Thursday, June 18, 2020

Olivia from Overseas

Way back in July of 2019 (almost a year ago--ack! Where does the time go?) I got an Etsy message from Purple_Monkfish suggesting that I take a look at a My Twinn auction in the United Kingdom.  The doll was in terrible shape, but the auction price was only a few pounds and the poor doll had been re-listed twice.

I can never seem to pass up an inexpensive My Twinn in desperate need of a makeover, so I jumped at the chance at got myself a cheap and challenging new project!

This girl is a bit different from the other dolls I've offered for sale.  She is among the very first dolls that the My Twinn company ever made, and so she does not have an articulated body.  These early dolls are not as valuable on the collectors market as the poseable My Twinn dolls, but their quality is very high. To sweeten the deal, this particular girl has a slightly rare face mold (Jessica) that I'd never seen in person before:

1996 My Twinn doll with the Jessica face mold.
I've always been curious about these non-poseable Twinns, and was excited for the chance to get my hands on one.

I de-boxed this doll the minute she came into my house, but I realized right away that she was insanely dirty.  I didn't really want to touch her too much or put her near my other dolls.  She happened to arrive at the same time as a new chair, so I just set her on top of the huge chair box while I figured out where I could store her. 

She sat on that box for several days, staring at everyone who walked past with her vacant, spooky eyes.  

My husband, who was not a fan of this girl's original look ("definitely possessed," he'd say), would randomly leave scissors (or other menacing objects) in her hands:

Snip, snip, snip...
After she sat and terrorized people like this for several days, I tucked her away in a dark corner of my studio. And there she sat for almost a year.

Finally, about a month ago, I got her out and decided that she should join the diverse, happy gang of Unicorn Twinns!

I needed a new name for this girl, but her reign of terror was making me think of names like Morticia, Elvira, or Scissorhands.  Somehow I managed to push those thoughts away and settle on Olivia.  I hoped that perhaps a beautiful name could bring some good fortune to this less-than-beautiful doll.

Here's how Olivia looked before I started my work on her:

She had just about every problem that a My Twinn doll can have, except for squeaky armature (since she doesn't have an armature!).

Her face was in particularly bad shape, with eerily faded eyes, patchy hair, and dirt, stains, and scuffs all over the place:

I find it touching that even after Olivia's hair had thinned dramatically, somebody was still taking the care and effort to braid it:

That melts my heart,
The non-posable bodies are definitely harder to pose.  Olivia can't stand up and can barely even sit on her own:

On top of this, she was about the filthiest doll I've ever encountered.  Not only was her cloth torso dirty and musty, but her vinyl limbs were so covered in dirt that they looked about two shades darker than they really are:

She had a few areas of paint and dark staining on her limbs, too:

Here's a closer look at her face:

It's hard to identify the worst problems here, but the purple stains across her nose and cheek worried me, as did the dark spots inside her nose:

I removed and discarded Olivia's old wig, plucked off her eyelashes, took off her head, and then gave the bare head a closer look:

Her left eye was caked with shiny glue residue (super glue, I suspect) that would not come off with the lashes:

Look at how dirty her forehead was!

I gave her head a quick wash just to see which of the marks were going to be stubborn.  Here's how she looked right after that wash:

The dirt came away with the help of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, but the purple stains, the dark spots in the nose, and the glue reside would not budge.

Next, I removed Olivia's old eyes so that I could get to work on the stubborn stains.  Here's what one of the old eyes looked like:

It was a very pale mix of pink and yellow, leaving me with few clues about Olivia's original eye color. Brown, perhaps?

With the eyes out of the way, I washed Olivia's head again and then placed some Remove-Zit on the stained areas:

Nobody wants Remove-Zit up their nose.
About a week later, most of the stains had faded away.

I cleaned the Remove-Zit off with Formula 9-1-1 and then stripped away all of Olivia's factory paint:

I also sanded her left eyelid for quite a while, but not all of the glue residue came off:

Once I'd gotten Olivia's face as clean as I could manage, I gave her some new eyes.

Since I've never worked with this face mold before, I didn't know how malleable the eye sockets would be.  The face is similar to the Rosemary mold (which has challenging eye sockets) so I decided to stay on the safe side and use silicone eyes.  

These are Eyeco's Platinum Glass "Smoke" eyes, which are almost identical to the Ultra #205 eyes that I used on Skye.

Eyeco Platinum Glass "Smoke" eyes.
The eyes are detailed and mysterious, although you can see that the eyelid still has a few crusty areas from the leftover glue:

For anyone who isn't familiar with all of the My Twinn face molds, let me take a second to show you a comparison of the Rosemary face (on the left, below) and Olivia's Jessica mold:

The two faces are very similar, save for Jessica's thicker eyelids and bigger ear lobes.

Here's a close-up of the eye difference.  This is the only way I can tell the two molds apart if I'm looking at pictures online:

Jessica eye (left) and Rosemary eye (right).

Anyway, once I had the new eyes in place, I coated Olivia's face with Mr. Super Clear sealant.  I do this to help the paint adhere evenly and also to reduce the shine in the vinyl that can come from deep cleaning and sanding.

I wanted to paint Olivia's eyebrows first because I thought they might present a challenge.  The Jessica face mold has a very pronounced brow.  The shape of the brow itself is high and arched and can make these dolls look permanently startled.  I wanted to minimize that look if I could.

I sketched several different shapes with my watercolor pencils and finally settled on this rough outline:

Only mildly startled.
I filled in more of the shape...

...and then painted over the brows using my acrylics:

Here's a closer look (and yes, Olivia is going to be another redhead!):

Once I was happy with the brows, I added some blush and lip color:

The sealant helped the lip paint go on smoothly, but the paint revealed a small scratch in the vinyl that was hard to see before.

Unfortunately, there's a tiny red line in the lower lip where the paint seeped into this scratch.  I've added two arrows to show you the extent of the scratch:

A little scar from her past life.
I actually removed the lip paint, re-sealed the lips, and painted them again (to see if this would reduce the line), but there was no way to paint the lips without having this line appear.

Because Olivia was going to be a redhead, I gave her a healthy dose of freckles, too!

Finally, I gave Olivia her new hair (a Monique wig in a gorgeous light ginger color) and her eyelashes:

Before I show you Olivia all put together again, let me talk a little bit about the non-poseable body.

The body has a cloth torso that is densely-stuffed with Poly-fil.  The vinyl limbs are attached to the body simply through the tight fit of the cloth torso (the vinyl isn't stitched to the fabric like it is on the more modern My Twinns).  The connection seems very secure.

In order to clean Olivia's body, I had to remove all of the Poly-fil and then wash the cloth body in the sink.  I also washed the Poly-fil in my washing machine with a lot of bleach.  I cleaned Olivia's vinyl limbs in the usual way--with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Once the dirt had been cleaned from Olivia's vinyl limbs, they looked really nice!

The vinyl is dense and heavy and has just a bit of flexibility in it.

The fingers had a few dark stains, so I coated these with Remove-Zit:

The stains disappeared pretty quickly:

The head of a non-posable My Twinn doll is held onto the body with the help of a plastic peg:

This peg inserts into the head on one side and then fits into the tightly-packed Poly-fil of the body on the other side, like this:

Olivia's head was not glued to the peg when I got her, but I felt like it wouldn't hurt to glue the head to the peg this time around:

The head is held firmly into the body with a cotton string, just like the early American Girl dolls.  I contemplated using a cable tie to secure Olivia's head, but decided in favor of keeping the original design.  It works very well.

Here, finally, is Miss Olivia reunited with her super-clean body!

(she had to borrow my cuddle pony from The Princess and the Pony as a temporary seat!)

The clean Poly-fil barely fit back into the body!  Now the torso feels very tight and full...although it looks a bit lumpy because the Poly-fil clumped together over time and in the wash:

After I took these photos, I tried to tease the Poly-fil apart a bit to get rid of some of the clumps.  It's slightly better now.

Here's Livy's sweet face:

I decided to go ahead and do a comparison GIF right away, without any clothing.  This way you can see how much cleaner the cloth body is now!

I'm not sure I made the best decision with Olivia's eyes (she still looks a bit startled!) but she's definitely in better shape than she was before.

I was a little nervous that the unicorn outfits wouldn't fit the non-posable body very well, but Olivia's outfit ended up fitting perfectly!  

Here's the newest member of the Unicorn Twinn group:

Because Olivia can't stand or sit up on her own, she uses a wheelchair.  She loves choosing outfits that coordinate with her chair!

Olivia's unicorn outfit includes an off-white shirt with an adorable iron-on decal:

This shirt is paired with a hot pink tulle skirt that's covered in sparkles!  I was delighted to find Doll Secrets tights that match the skirt perfectly:

Olivia is also wearing pink suede boots.  These boots are a different size than the boots that fit the articulated My Twinn dolls, so the two types of doll cannot share shoes.  

They don't really fit Olivia perfectly, either.  

I don't know if you can see it in the picture, above, but there's a lot of empty space near Olivia's heel. I drew a line along where her foot actually is:

The fit is disappointing, but these are the boots that are available for this size of My Twinn doll.

Topping off Olivia's colorful outfit is another gorgeous unicorn headband from Fairy Tale Blessings!

I love the silver accents on this horn, and the pink ears match Olivia's boots:

Olivia's wheelchair is an authentic My Twinn accessory that came to me in like-new condition:

I didn't have high expectations for this chair, but it's really fun!  The colors are great, and the frame (which is made of metal and plastic) allows the whole thing to fold down for storage:

All of the wheels spin and maneuver in a very realistic way:

Olivia tends to lean back in her chair a bit, so I use a folded pillowcase as a cushion to prop her forward for the camera:

Olivia can still sit on the ground without a chair, but it's a bit of a struggle to pose her like this:

I was worried about Olivia's posing options being limited (which they are), but she was a lot more fun to photograph than I anticipated!

Here she is with her hair brushed out and pulled back around the headband:

The wig is also fun to play with when it's loose:

This is a Monique Marie wig in the light ginger color, which is one of my very favorite wig colors of all time.

The wig has little short hairs and imperfections here and there, but overall it's a great wig.

One nice thing about being in a wheelchair is that it's easy to tote around a companion.  Olivia loves dolls and is often searching through my old Toy Box Philosopher stash for a new friend.

Lately it's been rare to see Olivia without her favorite doll friend, Lanie:

Lanie is an Our Generation mini doll (originally named Lana).

Livy and Lanie love to go speeding around the house in the wheelchair!

And they like to rest together, too.

I played around with a few different ways to style Olivia's hair.

Here, the headband is sitting in the hair without pulling any of it back away from Livy's face:

I also kind-of like how the hair looks when only one side is pulled back:

But, as usual, the high double-clip style shows off the gentle curls in the wig to their best advantage:

I was happy to have a new deck in the back yard because it allowed Olivia to come outside with her chair for some photographs in the natural light:

She was zipping all over the deck in no time.

I also carried her over near the woods where she could sit on the fence for a few portraits:

There were all kinds of lighting situations in my backyard on this particular day.  There were some areas with full-blown sun expose (this shows off Olivia's hair nicely):

Some areas with partial sunshine:

And of course the shady woods:

Olivia enjoyed the outdoors, I think, but she was eager to get back inside so that she could play with Lanie for the rest of the afternoon.

And even though Olivia is highly skilled at operating her wheelchair, at the end of a long day it's nice to take a break and get a push from a friend!

Henna and Olivia--the redheaded Unicorn Twinns!
I loved working with a new face mold for this project, and I also enjoyed getting an in-depth look at the quality and construction of the non-articulated My Twinn body.  I can see why the posable My Twinns are more sought after--they're much easier to play with and pose--but there's a simple charm to Olivia's design, and I like the slice of My Twinn history that she represents.

Olivia came to me in terrible shape, and so her makeover has been a long-term project that involved pretty much every restoration technique I know.  Here's a summary of the work that was done:
-her head was separated from her body and her old wig and eyelashes were removed
-the stuffing was removed from her body and washed in the washing machine
-the cloth torso was washed in a bleach solution and left to air dry for a week
-her vinyl limbs were scrubbed with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
-her head was washed and scrubbed with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
-her old eyes were removed
-deep stains on her face and hands were treated with Remove-Zit and then cleaned with Formula 9-1-1
-superglue residue on her left eyelid was sanded away (though some remnants are still present)
-all of her factory paint was stripped away
-her face was treated with Mr. Super Clear sealant
-she was given new soft glass (silicone) Eyeco eyes in a smoke gray color
-her face was repainted, including lips, eyebrows, blush, and freckles
-she was given a new Monique wig and new Monique eyelashes
-her body was reassembled and her head was re-attached
-she is dressed in a unicorn outfit from Fairy Tale Blessings that includes a shirt, skirt, and unicorn headband.  I added pink tights and pink suede boots to this outfit
-Olivia uses a new, authentic, My Twinn wheelchair and carries an Our Generation mini doll companion with her wherever she goes

Olivia's primary flaws are that she has a scratch in her lower lip that's visible because of a line of paint, she has some glue residue on her left eyelid, and she has other small scuffs and marks from being old.  Please also note that she has silicone eyes, and these can collect dust.  The eyes are easily cleaned with a damp (not soaking wet) Q-tip.

I'm having so much fun with these Unicorn Twinns that I think I'll add two more girls to the collection; one who will show off an incredible wig that's new to the market, and another who will be my third giveaway doll.  

Thank you so much for sharing these happy girls with me!


  1. I agree with your husband - she was definitely possessed. You could do a whole series of creepy, Living Dead Doll-style demonic My Twinns just by leaving the nasty old faded eyes in. >_< (I'm guessing you didn't keep your Frozen Charlotte, what with the mold and all... And yes, I'm still reading through TBP, and still wondering what got to stay and what got the chop. Kurhn? Carpatina? The Cutie Pops? [which are, as usual, discontinued now] The Monster High girls? Etc etc. I wish the posts had a note at the end with the fate of the doll, ha ha. Like at the end of a movie when they say "So and so finished their college diploma and lives in Kentucky" or whatever. But for dolls. XD)

    But that makes her makeover all the more dramatic, of course. I'm just tickled by the pictures of her "racing" around in her wheelchair. Very clever to give the non-poseable doll a wheelchair so she can increase her mobility! It's such a funky facemold, but she came out quite adorable.

    1. ...and I just realised I already asked about Carpatina and you said you gave her away. I read that post very recently so it was fresh in my mind, and my memory ain't so good these days. WHOOPS.

    2. I'm reading (again) TTBP top!

    3. Thank you for your nice comments about Olivia and no worries about Carpatina! I can barely remember my own name most days. ;)

      That's a fun idea (and it could be a funny idea...) to put an update at the end of each TBP post. I do still have some boxed Cutie Pops (they are so unique!), but no Kurhn and no Frozen Charlotte (too moldy, like you said). Do you remember Little Apple Erro? I still have her. She's awesome. I kept a small collection of Licca-Chan dolls and accessories (a bit like Kurhn). I have a few Monster High girls, a few Bratzillas, a few Ever After High, a few Pinkie Cooper (loved her!), a few Made to Move Barbie, and TONS of Liv dolls. The sad thing is that I'm only now--after about five carloads of stuff went to the Goodwill--starting to get a good handle on what I have left and what I might want to keep. :/

      I'm tempted to do a spooky My Twinn some day. That would be refreshing! Maybe if I had a specific spooky character in mind? There are definitely some amazing, creepy eyes on the market that I could use if I didn't want to keep the originals. I'll put some thought into it! Thank you for the idea.

    4. Emily the Strange or Ruby Gloom could be good inspiration for a cute-yet-spooky My Twinn doll! Or Wednesday Addams!

    5. Amy, that is a fantastic group of characters! Thank you for the awesome inspiration. This might happen. :)

  2. I love all about Olivia!

    1. Thank you, Lilium! Glad to hear that you are still enjoying TBP, too! :)

  3. I'm so delighted to see her fixed up. poor girl needed your careful tlc. It very much was a "saw this, thought of you" situation and i'm so pleased to see her all restored. She looks wonderful!

    The wheelchair is a great idea too.

    Your husband with the scissors ahahaha, that's a keeper right there. That's the kind of thing my husband and I would do to one another lol.

    1. Yay! I'm glad you got to see her all fixed up! Thank you so much for the tip about her auction. It's been really rewarding and fun to work on her.

      The husband is definitely a keeper. He's had me laughing for 25 years now, which is pretty awesome. ;)

  4. Your husband is so funny! I kinda dig the creepy pink eyes, they faded so nicely. It would be cool, as someone said, to use the faded eyes for a series of creepy dolls, but that's not your style XD She looks better in the restored version, of course, and the wheelchair is a nice touch.

    1. Thank you, BlackKitty! Creepy dolls are definitely not my thing...usually. But there might be a way to do a creepy doll that works with my aesthetic? I'm going to think about it! :)

  5. She's beautiful, all your redheads turn out so authentic and sweet. I love the idea of having her use a wheelchair, it makes me want to find and customize my own for some of my dolls who aren't able to stand anymore due to age and loose joints. I'm so excited to see who's next in this collection!

    1. Thank you so much! I was surprised by how fun the wheelchair is! The front wheels swivel around and so the whole thing is fairly maneuverable. I know that there's an American Girl wheelchair on the market and there are also a few wheelchairs for fashion dolls (Lammily and Mattel/Barbie make them)

  6. The transformation is spectacular! What a pretty girl she is now, and the wheelchair is perfect for her. I always read your makeover steps carefully, they give me courage to clean up and restore my mostly dirty and spotty charity shop finds. :) As was suggested above, a "creepy" doll would be a real challenge I think. :) Or, you could do a funny creepy girl like Wednesday Addams. Your husband is so funny, those scissors! :D

    1. Thank you so much, Linda! I'm glad that you find the makeover steps useful--I worry that they might get a bit boring! As for the creepy dolls, thanks to the great suggestions from you and others, I think I have a new mini collection in the works! ;D

  7. Olivia is so adorable, especially with her wheelchair. It's heartening to see a spooky-looking doll in such poor shape get a second life. Changing the eyes makes a world of difference! Her original eye color was light blue :) I can tell by the iris pattern.


    1. Oh, that's so cool that you can tell the old eye color by looking at the iris pattern! I never would have thought of that. I love knowing a bit more about how she used to look. :)


    Emily, dá uma olhada!!

  9. Emily, dá uma olhada.

    1. Olá Erika, isso é tão gentil da sua parte! Obrigado por compartilhar Arya! Não tenho uma conta no Instagram, mas posso ver sua postagem e ela parece maravilhosa.

    2. Olá, Emily!
      Fiz três postagens sobre as My Twinn, sendo a primeira sobre as suas restaurações.
      Todos gostaram bastante.
      Fico feliz que tenhas gostado.