Thursday, November 12, 2020

Beth

I'm back!  Finally!  In the past month I've bought a house, sold a house, and packed half of the things I own.  Now I get a blissful two or three weeks of normal-ish life before I actually have to uproot and move out of Maine.  I forgot how hard moving was.  However, it makes me appreciate the simple, calm things in life a lot more, so I'm extra-delighted to be here ready to share Beth with you!

As you might remember from my introductory Little Women post, I chose a very pale Caitie doll to play the roll of the beloved but ill-fated Beth character:

1997 My Twinn doll with the Caitie face.

Beth was in rough shape when she first came here.  Her most obvious flaw was that her neck was broken. This made her hard to maneuver, but she was able to strike some endearing poses, like this one:

She's looking at something truly fascinating!
Most of the time, her head would loll back like this, though:

Staring at cracks in the ceiling.
I was able to get her head perched onto the top of her armature for a few pictures:



The white body was in fairly good condition, with just a few snags on the front:


And lots of picks on the back:



Most of the picks are over Beth's right shoulder:


The vinyl was in fair shape, with a lot of dirt, and some white marks like this one:


She also had dark marks and smudges on her legs:


A critter seems to have attacked some of Beth's fingers, too, because they're covered with bite marks:


At least I think those are bite marks.  They look like a series of deep slashes in the vinyl, and I'm not sure what else would cause that!

Beth's face was incredibly dirty, with some areas of discoloration:


It was hard to tell how much of the discoloration would wash off and how much might be deeper staining.


So, I removed Beth's old wig, separated her head from her body (i.e., I cut the cable tie and let her head tumble off), and brought her into my workroom.


Underneath her beat-up eyelashes, Beth original eyes were very pretty:

Also slightly wonky.
I probably would have kept these eyes in place (Beth's character has blue eyes) except that the eye area was really dirty:

Is that fine sand?  Mold?
It's very difficult to clean a head thoroughly without getting water behind the eyes.  If water gets trapped back there, mold can develop over time (not good).  So, I really prefer to remove the eyes on super-dirty dolls like this.

Beth's mouth also had a fairly large area of missing paint:


I removed Beth's eyes, washed her head thoroughly, and then stripped away all of her old factory paint:


Most of the marks on Beth's face came off with soap, water, and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, however there was a very small mark on her chin that I had to treat with Remove-Zit.  Apparently I didn't take any pictures of that process.  I've become a bit of a scatter-brain lately.

You'll notice a lighting change in the next several pictures.  This is because between that last picture and the next ones, I completely cleared out my workroom, took down all of the window coverings, and sold the house.  Now I have a much simpler set-up in my room, and the lights are not quite arranged the way I want, but at least I'm getting a ton of daylight with the curtains gone!

In any case, since Meg and Amy both have glass eyes (and Jo will, too), I decided to give Beth these beautiful blue eyes from Hand Glass Craft:


The eyes are still slightly wonky (it's hard to avoid that with this face mold), but I think the positioning is a little better than it used to be.

Because Beth's character can be very shy and frail in the Little Women story, I wanted to give her expression a slightly vulnerable feel.  I tried this by tilting her eyebrows and raising them slightly:



I also gave her some light blushing, and colored in her lips:


I like the way the shape of these lips turned out.  The upper lip is much softer than it used to be:


Once again, I seem to have forgotten to photograph several steps in my makeover process (sorry!), but I gave Beth some light freckles, new eyelashes, and a blonde Timarie wig.  

Here's how she looked as her eyelashes were drying:


I wanted to style Beth's hair in two braids.  I think it's because of this book cover:


Even with all of the movie interpretations of Beth, this tends to be how I think of her.

The problem with braids on a wig like the Timarie is that there's no part in the back of the hair, and the wefts are spaced pretty far apart:

Not very attractive.
A few people have recommended the zig-zag part as a remedy to this problem, and so I tried it with Beth.

I separated very small segments of hair and criss-crossed them down the back of the head:


Then I braided the hair normally.  Here's what the hair looks like in the back:


It's not a perfect solution, but I think it looks better than the regularly-parted hair.  In any case, this wig is unaltered, so it can be restyled however Beth's future owner would like!

Here are a few pictures of Beth without her clothing so that you can see her cleaned-up body:


I was able to tuck one of the larger snags on the front of the torso back into the body so that it isn't as obvious:


I sanded the damaged fingers a bit, too, although I can't say that it made a huge difference:

They feel smoother now, I guess.
I had to open Beth's back seam so that I could re-glue her arms (the foam had come loose from the vinyl) so here's a look at the new back seam:


And here's another look at the back of her head:


I was pretty happy with how Beth turned out...


...but of course the real transformation comes with the outfit!

As I did with Meg and Amy, I want to take a moment to give you a glimpse at the parts of Rebecca's creative process that she was able to share with me.

Beth's dress was actually the very first thing that Rebecca started working on after we dreamed up this project.  Here's the first picture that she sent to me--a mock-up of the dress, made in a fabric that wasn't needed for anything else:

 

Rebecca came up with the design for this dress by using pieces of an 18-inch doll pattern and then increasing the size of the pieces by about 128%.  I actually have no idea how she did that, except that she didn't use a computer at all--just calculated and expanded with pencil and paper!  She made the front of the bodice by laying the fabric against the doll and drawing in the shape with a fabric pen.  It's all very mysterious to me!

I thought that the mock-up dress looked amazing, but Rebecca wanted to tweak the sleeves, and perhaps decrease the fullness of the skirt.  

All of those changes required making another mock-up dress.  

With the second trial dress, I could see immediately that the bodice was more intricate and precise and the sleeves were much more elegant!  I also like the fabric better, which doesn't hurt...

Huge improvement on something that was already good.
Here's the full dress:


I love it so much!

Rebecca noted that the dress was a bit tight in the back, so at this point she asked me for waist measurements on all of the Little Women dolls so that she could tailor each dress to the exact doll it was being made for.


With the dress pattern shaping up beautifully, it was time to pick fabrics for Beth!  I really loved this part of the process because it gave me a chance to bring my ideas for the doll together with Rebecca's vision for the outfit.

We both agreed that this delicate flower print would work well with Beth's coloring and personality:

Modest, but very pretty.
At this stage Rebecca had too many pattern pieces lying around with alteration notes on them, so she decided to make one last mock-up to consolidate her ideas and be sure that everything came together the way she wanted.

This first attempt had a thicker skirt...but the length was a little off:


Rebecca called this dress "the tutu version," but I think it's adorable!

Here's the final draft:


I think that this dress is gorgeous and perfect, and I really love the fabric.  Fortunately, I was able to buy it from Rebecca and so I have it on hand to use for the giveaway doll (if I get a chance to make her!).

Next, Rebecca did a trial of the bonnet design (this was before she'd made Meg's bonnet) and sent me a preview of that:



I thought everything looked good, but Rebecca pointed out that the bonnet was just a tad too big, so she changed her pattern to shorten the brim.

Rebecca wasted no time in making the dress again with Beth's special fabric.  Then she sent me a preview of all the materials that she had in mind for the matching bonnet:


I love this color combination. The brown of the bonnet's exterior goes nicely with the dress fabric, and the blue lining will match Beth's eyes.

The one last decision we had to make was whether or not Beth's outfit would benefit from an apron or not. Here's the test picture that Rebecca sent to me:


We both thought that the apron added too much blue, and that it would detract from the beautiful dress.  So, we decided to nix the apron.  

We also decided that I would knit a simple shawl for Beth instead.

I hope that this preview of Beth's outfit got you excited!  I know I was eager to see how everything looked together.  But I'll slow down for a sec. and let you see each piece of the completed outfit separately.  

First, here are the tights and boots:


This is my favorite color of boot, and they happen to match Beth's outfit really well.


Next, Beth has pantaloons, with two little growth tucks:


Beth's petticoat is perhaps my favorite of all four petticoats.  It's beautifully full, with a large ruffle at the bottom and a neat tuck just above that:


The stitching is done in Beth's signature light brown color:


Before I put Beth's dress on, I wanted to show you some of the beautiful detail in the workmanship.  The bodice is lined, the waistband is perfectly-cut, and the buttons are really pretty and well-matched:


Now, at last, here's Beth wearing her lovely dress!


These delicate pleats at the hem are such a nice touch:


And I absolutely love the shape of the bodice:


Here's the dress from the back:


Everything lines up perfectly:


I think that the dress compliments Beth's coloring, too, with her pale skin and wheat-blonde hair:



With her braids and expression, I think Beth looks very young.





I decided to do Beth's portrait while she was wearing just this dress, but I had to decide what to do with her thick braids.

Tuck them behind her shoulders?


Or put them in front of her shoulders:


I decided to leave the braids in front.  They look more uniform in that position.

Here's the comparison GIF:


She's certainly much cleaner than she used to be!  I also think that the absence of bangs and the glass eyes brighten her face a lot.  She's a sweetie.

My contribution to Beth's outfit was this brown knitted shawl:


I found a pattern for a Little Women-inspired shawl on the internet (here's the pattern) and I modified it to fit a My Twinn doll.

Unlike whatever sorcery Rebecca had to use in order to get her patterns re-sized by 128%, all I did to modify this pattern was use smaller needles, smaller wool, and I shortened some of the pattern repetitions.


The wool in this shawl is a beautiful hand-dyed Merino with a variety of rich brown shades.  I found it at Storybook Retro on Etsy.

The shawl has little threads in the front that can be tied together to keep it in place (which is what I did for most of the pictures), but I think it looks best when the corners of the knitting are lightly tied together like this:



Here are a few more pictures of Beth with her shawl:




The crowning glory of this ensemble is the beautiful bonnet that Rebecca made:




I like how this bonnet looks from every angle.  The deep blue lining and ribbon match Beth's eyes almost perfectly:


And the brown exterior coordinates with the shawl and the dress:



Dressed like this, I can see Beth gathering her things to go and check in on the Hummel family, or slipping next door to play Mr. Laurence's piano.



As always, I took Beth into the back yard for a few photos in the natural light.  Amazingly, the temperatures have been in the mid to high seventies all week here in Maine, so it was a real delight to be outdoors.

I like this photo where the sun is catching the edge of Beth's bonnet:


Because it was so sunny during the middle of the day, I had to wait until just before sundown to get the right lighting for Beth's photos.  

I love how this time of day brought out the blue in her eyes and bonnet:




A different part of the yard had more direct sun at this time of day, which brightened up Beth's coloring a bit:


And somehow, she managed to find the absolute last flower in my lawn.  I have no idea how this blossom managed to survive this long and still look so good:


Beth searched and searched for more flowers, but the rest of the yard was nothing but big brown leaves.



Here are a few pictures of Beth without her bonnet:



I like the Caitie face mold, but it's never been one of my absolute favorites.  However, from certain angles, this face has features that I think are just amazing.  For example, I love Beth's partial profile:


She looks so sweet and young--lost in thought.  It touches my heart.

For the last few pictures, I removed Beth's shawl, too.  I think she enjoyed the freedom of being outside in just her dress.  She certainly didn't need the shawl for warmth!



Her braids are getting a little ratty from being moved around so much during the photo session, but I'll tidy those before she goes to her new home.



As somber and shy as this girl looks most of the time, she has a spark of fun in her, too!



The characters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women are all so distinct, it's been really fun to try and capture a bit of those personalities in these dolls.  So far, I think Meg, Amy, and Beth all have varied appearances that hint at their namesakes.  However, as I was telling Rebecca the other day, I'll finish one of these dolls and be reasonably happy with her, but then I'll add the outfit, and BAM!  Magic happens.  Beth's outfit is no exception.  I love the quiet beauty of the dress, and how the bonnet brings out the doll's best features.  An outfit like this could only be made by somebody who truly loves and understands Alcott's memorable characters.

Here's a summary of the work that was done on Beth:
-the old wig and eyelashes were removed and the head was separated from the body
-all of the vinyl parts were cleaned with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
-the glue in the arm seams was stripped and re-applied
-the back seam was se-sewn
-the old eyes were removed
-the head was cleaned again with soap and water and the factory paint was stripped
-a small spot on the face was treated with Remove-Zit and then cleaned with Formula 9-1-1
-the vinyl was left to rest
-the head was coated with Mr. Super Clear sealant
-new glass eyes from hand Glass Craft were placed
-the face was re-painted, including eyebrows, lips, blush, and faint freckles
-the head was re-attached to the body with hot glue
-new eyelashes were applied
-she was given a new blonde Timarie wig by Monique.  The wig is braided using a criss-cross part in back to reduce the visibility of the wig cap
-she is wearing a four-piece outfit custom-made by Rebecca from Stitch in Times Designs on Etsy.  I added white tights, brown boots, and a hand-knitted shawl to this ensemble

Beth still has some bite marks on her right hand.  She also has a snag on the front of her body and many picks on the back of her body.  Her hairstyle reveals some of the wig cap.  Other than that, she has only a few shiny spots and small marks from being old.  Because of her glass eyes, Beth is no longer appropriate for small children.

I'm very much hoping to finish Jo and get these girls off to their new homes before I move to my own new home.  I can't make any promises, of course, but I'm doing my best!  In the meantime, I'm searching for hairstyle ideas for Jo and would love to hear what you think!

10 comments:

  1. Congratulations on selling your old house!! And what a beautiful doll. I actually have never liked this facemold, but what you've done with it-oh my goodness, a newfound appreciation! She looks so sweet and shy. Thank you for sharing, and good luck with your move!! -Micah

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  2. Very nice! I had thought, based on the original dolls, that Beth would be my least favorite of the four but there is something very winsome about her!

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  3. Oooh, I hope you were able to save her original eyes - they were lovely (but definitely wonky... lol). I cannot waaaaaaait to see them all together. Her hair and dress look amazing together. This *might* be your best set yet. Those Hogwarts girls are gonna be hard to beat, but man, these Little Women are giving them a serious run for their money.

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  4. The Caitie mold has such a blank expression, so I'm really impressed how you used the eyebrows to give her so much character. Beautiful work! I also can't wait to see all four together.

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  5. The Caitie mold has never been a favorite, but what you did with the doll is stunning. The eyebrows, the faint freckles, the braids...paired with the meek outfit this is so clearly Beth.

    And good luck with the move!

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  6. Every doll in this series so far has been phenomenal. You are really succeeding in capturing their distinct personalities! Beth is so sweet... she looks like she's listening to 'airy voices' and I adore it.

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  7. Yes, this is absolutely Beth ❤️ She had kond if a weird face before but the transformation is so so amazing and she looks so sweet now - and that dress ❤️ So well done ❤️
    About Jo‘s hair. That is a tough one! It‘s the best part of her as Amy says :) I always imagined her with long wavy dark brown hair, wild hair, open or maybe a very messy updo - cause she don‘t care, or cause she ruffles her hair while she thinks :)

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  8. The Caitie face mold was never my favorite but oml Beth looks so freaking adorable. It's amazing how eyebrows change the entire feel of the doll. And for Jo's hair--I always imagined with wavy light chestnut brown hair that is pulled back with a single messy braid.

    ~ Jerusha

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  9. This is the perfect Beth, Emily, you've done a wonderful job! With her light skin tone and fragile looks, she truly is adorable. I LOVE how you've done her hair, it looks really good in the back! And the outfit is so pretty as well! This is a beautiful series of dolls! Congratulations with the selling and buying, I wish you a very smooth move! So you are moving away, to a completely new area with a different climate?

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