her vinyl when I heat it.  The odds are it's nowhere near as nice as Denver-quality My Twinn vinyl.  Few things are.  I guess I could cut open the back of the head and access the eyes that way?  I'm just not sure it'll ever make it to the top of my priority list.

While I'm on the subject of doll projects, I thought I'd share another doll that I bought for a project series that didn't quite pan out...or hasn't panned out yet.  

This is an American Girl Hopscotch Hill School doll named Hallie: 

These dolls were made from 2003 to 2006 and were basically WellieWisher precursors.  They were aimed at a young audience (4 to 6-year-olds) and each came with an illustrated book.

The girls are 16 inches tall and have nine elastic-strung joints!

I found Hallie on eBay for a steal.  She's in great shape and is still wearing her original outfit.

American Girl

I love her smiling green eyes and auburn hair!

Well, ok, I wish her hair was more red than brown, but it's a nice wig regardless.

The style of her painted eyes reminds me of a Tonner doll:

I don't really like the color of her lips, though.  They're too pale and orange-tinged, as are her cheeks:

The biggest problem with this doll, however, is that the elastic in her joints has stretched out and she can no longer stand very well or hold any kind of pose.  Her neck joint is especially bad:

From what I've read online, many of these dolls suffer from loose elastic.  My research failed to uncover a solution to the problem, though, so I figured I'd see if I could find the solution myself!

The first thing I did was rip the wig off (this was not easy!) and cut a hole in the back of Hallie's head so that I could peek inside:

She doesn't seem to mind.
The elastic and its anchoring mechanism are right there, easy to access:

I can probably cut the elastic, tie the knot tighter, and re-clamp it with one of those metal hog rings:

It might be a bit harder to string new elastic, but I felt pretty confident I could do that, too.

However, that would only fix the wobbly neck.  I assumed that all of Hallie's joints were strung with elastic that ran up into the head.  I'm not sure why I assumed that, but it would have been nice.  If that had been the case, I could have just pulled the elastic in the head tighter from inside the head been done!  As it turns out, Hallie's arms and legs are strung separately and present their own challenges.

Hallie's shoulder joints are not ball joints, but rather simple rotating joints that can only spin around:

I have a question!  Why are my shoulders shaped like this?
I have no idea why the shoulders aren't ball joints.  Perhaps that would have given them too much mobility for the young target audience?

I find the shoulders limiting, especially given how well-designed and versatile the other joints are.

Here's a closer look at one shoulder joint:

The arm joints are strung with elastic, though.  It looks like the elastic is rooted in (molded into?) the vinyl of the hand, then runs up through the arm and into the side of the chest:

Inside the chest, the elastic travels through a plastic cylinder and then goes out the other side into the opposite arm:

I have no idea how I would restring this.  I guess I would have to cut the elastic, try to yank it out of the arms, then find a way to re-anchor a new piece of elastic in each hand, string it through the upper arms and chest...and then what?  Does it tie somewhere inside the chest?  Is there any way to pull it tight?

The leg joints present a similar problem:

I can see that each leg has a piece of elastic that's tied into a vinyl washer inside the hip:

But then the elastic disappears down into the leg and is attached below the knee somewhere inside the vinyl.  It's totally inaccessible.  Again, I would have to drill or yank the elastic out of the leg, attach a new piece of elastic, string it up through the thigh and somehow get it tied (tightly) back onto the washer which (without cutting open the back of the torso) seems impossible.

Now I understand why I can't find an easy solution to this problem online!

That doesn't mean I won't try, though.  I'd also welcome any tips if I'm being clueless and missing something critical. I'd love to get the elastic tightened so that I could show off Hallie's wonderful joints!

In the meantime, I think I'll focus on my lovely My Twinn girls, enjoying Phoebe's new look and getting Lenora's body all ready for her...or for a completely different head.


  1. Poor Lenora! I think that since you've got the eyes in you could at least try to salvage that head. Eyelashes and the glue might hide the damage some and help hold the vinyl together. Just a thought. Now I'm having second thoughts about replacing my Xenia's eyes; I got her right before My Twinn tanked for the third time, and I'd hate to destroy her.

  2. I say you continue as planned with Lenora's head. If it doesn't work out, you can always swap it for a new one but in the meantime its an interesting challenge and we all get to learn how to fix cracked vynil

  3. I'm having a bit of a similar conundrum with an old Magic Attic Club doll. There's a couple of things I want to try, but they've been on the back burner until I get out of college.

  4. I'm so sorry about Lenora's cracked vinyl! I wish I could offer more information on her, but obviously I wasn't her first owner so unfortunately I don't know what she went through before I bought her. She could have easily been exposed to too much sun or stored improperly for a long period of time, but I've never had problems like that when I restored my other Denver My Twinns either, so I do find it very odd that her vinyl would do that. I think for now you can try to save the head, but if it gets worse you might want to swap it out if you feel like doing that.

  5. I would continue fixing the head. It's a nice sculpt and it would be great if you succeed, but if you end up destroying it it's never too late to look for a replacement.

  6. I'd try to continue fixing the doll with the original head :)

  7. Oh, my. I think I'm in the minority camp and I would do a walk away now before I get super invested and then sad. Eyes are so important to a doll and the glue almost gives her a teary look now. That's just not going to get better. The more you work that area, the worse it will get, right?

    Side note: my 18 inch My Twinn has gone to the "scary eyes" just like your Extra Special's blues. Ours are a little worse/more fightening in that they were brown but now are vividly purple pink on a Latino looking doll. It's just super sad.

    Hopscotch Hill was a good concept doll that lacked sustainability, I think. Wellie Wishers are like a take two version that address a lot of the HH issues. I don't think Mattel intended to create a sustainable product though, just a doll. The standard with AG was always higher so just looking like a nice doll did not cut it. Good luck with the restring. You might start a rescue operation previously deemed too perilous.

  8. Reading about Lenora was exciting! I think you should go as planned with her, it's an interesting doll with a history and a very pretty girl in general :)

  9. I don't have much experience with doll restoration, so I can't offer you any real advice when it comes to fixing Hallie and Lenora. I'm sure you'll think of something, though--the results of your previous My Twinn project were absolutely spectacular!

    BTW, I remember visiting the Extra Special Dolls website a while back, recognizing a picture of Grace, and thinking that it was neat that they chose a picture you took to showcase their product. I guess I just assumed that they had your permission to use the image. Now that I know that they just stole the photo, I'm very disappointed in the company. Being a (relatively) small business with a nice mission doesn't make it okay to rip off an artists' work. :(

    (Like, seriously--the Grace photo they have on their homepage right now has a chunk of your backdrop visible under her arm. Not only did they steal your photo, but they didn't even bother to edit it properly!)

  10. I also was inspired to make over an eBay Twinn after your series of posts. It was so fun and I love my Susan (who has the Rosemary face mold, my absolute favorite). I just wish it were a little easier to find clothes for her...she's currently dressed in various items that my baby daughter has outgrown.

    I'm really interested to see what you come up with for the Hopscotch Hill doll. I have one stored in a drawer. I've hung on to her because I love her face, but she's floppy as a ragdoll. If you can figure out a way to tighten the strings or restring yours, I may try it on mine too!

  11. Wow! The fading on the Extra Special Doll's eyes is horrible (almost as bad as them stealing your photo)! My 18 inch "dark" blue-eyed My Twinn doll had the eye fading but it didn't look as bad as those two dolls. Luckily, my doll's eye sockets didn't crack when I used the same method to do an eye swap. It kind of ended up being a blessing in disguise because I bought a much nicer pair of dark blue eyes in a more realistic shade of blue. I personally would give up on Lenora but maybe that's just me being lazy :) I admire your tenacity if you move forward with repairing her.

  12. Phoebe is absolutely gorgeous now!

  13. I have just finished restringing a Baby Face doll from around 1990 that had similar stringing to the Hop Scotch Kids using beads from PrillyCharmin. She has a tutorial in her doll shop that might give you some ideas. I have wanted to get a hop scotch kid for a while so I am interested in their jointing.
    As to Lenore, if you work on her adorable little face while waiting to see if you find a head, are you likely to love her when you are done? I tend to love dolls even with their flaws after I work on them. Sometimes, though, every time you look at them, all you see is the flaws. Working on her nose might give you some insight as to how her vinyl will stand up and if you start there, it might help you decide if it is worth it.

  14. My Mother restrung a Hopscotch Doll, I believe she made a slit in the torsoe to access it all, and you can't even tell now!

  15. Phoebe turned out great! The proportions of the larger My Twinn dolls have always looked off to me, but the faces are beautiful. I blame you entirely for getting hooked on the 18" versions!

    I have a ragdoll HH doll that came in a lot, and I'm interested in seeing what you come up with.

  16. I think you should focus on the body and finger replacement to see how that goes. If you end up very pleased with those results, it could be worth investing the time and money to find a new head. But if the body restoration doesn't go well, I'd stick with the head you have and call it a day.

    Phoebe looks beautiful. I love your blog, especially your restoration work. I'm amazed how you give those pre-loved dolls a new life!


  17. I really like Lenora's face but the cracking around her eyes doesn't look good. I'd be afraid it would worsen with time and wear. If you can salvage the body it might be best if you could try and find her another Denver Lenora head but I guess it wouldn't be easy. Sorry I don't have any good advice. I love your My Twinn restorations by the way. Pheobe turned out great for sure.

  18. Your eyebrow work continues to impress me, I love the shaping and detail you put into them! A little tip if you want to make the damaged MT head work in regards to the skin tone- dye it! In the BJD community, there's a diluted mix of RIT Dyes (not Dyemore but the normal formula) that people use to color-correct and reintroduce the red/pink shades that fade in the oxidation process (which is why resin turns yellow). You would have to completely remove the face paint and give it an even sanding so that the dye will be uniform, but it's worth a shot and might help you match the head to the limbs. You need an account on Denofangels to access the tutorial, but I'm sure you'll be able to find it copied (it's dubbed ''De-zombification serum'' ) somewhere else.

  19. I'm going to guess that the web design person for the Extra Special Dolls company did that, and that the owner of the company was never any wiser to a photo being stolen. That's not uncommon at all.

    I was thinking earlier today about how much I miss the quality if toys when I was little. They were really meant to stick around. Today's dolls tend to be made to be tossed.

  20. Lovely work, as always! Grace is such a cute doll, although it is a little disconcerting that they took your photo.

  21. Oh my gosh. Phoebe is SO CUTE!

  22. I reread your My Twinn posts from time to time and have been browsing ebay for one for awhile but couldn't afford it. However, I just found a nearly perfect condition Rosemary Denver-era at Goodwill!! She even had original clothes. She's getting a new wig and her one lash is coming off but I was SO excited and never would have picked her up if it weren't for your blog showing me about them.

    In a different but still nearby Goodwill I also found a Madame Alexander-era My Life As doll.

  23. Oh, dear! Poor Lenora! Poor Hallie! I remember the Hopscotch Hill gang well! I procured two of the pets for my collection - Razzi the rabbit and the duckling incubator.

    I know you will find a solution to these two projects, wish you well in finding solutions, and look forward to the results!

  24. Oh, hey! Speaking of fixing Chrissy doll's eyes are covered in white mildew. Do you have any suggestions on how I can reduce this (I know I'll never get them back to perfect)?