Saturday, September 21, 2019

Hattie and Fern, Part 2: Infuriating Fern

I'm finally back with the second part of the Hattie and Fern saga!  This took way longer than I expected.  My plan for Fern seemed pretty simple when I first started, and I suppose the ease of Hattie's makeover had buoyed me with unrealistic optimism, but for whatever reason I figured Fern would be done in two days--maybe three.  That didn't happen.  Instead, things with Fern got complicated right from the start.

Good thing she's so cute:

My Twinn Emma doll from 1999.
When I first got Fern, she was dirty and needed a new wig, but her body seemed in decent condition:

She has a fair number of picks and snags on her back, but these things don't bother me too much.

I was most excited about Fern's green eyes.  This is one of the reasons I bought her--and the reason for her botanical name.  

I was excited about Fern's eyes simply because I love green eyes, but also because it meant I wouldn't have to swap in new eyes.  I swore to myself a while ago that I would never attempt to change the eyes on an Emma doll again.  It's really hard.  I guess the eye sockets are smaller than many of the other face molds?

Here's a close-up of Fern's right eye:

It was still a beautiful green color with little--if any--fading.

The problem was with the left eye:

Somebody had clearly re-glued Fern's left eyelash, and made a bit of a gluey mess in the process.  Still, glue residue doesn't scare me.  I figured I would just gently heat the eye and carefully strip away the old glue.

The rest of Fern's face was a bit more scuffed than I remembered, but nothing too terrible.

She had two scratched areas on her left cheek, a dark spot above her mouth, and some dark lines inside of her mouth:

She also had a big gouge on the tip of her nose:

Another thing I noticed when I was sitting down to clean Fern up is that she was insanely squeaky--especially in her neck joint.  Here's bad-quality movie to demonstrate the noise she made every time I moved her head:

Not good, right?

Her arms were also really squeaky.

I don't like to dismantle the body of a My Twinn doll unless there's structural damage (or deep staining), but I figured I'd at least try to access the neck joint enough lubricate it and lessen the squeaking.

First, though, I set about cleaning the gluey left eye.  Here it is without the mangled eyelash:

And a little closer:

After some very careful work, I was able to strip away most of the glue along the eyelid.  However, the glue (superglue, I suspect) had also gotten onto the eye itself:

The glue on the eye would not come off.  

I'm limited in what I can do to clean the eyes, too, because I don't like to run the risk of getting any water (or other liquid) behind the eye.  This can cause mold over time.

So...I found myself faced with an eyeless Emma doll and her tiny eye sockets:

The stuff of nightmares.
With the eyes gone, at least I was free to wash the head thoroughly and give it a good inspection.

Here's a look at the scuffs on Fern's nose after I'd washed her face:

Another thing I noticed right away is that the lip screening on this doll is not very good.  The bow of the upper lip is pointy, and there's a fair amount of paint missing from the right side of the mouth:

While I was manipulating Fern, I also noticed that her right arm was loose.

As frustrating as that was, it gave me an excuse to pull Fern's cloth torso down to get a good look at the arm joint...and try to reduce the squeakiness.

I found that the foam had pulled out of the vinyl arm, and the armature was spinning freely inside the vinyl:

While I was in the area, I also noticed that Fern's neck joint was coming apart:

That's not a big deal to me, though, because I prefer to work on heads when they're separated from the body.  Everything's a lot easier that way, and there's no risk of getting paint on the body!

Here's Fern's head separated from the body.

At this point, my list of things to do with Fern was getting unexpectedly long!  I had to:
-lubricate the armature
-re-glue the arms
-re-glue the top of the foam body
-re-glue the head
-re-sew the back seam
-replace the eyes
-sand the face
-remove the remaining glue on the eyelid
-remove the paint from the lips
-repaint the whole face

This was only discouraging because it was more than I'd originally planned, though.  In general, this is exactly the kind of challenge I love!  Bring it on, Fern.

With Fern's head on its own, I stripped away her lip paint and started to sand down the scuffs and scratches:

Here she is, all smooth and ready for some new paint!

I had to sand away some of the more stubborn glue residue around Fern's left eye, and because it's a tricky area to access, there are still some faint sanding lines in that region:

The eyebrows look nice, though, don't they?  They will need very little work.

I decided to get the hardest part out of the way first and give Fern her new eyes.  This went about as well as I would expect...meaning it went terribly.

First of all, I made the dumb mistake of trying to give Fern some hard acrylic eyes.  I thought I'd already learned this lesson, but apparently not.  I was blinded by the fact that I really like the green color of Eyeco A255 eyes and thought they would suit Fern perfectly.  

For some reason the left eye went in without a fuss, but the right eye refused to drop down into place:

Forty minutes later I tried to convince myself that progress had been made, but had it?

I wouldn't call that real progress, no.
This was how she looked at the one hour mark:

And no, that's not just a repeat of the picture I showed before.  The eye simply would not budge.

And then--finally!--after about an hour and twenty minutes, something miraculous (and mysterious) happened to allow the eye to drop into place:

However, my relief was tempered because I knew that my little screwdriver had slipped up against the iris during my last manipulation effort.  The only remaining question was, did the screwdriver damage the eye?

The answer was predictable:

Here's a better look at the scratches:

You can also see that all of the stress on the vinyl eye socket had caused a fairly large defect at the outer corner of the socket.

I took a break, gathered my thoughts, and then dug through my bag of doll eyes to see what soft glass colors I had on hand.

I had these A151 eyes that I'd pulled from another doll because they were too bright:

They're still too bright.
I aslo had these Carmel Platinum Glass eyes that I thought might be too red:

Yep, too red.
And I had these Platinum Glass 163 eyes that seemed a little purplish and strange when they first arrived:

They are, indeed, purplish and strange.
The two pairs of brown eyes weren't awful, I suppose, but they just didn't look natural to me.  Furthermore, they weren't the lovely green eyes that I'd pictured for Fern.

 Staring at this pile of rejected doll eyes was not the highlight of my day.

That's $80 right there.
I made an interesting observation during this fiasco, though.  Look at the difference in the color of the scleras on these two pairs of eyes!

Is there some box I can tick to choose healthy scleras or sickly scleras??  Actually, though, the off-white scleras are probably the more natural of the two.

Anyway, I set the pile of eyes aside and tried to move on.

I went to my computer and managed to find some green Eyeco Ultra eyes that were nearly half the price of the $40 that Eyeco charges.

While I was waiting for the eyes to arrive, I worked on sanding down the defect at the corner of Fern's right eye socket:

That's better.
The new eyes arrived a day late (because of course they did), but they're beautiful and perfect for Fern!

Eyeco Ultra A141 eyes.

Here's a close-up of the detail in the left eye:

The next thing I did was try and paint Fern's mouth.  Because of my excessive use of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in that area, I was completely unable to get an even coating of paint on the lips.

After erasing my third attempt, I had a new idea.

I decided to put a coating of sealant on the lips (and only on the lips) to give the paint something to grab onto.

In order to protect the rest of Fern's face from the sealant, I concocted this face mask out of Saran Wrap and painter's tape:

I'm gonna hide the fava beans and Chianti.
Before the sealant dried, I wiped away the excess with a damp Q-tip.

This trick actually worked like a charm, and I was finally able to get a decent coating of paint onto Fern's lips.

Here she is with all of her blushing complete:

I also gave her some freckles--maybe not quite as many freckles as I gave Hattie, but a good amount:

The last thing I did was enhance Fern's eyebrows so that they had a red tint in them.  In the picture above, Fern actually has one of her eyebrows (her left) enhanced and the other one still in its original state.  It's a very subtle difference.

In this picture, both eyebrows are enhanced and the painting is complete:

While I was wrestling with Fern's head, I was also tinkering with her body.

I opened up the foam core of the body along the arms and a little bit down the sides so that I could put some WD-40 into the armature of Fern's arms and neck.  The neck application was very successful, but it was harder to get a good coating of lubricant into the armature of the arms.  This is because I had to protect the foam with towels and be very judicious with my application of lubricant.

The lubrication in the neck has made Fern quieter, but her head also has a very tiny wobble at the joint.  This is because of the WD-40, not a loose head connection.

After the WD-40 had sat for a day or two, I wiped the armature clean, re-glued the foam core, and re-set the foam into the vinyl arms with a healthy application of glue.  The squeaking in the neck is much better, the squeaking in the arms is only marginally better.  I'll add another video towards the end of the post to demonstrate this.

Before I re-sewed the back seam of the body, I decided to take a few minutes to actually learn how to do the appropriate stitch:

About time, Emily.
I think the seam looks great, but I have mixed feelings about this!  I've always counted on the appearance of the back seam as a way to know if a My Twinn doll had been worked on before.  But now I see that this evidence isn't very reliable.

At this point Fern was finally ready to have her head reunited with her body...and get her new wig.

I'd purchased a Monique Marie wig for Fern in a fairly plain auburn color, but when I finally got her face completed, I decided that she was much better suited to a bright, cheery, ginger-red wig!

Here she is:

I love the color of this wig.  It's the same one I used for Lucy:

Fern's body still shows a fair amount of wear, so I'll quickly go through all of her biggest flaws.

Her back has many picks and snags:

She has a small water stain on her cloth torso (I only noticed this as I was taking the final pictures):

You can also see in that picture that she is, in fact, from 1999:

I feel like I'm either too good at remembering to take a picture of the tag (i.e. I take ten pictures of the tag) or I forget completely.  This was one of the times that I forgot completely.

Fern also has some small scuffs and shiny spots on her vinyl limbs--none of which are bad:

And here's the video demonstrating how quiet her neck joint is now--and how squeaky her arms still are:

The last thing is that because Fern is wearing a Monique Marie wig, it has the same messy construction along the top of the hairline that we saw with Hattie:

I'd love to be able to forgo Monique wigs completely, but this ginger red color and the carrot red of Hattie's wig are too beautiful for me to give up.

Here are a few more pictures of Fern with her new wig.  Some with the iPhone camera:

And close-ups with the Canon:

When I was a kid I loved the idea of dressing to match my friends (or to match my dolls).  Fern and Hattie feel the same way, so I gave Fern an outfit that's virtually identical to Hattie's:

Fern's dress was wrinkled and a little dirty when I got it, so I washed the dress, removed a stain from the white collar, and ironed it to the best of my ability (which isn't saying much).

The dress looks fine now, although you can see that it isn't as crisp and neat as Hattie's dress. 

Fern was certainly happy to model her outfit from many different angles!

I've grown to really enjoy the boots that I chose for this outfit!  They's really cute and affordable ($6.98).  Thank goodness for Simply For Dolls!

Here are a few portrait shots of Fern:

And her transformation GIF:

Fern's wig is heavy and fun to play with:

But, just like with Hattie, it doesn't look great when it's pulled back at the sides:

In this case, the unevenness of the hair is worse on the left side than it is on the right:

Despite the wig's poor construction, I think Fern looks especially cute with this hairstyle!

I guess most little girls aren't too concerned about having perfectly tidy and symmetrical hair!

I'll end by sharing a few comparisons of how Hattie and Fern looked when they first met...

Versus how they look now:

Here's a slightly closer "before" shot:

And these two redheaded friends after their makeovers:

There was a point about an hour into the ordeal with Fern's eyes when my husband suggested that I just throw the doll away and start on something else.  I'll admit that my sore thumbs were tempting me to do just that, but I find it very hard to give up on a doll.  I'm so glad I stuck with Fern.  There were times when I thought I'd have to seriously compromise my vision for her in order to get the makeover completed, but she surprised me by turning out even better than what I'd planned.  She's a total sweetie and I love how she looks with her friend Hattie.

Here's the final list of all the work that was done on Fern:
-I removed her head and added WD-40 lubrication to her neck and arm joints
-I re-glued her foam seams and re-seated the foam connections at the top of the arms
-I removed the old eyes
-I sanded superglue residue off of the left eye socket and sanded down damage in the right eye socket
-I sanded scuffs on the left cheek and on the tip of the nose
-I replaced the eyes with Eyeco Ultra soft glass (silicone) eyes
-I added Mr. Super Clear sealant to the lips to help with paint adhesion
-I repainted the face, including lips, freckles, and eyebrow enhancement
-I glued a new Monique Marie wig in light ginger (glued at the front, back, and sides)
-I added new eyelashes
-I re-glued the head to the body and re-stictehd the back seam with a ladder stitch
-I dressed Fern in a used, washed, authentic My Twinn sailor dress, paired with white tights and boots from Simply for Dolls

Fern's biggest flaws are that her armature is very squeaky, she has picks and snags on the back of her cloth torso, she has evidence of sanding around her eyes, her wig (while brand new) isn't constructed very well, she has small rubs and scuffs on her vinyl limbs, and her outfit is used.

Fern's neck joint is slightly wobbly, but this is because of the lubrication in the armature, not a loose head connection.

I've come to love these two sweet friends over the past month, and it'll be sad to see them go.  But I'm beyond excited for the next project in my queue, so that'll make it a bit easier to say goodbye.  I need some time to add up my expenses for each doll so that I can price them and get them listed.  But don't worry, Fern's pile of "extra" eyes won't get factored into her price!  

Fern has sold.  Thank you!


  1. Ficaram lindas, mas a Hattie é a minha favorita.
    Parabéns pelo belo trabalho!

  2. I think the squeaky arms are hilarious - she sounds like a rocking chair. XD

  3. I once scratched a j-doll eye during a makeover. I fixed it with a couple of coats of glossy varnish. I wonder if it would work on such big eyes, too.