Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wig Rescue Rani

A while ago my husband and I were taking a walk through our neighborhood and a little girl galloped past, caught up in some fast-paced imaginary game.  This girl held my attention, not just because of her happy, flushed face and mismatched outfit, but because she was wearing a headband with ears and a sparkling unicorn horn. The encounter filled me with happiness, and I've kept the image of that little unicorn girl in my head as I work on this next group of dolls.

For the past several weeks I've been restoring five dolls at the same time, with three more waiting in the wings.  These girls don't represent any special characters from a story or a movie--they're just regular girls--but they're all dressed in colorful unicorn-themed clothing...and they're all wearing unicorn headbands!  I affectionately (and un-creatively) call them the Unicorn Twinns, although I'm also working hard to make sure they're anything but twins, by choosing different coloring and face molds for each girl.  The Unicorn Twinns are all outfitted by the talented Julie Kelly of Fairy Tale Blessings.

It is a gorgeous, sunny week here in Maine, and so I felt like this was a great time to start introducing this happy, colorful, diverse group of dolls.  I'll start things off with a 2008 Kate who has a medium skin tone:

2008 My Twinn doll with the Kissy Kate face.
I don't typically purchase non-Denver My Twinn dolls, but I've been doing it more lately, especially if I can find a rare skin tone.

Another reason to buy non-Denver dolls is that the Denver girls seem to be getting more and more expensive lately.  I'm not sure why this is, but it's becoming difficult to get a used Denver doll for under $50.

Regardless of the year she was made, this Kate was especially appealing to me with her lovely skin tone and beautiful curly hair:

As attractive as the wig was, though, it came in a hopeless mess of tangles.  Ordinarily I'd either straighten a wig like this with a boil wash or throw it away, but this time I decided that I was going to restore the wig back to its original curly state.  I was very excited about this wig rescue mission.  I found a great online tutorial and promptly ordered foam curlers and a special brush for curly hair.

Anyone want to place bets on how this wig adventure turned out?  I don't have the best track record with hair.

You'll find out exactly what happened with the wig in a little bit, but for now let's turn our attention back to the doll.  

I call this girl Rani, which is a Sanskrit name meaning "she is singing:"

Rani came to me in pretty good shape, with very few picks on her cloth body and only minor dirt and scuffing on her limbs:

Her back is in good shape, too, although the midline seam is pulled very tightly at the bottom, causing the fabric torso to pucker:

Here's a closer look:

I love the Kate face mold.  It's so fun to work with these happy, well-proportioned features: 

Rani's face looked great from a distance, but on closer inspection she had some signs of wear.

She had a scuff on her forehead, missing paint on her lips, and a lot of dirt and dust that made it hard to tell what other damage there might be.

So, I brought Rani into my workroom, removed her head and her wig, and took a closer look.

Incidentally, you might notice that the pictures I take in my workroom look a bit different from the other pictures.  This is because I have different lighting in that room, but also because I use a different camera when I'm documenting detail work on the face.

Here's Rani's head:

The first thing I did was remove her scruffy eyelashes:

The left eye had a blurry defect in the outer corner:

And there was a mark underneath the right eye, but I couldn't tell right away if this was a scuff or just some dirt:

So, I cleaned the head thoroughly with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, soap, and water:

This got rid of the mark under the right eye:

The blurry area in the left eye also washed away, but you can see that there were several large scuffs and scratches on the left side of the face:

There was also a scuff on the tip of the nose and some missing paint on the upper lip:

I decided to remove Rani's original eyes because they were fading and had lost a lot of the detail in the iris.

Here is one of Rani's eyes (left) next to an un-faded brown My Twinn eye (right) so that you can see the difference:

I probably should have just given Rani the nice eye from the picture, above, but after working with Hermione, Ginny, and Cho (all brown-eyed girls), I was in the mood for something different.

So, I gave Rani my favorite Eyeco green eyes:

I love the realism in these eyes!

With her eyes safely in place, I got Rani's face ready for some new paint.

I wiped away all of the factory paint, including the blush and eyebrows:

Two little notes here: first, Rani is wearing a plastic cap in these pictures because the glue that had been holding her wig in place was about the stickiest, most unpleasant adhesive I've ever encountered.  Several washings and many applications of Goo Gone could not remove this stuff.  Eew.

The second thing is that for some reason I took this moment to do a skin tone comparison with Rani and another doll.  Rani's complexion looks very different in many of the pictures, and so I wanted to show what her bare head looked like next to an Ariel head with a run-of-the-mill light skin tone:

I think she has a lovely light brown skin tone.

Anyway, back to work.

I sanded some of the scuffs on Rani's forehead, nose, and cheek.  This process always makes things look worse...  

...before they start looking better again:

After I sanded all of the troublesome areas, I sprayed Rani's face with Mr. Super Clear.  I really like doing this, especially on the non-Denver dolls.  It eliminates some of the shine in the vinyl, and it gives me a nice undercoat for my paint.

First I painted Rani's lips.  I tried to give her upper lip a bit of extra fullness (to match the full lower lip):

Then I gave her cheeks some new color:

And finally I painted in some eyebrows and gave Rani a few freckles and moles:

It's really easy to make the Kate face mold look startled, so I tried to keep the eyebrows relatively flat...with marginal success:

At this stage, I launched in to trying to fix Rani's curly wig!

My first instinct was to try a fabric softener wash on this wig, but I did a bunch of reading online and some of the information I saw suggested that there might be some disadvantages to using this method.  To quote directly from the site linked, above: PLEASE DO NOT do this. It does help remove tangles but the fabric softener changes the hair...[my doll's hair] became limp, greasy and it didn’t restore shine at all. I was able to comb out the tangle, but the good part of her hair became gross. Her hair attracted dust and had an overall filmy coating.

However, the same site had another method that involved something I'm very familiar with: boil washing!  I love this method because nothing extra is added to the hair and the hot water actually kills germs.

First, I had to boil Rani's wig to remove all of the tangles and original curls.  Next, I curled the hair around my foam rollers.  Here's a picture from the middle of that process, with half of Rani's wig straight, and the other half in curlers:

A Kate head from a different doll stepped in to help out with this step:

Here's the head with all of the rollers in place:

Once all of the hair was rolled, I dipped the wig into the boiling water again to set all of the curls.

One big problem with this step was that the icky, sticky glue from the wig cap (which I was unable to remove) melted and made a goopy mess:

Some of the glue even got onto the edges of the rollers (and on some of the hair) while I was dunking.  I pulled away as much glue as I could and forged ahead.

I let the wig dry for two days and then started to pull out the rollers, visions of glossy corkscrew curls running through my head!

Some of the curls unrolled nicely, like this one:

But a few of them went completely frizzy!

This was because the hair got tangled around many of the rollers and would not come off without being yanked and tugged.

The end result looked like this:

Not terrible, I guess, but the inconsistent texture bothered me, so I tried to make all of the curls a little bit frizzy so that everything would match.

Not a great idea.

Here's the wig as it is now:

I think the method is really good, but my execution was clumsy.

In some ways the hair looks great to me, with all of those natural-looking curls, but the volume of the hair completely overwhelms the head and is impossible to tame.  I wanted this project to succeed so badly, but I had to declare it a failure.

I'll probably be able to boil this wig again and straighten it out for use on another doll, although I also noticed a tear in the wig cap (under all of that glue), so this might be one for the garbage.


However, there's a silver lining!  I knew I had a really fun, curly, ZaZou custom wig in my stash that would be an excellent replacement for Rani if things went south with the wig rescue mission.  In fact, I've been meaning to photograph this wig for ages so that I could share some photos with ZaZou's owner, Danielle.

So, I popped on the new wig, gave Rani her eyelashes, and felt pretty good about the outcome!

I also cleaned Rani's vinyl limbs, re-sewed her midline seam, and glued her head back in place.  Here's the seam as it looks now--it's still a bit strange at the very bottom, but it's slightly better overall:

The most entertaining part of Rani's entire makeover was when I finally got to pick out her special unicorn outfit.  For each of these fun outfits, I chose a pair of coordinating tights and shoes to compete the look.  It was really fun to mix and match so many colors!

Here's Rani:

Right off the bat, let's take a look at her transformation GIF:

She was quite a lovely doll to begin with, but now I think she has a bit of extra sparkle in her eyes.

Her impish expression combined with this whimsical outfit makes me smile and feel happy.

Let's take a closer look at Rani's colorful outfit:

The shirt is made out of a jersey knit onesie (it's been adapted to fit the My Twinn body).  The shirt is decorated with a unicorn iron-on decal.  The decal has a few small defects (lint stuck underneath and a few cracks), but it's super-cute overall.

I adore the skirt on this outfit!  It has a wonderful print with realistically-shaped unicorn silhouettes in several neon colors:

I'm also excited about this skirt because I was able to find some blue tights at Doll Secrets that match perfectly!

There are limited color choices for My Twinn boots, but I thought that these grey boots suited Rani's outfit well.

To top off this outfit, Julie made a beautiful purple sequin unicorn horn, accented with turquoise, pink, and purple flowers:

Now let's take a closer look at the ZaZou wig!  It's a dark brown wig with a mass of corkscrew curls:

There's a flat patch at the top of the wig, where the curls haven't started yet, and a funky, center zig-zag part:

This wig turned out a bit longer than I'd anticipated, but I really like the length:

There are several different lengths of hair throughout the wig, so it has a very natural appearance:

The only minor issue with this wig is that when all of the hair is free, the curls hang into Rani's face:

But two small clips at either side of the head fix this problem nicely...and look very cute!

I also like the drama of a clip on just one side of the head:

And, because Rani's outfit comes with a working headband, there's always an easy way to pull back her hair!

The headband looks good and works well.  Just be careful because the hard plastic can snap back and threaten to scratch Rani's face.  Don't ask me how I know this.

The side of this headband is especially cute because it has tiny little unicorns on it!

Despite the several ways in which this wig can be styled, it needs to be treated with a delicate hand.  The curls are magnificent, but I don't think they would tolerate any kind of brushing.  I'm not sure I'd give Rani to a younger child, simply because her hair would quickly end up back the way it started--in a mass of resistant tangles!

Here are a few pictures of Rani playing around:

Waving to her unicorns friends...

And taking a little rest... get lost in her daydreams.

I took a few more pictures of Rani without her horn, just because it's a bit easier to fit her into the frame of the camera like this:

And here are a few of my favorite shots to finish things up:

Because Rani is so colorful and spring-like, I wanted to take her outside into the sun for a few quick portraits:

This lighting shows off her complexion in a slightly different way.

We don't have a lot of greenery or flowers in our yard yet, but Rani quickly found this dandelion:

I love how the bright yellow compliments her eyes!

I'm having a great time putting together this fun collection, and I think Julie's whimsical unicorn outfits really bring the dolls to life.  I'm also grateful for Rani's unique ZaZou wig; it rescued the wig rescue project!

Here's a summary of all the work that was done on Rani:
-her head was removed and thoroughly cleaned
-her eyes were replaced with new Eyeco acrylic eyes
-her factory face paint was stripped away
-small scuffs and scratches on her face were sanded down
-her head was coated with sealant (Mr. Super Clear) to reduce the shine
-her face was repainted, including lips, blush, light freckles, and eyebrows
-she was given new eyelashes
-she was given a new curly Sekira wig from ZaZou Custom Dolls
-the vinyl parts of her body were cleaned
-her back seam was re-sewn and her head was re-attached
-she is dressed in a unicorn outfit from Fairy Tale Blessings that includes a top, skirt, and unicorn headband.  I added colorful tights, boots, and hair clips to this ensemble

Rani is not a Denver doll.  I think she's a very nice doll from 2008, but the quality of the vinyl on these dolls is not quite as nice as it is on the Denver-era dolls.  In addition, I recommend that Rani's wig be treated with care so as not to ruin the wonderful curls.  I did not try to brush this wig and am not sure what would happen if I did!  Other than that, Rani is in good shape with just a few scuffs and shiny marks from being used.

Rani will be for sale with a few of her unicorn friends once they are all ready.

I hope that, through Rani and her friends, you can share a bit of the optimism and joy that I saw in the little girl who was running through my neighborhood the other day.  I think we could all use a bit of her energy right now!


  1. Hi Emily, this is a super cute unicorn girl, she's absolutely gorgeous! Rani is a beautiful name, too. I love it that you got inspiration from a real little girl. :) About the wig: maybe it will work better with hard plastic curls? I'm not sure if they are suitable to dip in boiling water though.

    1. I mean curlers in stead of curls of course :D

  2. I missed you so much and happened to check your old blog to see this. I loved your reviews so much and it reminded me of my love of dolls. Your look alike are so pretty. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

  3. Aw, what a beautiful little thing she is! These Zazou wigs are really fantastic. (Sorry about the original wig...boil curls are hard to get right, and it sounds like that goopy glue really didn't help.)

  4. Gorgeous doll! Reminds me of the Wellie Wishers. Definitely DO NOT BRUSH the curls. I'd advise treating them like real curls and not touching them as much as possible. If the new owner does need to revitalize them, I personally would use wet hands and like a pea size amount of Cantu for kids curl cream rubbed into my hands and just lightly scrunch. That's what I do for my own hair 😂

  5. She's gorgeous!! I love her coloring and her little girl look and spirit! Adorable. (I can't tame curls either) -Micah

  6. The contrast between the darker wig and the green eyes gives Rani a special look. I'm glad you didn't go with the brown eyes for her. For curling a doll wig, I have had good luck using the end papers that you use when you give someone a home permanent. The glue in that wig looked awful. I wonder if you could put a piece of interfacing or something over it or maybe even moleskin. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the unicorn girls. Thanks for sharing your My Twinn Transformations.

  7. I've been waiting for your next collection, and it's lovely! Too bad about the old wig... The fabric softener advice was so weird. I've never had anything like this happen to any of my Mattel, Tonner, IT and various Chinese fashion dolls. Especially the dust part - fabric softener is supposed to be antistatic, at least I never buy it if it's not stated explicitly on the package. Since you are on the verge of ditching the old wig anyway, I'd give it a try. Usually if the frizz occurred after the curl is set, it can be tamed by getting wet and shaping around a finger. I would comb it with a wide comb and some fabric softener, and rinse without disturbing the curls. If you wish to reset the curls, try wrapping the curlers with foil before rolling the hair, just to make a smooth surface. I also prefer to remove the curlers while the hair is wet, and have a bowl of warm water on hand - colder than what it takes to straighten, but warm enough to relax curls that are bunched in a short coil. And most important... don't aim for perfection! The more you touch and try to arrange those curls, the worse.

  8. Que linda ideia se inspirar em uma criança de verdade! Certamente isso vai te deixar muito inspirada.
    Amei o tom da pele da Rani, um pouco bronzeado. Lamento você não ter tido sucesso com a peruca original, mas a nova é linda e cachos realmente são um teste de paciência. Estou ansiosa para ver toda a coleção pronta.

  9. Wow, Rani's beautiful face is increasingly visible after her eyes turn greenish color and her hair turns curly black.
    She looks exotic. Cool idea.

    Greetings from Indonesia 🙂