Thursday, October 3, 2019

Orla, the Autumn Fairy

It doesn't feel much like fall here in Maine yet (it must've been 80 degrees over the weekend!) but I still figured that the autumn fairy would be a good way to kick off this collection.

I decided to name this magical girl Orla because it means "golden princess."  Autumn looks different all over the world, but where I live the colors of the changing leaves and the low burn of the sun in the sky both make me think of the color gold.

I was fortunate enough to find Orla on eBay a few months ago.  She was a quintessential diamond in the rough--basically a dream come true for any vintage My Twinn hunter.  She was covered from head to toe with more dirt and stains than I've ever seen on a My Twinn (with the possible exception of one Tasha doll I worked on), but shining out from under all of that grime was a gorgeous, dark-skinned, Denver-era Kelsey.  It's rare to find a doll like this on the secondary market:

My Twinn Kelsey from 1997.
First, a quick note on Orla's coloring.  These first few pictures with her original eyes and wig are probably the best representation of her skin tone, but none of my pictures capture it perfectly.

The other thing I want to talk about right away is my approach to modifying such a rare doll.  I'm usually quite timid about doing anything more than simple restorations on a doll like this.  Orla wasn't cheap, either (the eBay seller must've known they had a gem), so that added to my caution.

In the end, while I made some effort to preserve Orla's original features, she had a few defects that freed me up to take a more creative approach.  I'll explain as I go.

Here's Orla right after she arrived at my house:

The most noticeable thing about Orla at first glance was how incredible dirty she was.  She had dust and debris all over her face, and her cloth torso was speckled with what looked like coffee stains:

Or at least I hope that's coffee.

The least of her problems was that she had some chipped nail polish on both of her feet:

One nice surprise is that she does not have the elastic-strung ankles that are found in some of these white 1997 bodies.  Phew!  She stands on her own beautifully.

Orla's original wig was tied up into adorable little twisted ponytails, but the wig itself was matted and caked with old glue and a mysterious white substance:

I knew the wig would have to come off (it was already falling off) but I didn't have the heart to throw it away.  So far I've found it impossible to buy a realistic-looking replacement wig for a black doll.  Perhaps I can use Cami's fabric softener treatment to salvage this wig some day?

Anyway, here's a closer look at Orla's face:

I'd never given much attention to the Kelsey face before this.  I think it's because the eyes are such an unusual shape.  But this girl has given me a fresh appreciation for the mold.  I really like it in person.

There were no large scuffs or gouges on the face, which is excellent.  Also, the original eyebrows are beautiful.

However, Orla did have seriously wonky eyes and a dent in the vinyl of her left upper eyelid.

On the right side, she has a pink stain above her eye:

Here's a closer look at the stain...and at all of the dust and debris that was caked onto Orla's face!

She also had dirt all over her mouth area:

Because of the wonkiness in Orla's eyes, I knew at this point that I would have to replace them.  This was a pretty huge bummer, though, since they were a gorgeous, un-faded dark brown color.  Still, it gave me the freedom to pick her some new and slightly unusual eyes.  

Removing the eyes also gave me a bit more freedom in washing that face!  I didn't have to worry about getting any water stuck behind the eyes.

So, I removed the head from the body and washed it thoroughly under the sink with soap and water, being careful to avoid scrubbing directly on the eyebrows.

Here's Orla's head after its initial wash:

It's a bit easier to appreciate the wonky eyes and the little dent in the eyelid with all of the dirt cleaned away.

It was also easier for me to see the stains that I had to deal with.  They weren't bad at all.  There were a few dark spots running along Orla's left cheek:

Another dark spot on her right temple, and the pink spot above the right eye:

There was also a tiny dark spot on Orla's upper lip, but I decided to leave this be.  I love the color of the original mouth paint and didn't want to ruin it.

I put a very small amount of Remove-Zit onto the dark stains on Orla's left cheek and right temple:

But I left the pink spot alone.  I really wanted to leave the original eyebrows in tact and the spot was too close to the brows to risk applying any Remove-Zit.

I only left the Remove-Zit on for a few days.  Afterwards, I cleaned it off with Formula 9-1-1 and left it to sit for a few more days.  Sometimes the Remove-Zit causes the vinyl to swell, and I like to wait until this dissipates before I heat or paint the head.

The Remove-Zit did a pretty good job of lessening the dark stains:

Finally, it was time to give Orla some new eyes!

The eyes I chose are Eyeco Platinum Glass soft glass (silicone) eyes in a custom color called A096.  This is how the eyes look on the Eyeco site:

Pretty cool, right?
I thought that the combination of smoke grey and autumn orange would be perfect for this doll.  Unfortunately, the eyes are not quite as dark in real life.  And they're a bit more green than grey.

Still, I think they look good--and a tad otherworldly:

Eyeco A096 Platinum custom eyes.
Here's a closer look:

Notice that the defect in Orla's left eyelid is still there. I'd hoped that this would relax when I heated the head and removed the old eyes, but it seems to be there to stay.

Next on my agenda was to paint the face.  The driving force behind my plan for this step was the pink spot above Orla's right eye.  I wanted to conceal this stain without ruining the eyebrows:

So, I bought some iridescent acrylic paint medium:

And tried to mix up a batch of glittery paint that would roughly match the color of the stain:

Then I gave Orla some dramatic eyeshadow!

And I gave her a bit of blush in the same color--just without the iridescent medium:

The eyeshadow originally had a pointy contour at the outer edge--like an exaggerated cat eye or something:

But when I put the wig and eyelashes in place, the makeup didn't seem quite special enough:

Missing something...
So, I removed the upper lashes, rounded the shape of the eye shadow, and added some gold paint (professional grade acrylic) to the upper eyelids:

I also tipped the ends of the eyelashes in gold:

Now that's a golden princess!
While all of this was happening, I was dealing with Orla's stained body.

When I inspected the stains on the fabric torso, I realized that they were very superficial.  They didn't even appear on the back side of the fabric.  Because of this, and because I don't particularly like dismantling My Twinn bodies, I decided to spot-clean the stains.

I did this cleaning over several sessions, using diluted bleach and drying out the body with a hairdryer each time.

It worked really well:

The cloth body wasn't particularly musty or anything, but I also spritzed it with Twin Pines of Maine's D-Stinker (which smells like vinegar), just to get rid of any extraneous odors.  Orla does have a slight floral scent to her, but the D-Stinker has lessened that.

Here's Orla with her head back where it belongs!

The cleaned body looks good.  It isn't perfect, though.  If I look really carefully at the fabric in person, I can still see the faint shadows of some of the old stains...but I have to look really closely.

The fabric has just a few small picks here and there.

There are no big squeaks in the armature, either, which is nice.

As an aside, that last picture gives a pretty good idea of Orla's coloring.  When I hold this picture up to the doll, it seems about right.

Anyway, I snuck Orla's wig in there without really saying much about it!  I chose a Dollmore 13-14" wig for her because I wanted the dramatic length and the little bit of wave in the hair texture. 

Black may seem like a boring color for a fairy's hair, and it's certainly the least interesting color choice among all of the fairies I'm working on, but I felt like it really suited this doll, and gave a nod to her original appearance.

But now it's time for the best part of the whole post!  Now I get to show you the beautiful outfit that Julie made for Orla:

I know, right?  It's an amazing dress.  It's basically an explosion of autumn-themed creativity.

The outfit includes a flowing, layered chiffon-like dress, delicate wings that strap over Orla's arms, and a gorgeous leaf-laden fairy crown.

I made a few matching leaf hair clips to use as additional accessories for Orla's super-long hair:

The clips are a little hard to place because of the glue I used to attach the leaves, but they can still be moved around and re-positioned however you like.

Overall, I'm really happy with the Dollmore wig, but it does have a slightly irritating feature that's worth noting.

The wig cap is white--and highly visible along the hairline when the hair is pulled back:

Odd choice, Dollmore.
It peeks through even if the hair is only gently pulled back:

So, Orla's hair probably shouldn't be styled like this...

...unless you use a little bit of camouflage!

I wanted the hair out of the way for a few pictures, so that you could see Orla's face and dress as well as possible, so I just pulled the hair back into very loose twists at the sides of her face, like this:

This shows of her features nicely:

It also makes it easier to see the dress in all of its glory!

The skirt of this creation is composed of four different fabrics, all in beautiful fall colors.  I love the asymmetry of the layers:

The bottom layer is made out of a beautiful opaque light gold fabric.  Here's a closer look:

The bodice of the dress is made out of a printed chiffon, with little puff sleeves and a collar that reminds me of sunflower petals.  Julie also added little rhinestone, flower, and leaf accents:

There's a small clump of glitter stuck to the upper right side of the bodice that I only noticed recently. I guess humans get ketchup stains and fairies get glitter stains!

The wings attach over the arms with two very stretchy loops of plastic:

Here are the wings on their own.  I think Julie must have made these from scratch!

I found it difficult to fit Orla's tall crown into the frame of many of my pictures.  Here she is doing a bit of a curtsy so that you can see the crown clearly:

And here's a front-on view to show off all of the leaves, flowers, and vines that make up this delightful headpiece:

There's a clear comb at the very back of the crown that helps to hold it in place:

I want to show the full outfit again, this time with Orla's hair back in a more natural style:

I didn't give Julie much direction with this dress.  I referenced a piece she'd made for an American Girl doll and asked if she could do something like that for a My Twinn.  My only specific request was that the cloth/vinyl seams be concealed--at least in part.  For some reason it bothers me when these areas are too visible.  Anyway, it was a really fun, inspiring, easy custom order experience!

I'm not sure what Julie recommends in terms of using her outfits on play dolls, but I would say that with Orla, both the doll and the outfit would be best-suited for display and not play.

I didn't attempt too many different poses with Orla, just because her crown and wings limit her movement slightly, but I had a fun time playing with her long hair and capturing her serene face from many different angles:

The crown might be my very favorite part of this outfit, but I still took it off for a few of the portraits, just because that allowed me to frame the pictures in a slightly different way:

I also wanted to do the before and after GIF without the crown:

I find that the GIF photos can look a little blurry in Blogger, so here's a regular copy of the second shot:

I'll just add a few more pictures of this dramatic beauty:

This is my very favorite picture of Orla:

I think she's about to take off!

It seemed necessary to take Orla outside for a few woodsy shots, although we don't have much in the way of fall colors here yet.  At least not in my scruffy yard.

Her crown is a bit crooked here, and the shot is off-center, but I still really like this picture for some reason:

The bright sun and shifting shadows of the outdoors give Orla quite a different look in some of these pictures!

I don't know exactly what the other fairies will look like at this point (although the spring fairy is almost done), but so far I imagine Orla as the queen of them all, with her golden eyes and majestic crown.  She has been a delight to work on every step of the way, but the memory of putting Julie's dress on her for the first time is particularly magical.

Here's a list of everything that was done to Orla:
-her head was removed and cleaned
-Remove-Zit was applied to small stains on her face
-the stained areas were lightly sanded
-her wonky eyes were replaced with Eyeco soft glass (silicone) eyes in the A096 color
-her blushing was enhanced and she was given decorative eye makeup
-her vinyl limbs were scrubbed with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and washed with soap and water
-her body was spot-cleaned with diluted bleach and D-stinker
-her head was re-glued onto her body
-her wig was replaced with a Dollmore Selena Sobazu Long wig in black
-her fairy outfit, including dress, wings, and crown was custom made by Julie Kelly of Fairy Tale Blessings

Orla's flaws are that she still has very faint stain remnants on her cloth torso, she still has a very small dent in her upper eyelid, her Dollmore wig has a visible white cap (grumble), and she has some minor scuffs and shiny spots on her vinyl parts that come from being 22 years old.

Orla sold instantly.  Thank you very much!!


  1. Estarrecida com tamanha beleza!
    Parabéns pelo belo trabalho, o resultado foi incrível.
    Fico imaginando ela presa por um fio como nylon para fazer que está voando entre as árvores. Uma linda fada!

    1. Eu adoraria fazê-la voar! Eu tentei isso com bonecas menores, mas Orla é muito pesada. :) Muito obrigado pelo seu comentário gentil!

  2. Jaw dropping transformation! I adore her, another job well done Miss Emily!

  3. You're a saint for fixing up this doll - she is SO filthy and SO covered in gross stuff that, if I saw her in that state, I'd probably guess she was moldy and beyond saving. Her hair is so matted, too, I would never have considered saving and potentially fixing the wig. But because of your patience, it turned out that her problems weren't so bad after all, and her face didn't even change much despite the very dramatic transformation. It's kind of like Orla the Fairy Queen is normal-girl Kelsey starring in a play or something - a play with a very professional makeup and costume crew! I especially love the little leaf hair clips. I wasn't sure how it was going to look when you first showed the eyes in, and then the eyeshadow, but wow, she really came together great. I can't wait to see the others!

    1. You are so sweet! Thank you. I love the idea of her being a little girl in her dress-up costume acting in a play or just lost in a wonderful imaginary game! I was worried about those eyes, too, but I like their intensity. She stares at me like she knows everything there is to know!! ;)

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you so much! That's exactly what I said to Julie when I first saw the dress!

  5. I'm getting some Midsummer Night's Dream vibes! You did a really lovely job on such a special dolly!

    1. Oh--yes! I totally see that. That would be such a fun theme for a doll series, too! What a wonderful idea! Thank you.

  6. That costume is fantastic!

  7. Oh! She's incredible! An art piece in every way, I love her serious yet sweet expression and her golden eyeliner. This is such a creative piece, I love it when you step out of your comfort zone like this ❤️