Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Jo

The last of the Little Women dolls is finally complete!  I saved Jo for last because she is the main character in Louisa May Alcott's books, and also because she is the favorite March sister for many readers.  

Having watched several of the Little Women movies recently (along with the PBS miniseries), I feel like Jo is the one who has had the most variety in her portrayal.  Winona Ryder played the character fairly straight in the 1994 movie, Saoirse Ronan amped-up Jo's tomboyish feminism in the 2019 movie, and Maya Hawke gave her--in my opinion--a perfect mix of fire and heart in the miniseries.

Because of the striking differences in those three actresses, though, I didn't come away from the shows with a solid idea of how my Jo doll should look.  I did know that I wanted to start with the spunky Emma face mold, though, and its subtle, lopsided smile:

~1999 My Twinn doll with the Emma face.

Unlike the other dolls in this series, Jo does not have the palest My Twinn vinyl color.  She has the more common 02 coloring.

Part of this doll's original charm was the fact that her head had come disconnected from her body.  I know that sounds bad, but dolls with this affliction can achieve the most endearing head tilts!


She looks so inquisitive, doesn't she?


I managed to balance the neck onto the armature a bit better:

Still endearing!
This doll's unruly hair also reminded me of Jo--at least Saoirse Ronan's version of Jo.

Jo's body was in decent shape, with some dirt marks on the front of the cloth torso:


And no body tag!


Having no body tag can be a problem on a My Twinn doll, since the only reliable manufacture date is printed on that tag.  And of course the manufacture date determines whether or not a doll is from the desirable Denver era.

Fortunately, I had some other clues to work with.

First of all, Jo's vinyl feels and looks like Denver vinyl, and her face paint is very typical of the early Denver years.

Also, the back of Jo's cloth torso was opened up...


So I could get a quick look at the inside of her body:


Her bottom is padded with white stuffing, and this is a feature of only the early Denver dolls:


I wish I'd collected more exact information about this body style over the years, but I know a few things about the white stuffing.  First of all, it's present in 1997-2000 dolls.  By 2001, the company had switched to using foam padding for the bottom (Amy and Meg are both from 2001 and they have foam bottoms). So, that means that Jo was made between 1997 and 2001.  My best guess is 1999 or 2000.

Because of all this, I feel very confident that Jo is a Denver doll.

Jo's legs were a little beat-up when she came to me:


Most of the marks looked like dirt and surface scuffs, though, so I wasn't too worried.


Jo's face was also dirty, and some of the blemishes in that area looked more serious:


Eager to get to work, I removed the wig and snipped the cable tie in the neck so that Jo's head was completely free.

Here she is in my workroom:


She had great freckles and pretty eyes, but she also had a big area of missing paint on her lips and a scuff on the tip of her nose:



I removed the dark eyelashes so that I could get a clear picture of Jo's eyes:


The eyes are a pretty light blue color, with maybe a bit too much turquoise in them to be super-realistic.

The eyes were in decent shape, but Jo is is meant to have grey eyes, so I knew these eyes would have to come out.


I scrubbed Jo's face and stripped away most of the factory paint.  I liked the basic shape and height of her original eyebrows, so I left a faint remnant of those in tact.


I lightly sanded the tip of her nose to remove the scuff marks there.

The one mark on Jo's face that I was unable to remove was this orange dot on the underside of her chin:


I treated the spot with Remove-Zit, but even after a week or so of treatment, the mark didn't budge very much.


Once the vinyl had rested for several weeks, I sprayed the head with sealant and gave Jo some new eyes!

Even though Jo's eye color is described as grey in the books, I could have interpreted that in a couple of different ways.  For example, some dusky blue eye colors look almost grey, or even some very light blue shades.  I went for a literal interpretation, though, and gave Jo straight-up grey eyes:

Not a hint of blue.
All of the March sisters have premium D400 glass eyes from Hand Glass Craft.

I painted over Jo's original eyebrows with a dark brown color:  


The new brows are a slightly different shape from the old ones, so if you look really closely, you can see hints of the old brows:


Next I gave Jo's lips some new color:


And then I gave her rosy cheeks:


Jo has the most generous dose of freckles out of all the March sisters.  I picture her spending a lot of her time outside in the sun!



Once Jo was reunited with her body, I gave her dark brown eyelashes and a dark auburn Timarie wig from Monique:


I didn't have a moment with this doll where I thought to myself, "wow, that's Jo!" the way I did with Beth, but I like her combination of features.

As I was reassembling Jo, I noticed that some of the stitches in her cloth torso looked larger than the adjacent stitches--like they were coming loose or something:


The seam wasn't pulling apart or anything, but I placed another row of stitches in this area just to be extra-careful:


I tried several different hairstyles on Jo.  While her hair probably should be up in a bun in order to be historically accurate, I think many of us have the same idea of Jo with flowing, slightly messy, loose hair.  It's her best feature, after all!

First I tried a series of small braids pulling the hair away from Jo's face.  This looked strange.  Next, I tried a single braid that ran from one side of her head to the other.  This looked way too lopsided.  I even learned how to make a waterfall braid and tried that on either side of her head...but it looked too messy.

I ended up with a very simple braid along the hairline on either side of Jo's face.  Sometimes less is more, I suppose.

Here she is without her outfit:


Here's a closer look at the braids:

Nothing fancy.
I gave Jo's body a good surface-cleaning with diluted bleach and now all of the dirt is gone:


And here's her new (slightly messy) back seam:


As you can see, her body doesn't have too many snags or picks in the fabric.

Now, for my favorite part of the post!  This is the part where I get to show you some behind-the-scenes glimpses of Rebecca's work as she designed and constructed Jo's outfit.

I really loved it when Rebecca sent me mock-up pictures and asked me what version of a feature I liked best.  I'll let you have some fun with this, too!

Which of the following three trim combinations do you like best for Jo's bodice?

Option 1: lace-lined collar
Option 2: plain collar
Option 3: plain collar plus grey lace "v" decoration
Which one do you like best?  I hope you agree with me because I loved option 3!

Here it is fully constructed:


And with a beautiful, full skirt:


I love the fabric choice for this dress.  It's a lightweight grey wool.  Not only is the color gorgeous (and an almost perfect match for Jo's eyes...), but it's the kind of fabric that is often used to make men's suits.  I love how this subtly hints at Jo's tomboyish personality, while the easy care of the fabric suits the character's practical, no-nonsense approach to life.

Rebecca suggested very early on in the project that Jo should have a red cloak, and I heartily agreed! This is one of the signature costume elements from the 2019 movie:


Rebecca started by sending me a snapshot of a cape that she had on hand for an 18-inch doll--just to give me an idea of where she was going:



I was delighted with this concept, so we moved on to picking fabrics!


I liked the velvety red in the lower right hand corner.  This fabric is soft on one side and shiny satin on the other.

Here's the nearly-completed cape!  It has a lovely, full hood:



The last decision we got to make was which clasp should be at the front of the cape.  I had these two excellent options:


We both liked the one on the right.  It has a subtle silver that goes beautifully with the dress.

Ok, let's take a look at Jo's complete outfit, from the bottom up!

First, here are her tights and boots:


Next, her pantaloons:


These have a delicate triangle lace trim:


Jo has a beautiful, full petticoat with red stitching:



And here she is in her dress!


Despite its simplicity, I'm happy with Jo's hairstyle.  A bun might have looked too severe with this dress.  As it is, the braid gives her a hint of the Meg's refinement, but the hair is still loose and carefree!


The wig looks dark brown in most lighting, but occasionally you can see the glints of auburn:


It's amazing how well Jo's eyes ended up matching this dress!  That was pure luck.



But let's go back and take a closer look at the dress!


The front is adorned with metal buttons and the delicate grey lace trim that I showed you earlier:


The sleeves are my favorite part.  They're just amazing!


There's a neat pair of tucks followed by a generous ballooning flare that ends in perfect little snap-close cuffs:


The dress closes in back with snaps, too:



I let Jo pose in this dress for a while so she could show it off from all angles!






You might notice that Jo's hair looks messy in some pictures, like this:


And then other times the hair falls into neater ringlets, like this:


That discrepancy is because every once and a while I'd stop to brush the hair.  The best way to brush this kind of wig is to separate it into small sections and brush each one individually, curling the ends around a finger to define the ringlets.  It takes a while, but the hair looks much nicer afterwards.

Anyway, here's Jo's official portrait:


And her comparison GIF:


She has the determined look I was hoping for, I think mostly because of those intense grey eyes!  They might be my new favorite doll eyes.

Jo loves her new dress so much, she wanted to do one more little dance for you so she could swish the full skirt around!




But of course the outfit is not complete with just the dress!  Here's the glorious red cape:


I apologize for the wrinkles, but my iron and ironing board are packed!  Jo does not seem to mind:



I love how this bright cape pairs with the grey dress!  It also goes nicely with Jo's dark hair.




The hood is nice and full, but it's hard to pull it up over Jo's long, wavy hair:


Another option is to fasten the cape over Jo's hair, like this:


Which allows the hood to be easily pulled up:


Here's the cape from the back with the hood up:


And with the hood down:




It's been getting pretty cold here in the last week, but I still wanted to take Jo out into the fresh air:


This was a chilling, windy day, but I think Jo liked the excitement of the changing weather!




The natural light does a good job of highlighting Jo's auburn hair:




This was especially true when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for a bit!


When the wind got especially biting, Jo could just pull up her hood...


...and then put it down again when the wind died.


As the day warmed up, Jo was even able to take her cape off for a few pictures:



I like this picture because it shows off the dress sleeve so well!


All of the grey wood and brown foliage in my yard right now offered a good backdrop for Jo's coloring:





After posing patiently for a while, Jo caught sight of a nearby tree with low branches...


...and she spent the rest of the afternoon climbing and exploring:


I'm sad to have reached the end of this little collection.  I really enjoyed immersing myself in the world of Little Women and thinking about the diverse and lovable March sisters.  It was also an honor to work with Rebecca from Stitch in Times Designs.  She enhanced my overall vision for these dolls, and her outfits brought the characters to life.

Here's a summary of all the work that was done on Jo:
-her head was separated from her body and her old wig and eyelashes were removed
-her vinyl parts were washed with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, soap, and water
-a scuff on her nose was sanded down
-her factory paint was stripped away, leaving a faint outline of her eyebrows
-her old eyes were removed
-a spot on her chin was treated with Remove-Zit and cleaned with Formula 9-1-1
-the treated vinyl was left to rest for several weeks
-she was given new premium grey glass eyes from Hand Glass Craft in the UK
-her head was sprayed with Mr. Super Clear sealant
-she was given new face paint, including lips, blush, freckles, and enhanced eyebrows
-she was given new Monique eyelashes and a dark auburn Timarie wig (also by Monique)
-loose stitching along one body seam was reinforced
-the cloth torso was surface-cleaned using diluted bleach
-the back seam was re-sewn
-she is wearing a four-piece outfit made by Rebecca from Stitch in Times Designs.  I added white tights and black boots to this ensemble

Jo still has a faint orange mark on her chin.  She also has some picks and snags on her cloth torso, and a missing body tag.  Because of the white stuffing used to shape her bottom, I am confident that she is a Denver doll from 1997-2000.  Other than those issues, she only has minor scuffs and shiny areas from being old.  Jo's new glass eyes make her an inappropriate toy for small children.

I'll do a quick group shot of these girls in the next few days, and then they will all be for sale on Etsy starting Friday, November 27th at 2:00pm EST.  I'm working on the giveaway doll, too, but I might not have time to post her before I move.

I hope you've enjoyed this collection!  And thank you so much for being patient with me as I work through all of the chaos of life these days.

8 comments:

  1. Simply gorgeous. Those grey eyes are mesmerizing and the dress is divine and looks luxurious. Please tell me Rebecca helped you with the Disney Princess collection too!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Luis! Oh-how I wish Rebecca had been a part of the princess collection! Most of those outfits had been commissioned before I met the amazing Rebecca, though. However, that collection is still quite exciting to me. There is a neat diversity of costuming! That will be the first thing I work on after I've moved. :)

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  2. She is so beautiful. I think she is the best out of the four.Hope you settled in your new home. Lots of love.

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    1. Thank you, dear Sadia. I'm not yet settled (still, in Maine!) but I greatly appreciate your kind words. I can't wait for the move to be over!!

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  3. Both the doll and the outfit are gorgeous, as always! And I like Jo's new freckle pattern; that small mark blends in easily.

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca! Yeah, I'm happy that the orange stain is in an unobtrusive place and that it could be missed with all of the freckles! :)

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  4. You are so kind! I'd originally thought that I would offer all of them to one buyer, but in the end I think I'll let people pick and choose. Similar to real life, the March sisters are together now, in their youth, but will go off into the world and make their own futures as independent women. ;)

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  5. That cape and the dress together are spectacular. Just, wow. I am holding my breath to see them all together! Good luck with the move and happy Thanksgiving!

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