Makeunder Doll Tutorial Pt 3: Making Shoes

Whoa…when I started this series I clearly forgot how much time tutorials take! Goodness.

But finally (FINALLY), the final installment on making makeunder/rescued dolls. This tutorial covers my very simple shoe-making process.

For the first part, a tutorial on repainting makeunder faces, go HERE!

For the second part, a tutorial on making simple dresses, go HERE!

And for the third part, a tutorial on making shoes, stay here.

Materials:

  • Polymer clay in whatever color you want your shoes to be
    • Preferably use Fimo clay or Sculpey Primo (the good stuff)
  • An exacto knife (or any sharp knife)
  • A marker or pen for rolling clay
  • A pen or pencil or paintbrush
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Q-Tips
  • Hot glue gun (preferably high-temp gun but a low-temp gun should work fine)
  • Cooking oil of some sort, or vaseline.
  • A doll (duh)

FORMING THE SHOES

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Humble beginnings.

Here is the clay I’m working with. The clay on the left is Fimo, and the clay on the right is lower-quality Sculpey III. I wouldn’t recommend the cheaper Sculpey III – use Fimo or Sculpey Primo or something. The higher-quality clay doesn’t pick up fingerprints as well, and it’s stronger so small children won’t break the shoes getting them on and off.

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Not many people know this, but I used to run an Etsy shop making tiny clay cupcakes and cakes. I ended up featured on Anderson Live! I had a shop in Etsy for a little over a year before I grew bored with the venture and stopped. But, working with clay so often gave me a head start on making shoes and other doll props with clay, so now I can pass on a bit of my clay knowledge!

Some Polymer Clay Background

If you don’t know what polymer clay is, it’s a plastic clay that hardens when baked. The higher-quality clay (Fimo and Sculpey Primo…anything that’s not the cheapest kind) is pretty sturdy stuff, but it becomes fragile and brittle if it’s too thin or if it’s baked improperly (not enough baking time or too much). It has to be baked on glassware, nothing else!

A note on choosing a color: this clay LOVES to pick up dust, and unless you want to spend half an hour sanding your shoes down after you bake them, I wouldn’t recommend using white or any other light color of clay for the shoes. It’s for your mental health, really.

Conditioning the Clay

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Pen for size reference.

Before you start working with clay, you should condition it first. ‘Condition’ is just a fancy way of saying you need to warm it up. Work it around with your fingers, smoosh it, roll it out and crumple it up…just get it nice and kneaded. Working with clay that is warm (literally warm, cold clay is rock hard) makes everything so much easier!

Once your clay is conditioned, roll it in a ball between your palms and then form it into a sort of log shape, shown above.

A note on surfaces: clay likes to stick to things, especially rough surfaces. For this project glass or tile is the best surface to work on, but you can make do with wax paper, aluminum foil, or just being really careful on whatever surface you have available.

Cut the log in half with an exacto knife or something sharp, then roll the two halves into balls.

Form the Shape

Now you’re ready to start forming the foot shape!

Here you can sort of tell the shape I was going for. I went with little booties with a rounded toe, although you can see in the left photo that there is a right and a left shoe, which I made by rounding the toe box out more on one side of the shoe.

The right photo shows the ankle. You can make yours shorter or taller depending on how you want your boots to look – but you can’t go too tall without making the boots fragile.

Making the Hole

…That sounds weirdly dirty. No. Just doll shoes! That’s all!

Take a pen, pencil, or the end of a paintbrush and smoosh it into the ankle part on the boot you just formed. This is the hole for the doll’s leg pegs to go into.

Work the pen around, making sure to stabilize the boot with your fingers as you work so the ankle doesn’t get too misshapen. If it does, just mold it back into place.

You want the hole to be a bit larger than the doll’s legs. The legs should fit in there with room to slip around.

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Now take a new ball of clay, get it nice and warmed up, then form it into a ball.

Roll the ball out into a long, thin rope. My clay rope (on the left) is about half the width of an exacto knife or pen.

Making even ropes out of clay is actually harder than you would think. Try to make it as even as possible by using your fingers to roll instead of your palm. Use both hands and roll slowly to prevent the rope from flopping around.

Now take whatever you want to use to roll the clay out and gently roll over the rope, working to make the new width of the rope even. I rolled this out with an exacto knife.

This flat rope is going to be the ankles on the booties! If you want taller booties, make the rope taller or wider, just remember it can’t be too thin – polymer clay (even Fimo and Sculpey Primo) isn’t the sturdiest of stuff when thinned out.

Cut two length of the flat rope, and gently wrap each one around the ankle part of the boot bottom you formed earlier. Then take your pen or something that fits into the hole of the boot and use that to help press the two boot parts together (with the pen on the inside and your finger on the outside of the boot).

Almost there!

Smoothing it Out

If you’re like me, your boots are a mess of fingerprints by now. If this was a crime scene we’d be screwed. CSI would love us. There are a couple ways to smooth everything out.

IMG_6185First, you can just lick your finger and use that to smooth out the clay. I normally don’t do this. You can also dab your finger in baby powder and rub it on the clay, using the baby powder as a film between the clay and your fingers to prevent more prints from showing up as you smooth the old ones away. I don’t do this with boots because it’s a bit messy, and because it doesn’t work very well with dark colors (baby powder is white, after all).

So…get some rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip.

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Dip the Q-Tip in a healthy amount of rubbing alcohol and start rubbing the fingerprints out.

Bake!

Bake according to the directions on your clay package. I bake mine for 15 minutes for every quarter inch of clay there is. So I bake my shoes for 30 minutes. It’s better to err on the side of overbaking, underbaking will only make the shoes brittle.

Make sure you bake on glass, nothing else!

After it’s done baking, let the shoes cool before you pop them off the glass bakeware.

Making the Leg Peg Hole….Things

Get out that glue gun and get it warmed up. While you’re waiting, put a bit of cooking oil or Vaseline onto a paper towel and rub the doll’s leg pegs with it. They should be coated in a thin layer of grease (not so much that it’s just dripping off, though, so don’t just dip the doll’s legs into oil).

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Fill the holes in the boots part way with hot glue. I normally fill the boots up to the line where the flat rope is wrapped around. Be careful not to over-fill, you don’t want the glue to spill out everywhere.

IMPORTANT! Before you stick the doll’s legs into the glue, WAIT for 10 seconds or so for the glue to cool a bit. You may not have to wait at all if you’re using a low-temp glue gun, though.

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Now, after you’ve waited for a few seconds (if you have a high-temp gun), carefully insert the doll’s legs into the center of the glue, pushing down until the pegs are fully covered.

If the doll’s legs aren’t perfectly straight, you may want to insert one leg at a time, instead of doing both at once.

Now let the glue dry. I normally let it dry COMPLETELY before removing the doll, so I let them sit for at least ten minutes or so. To get the doll out, start by twisting the shoe around the leg to loosen it up, then pop the leg out.

DECORATING!

Decorating is always the best part, for everything.

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I painted these shoes with acrylic paint, but you can do lots of different things! You can wrap ribbons around the part that I painted, you can glue bows on, you can cover the whole damn thing with glitter if you want!

You can also use thin foam sheets to cut out a sole for the shoe, if you like.

After painting these shoes I coated them both in super thick varnish to make them super shiny. Then I put them on our makeunder model, Andy!

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Makeunder/Natural Doll Tutorial Pt. II: Dressmaking

Hello hello! Took a bit longer to get this up than I wanted, but that’s because I actually made THREE of these same tutorials. Every time I made the dress I realized a better or faster way to make it, so I re-did the tutorial.

If you want to learn about repainting makeunder/rescued dolls, or making shoes, check out these two tutorials: REPAINT TUTORIAL and SHOE MAKING TUTORIAL

Disclaimer: this isn’t the perfect way to make a dress. I don’t finish  my seams inside the garment as nicely as many people do (if you are one of those saintly people, hats off to you!) and even as I made this tutorial, I realized a better way to make the skirt (which I’ll mention in writing, but I’m not making the tutorial over again or else it’ll never get written up!).

What will you learn in this tutorial?

This tutorial covers how I make a simple dress for Bratz dolls. I’ve modified this pattern and approach for other types of dolls, too, like Monster High and Ever After High. It’s easy to do.

What WON’T you learn in this tutorial?

This isn’t a tutorial that will teach you basic sewing skills. There will be plenty of pictures of what each step looks like after I’ve sewn it, but I assume that you have at least a beginner’s knowledge of sewing to carry you through.

MATERIALS:

  • A small amount of fabric (really, you can do this with a 1/4 of a fat 1/4 if you wanted)
  • A sewing machine (or a needle and thread and a very good, long movie)
  • Pins
  • Fray check liquid
  • A seam ripper for the inevitable screw-up (I don’t even put my seam ripper away anymore. It just stays out on my desk)
  • A fastener of some sort. I use velcro, you can use whatever.
  • Other random sewing notions you probably need…like scissors, marker, etc.

Um….I have a life, here, how long is this going to take?

Not long! I can crank one of these dresses out in 30 minutes.

STEP ONE: GET A PATTERN

Waaaaiiiit…..you don’t have a pattern? No biggie. We can make one.

I did this part over a year ago now, so unfortunately I don’t have great photos of how I did it (okay, I have no photos). But it’s not hard.

I didn’t buy a pattern because I had a tank top made by Bratz that I knew fit the dolls. If you have a Bratz top lying around, pull out those seam rippers and separate all the seams. Lay the pieces out on some thin cardboard or cardstock, and add a seam allowance of about 1/4 inch (or whatever you want).

Or if that sounds like too much work, or you don’t have a Bratz top, buy a pattern from some wonderful patient person who sells them on Etsy.

You don’t really need a skirt pattern. It’s just a rectangle, and even the most craft-challenged can manage that!

CUT OUT FABRIC PIECES

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Lay your top pattern over your fabric, making sure that any stripes/patterns are matching the way you want. Cut out the pieces! Make sure you have two layers of fabric cut for the top pieces, one for the right side, one for the lining. I sometimes use just a cheap white fabric for the lining, but I didn’t with this dress.

Cutting the skirt: The skirt I cut out here was about eight inches long. Notice the right side of the skirt has a little extra length cut out on top. This part will be to put the fastener on later (I use velcro, so I made the extra length the same width as my velco).

Keep in mind that this skirt will end up being rouched (or ruffled), so if you’re using a thinner fabric you can cut a longer strip because the skirt can be rouched more. If your fabric is thicker, like a normal cotton quilting fabric, you won’t be able to rouche the skirt as much because the rouched edge will be too thick for a tiny doll seam.

*Note to make this better* So remember I said I made this tutorial three times and found a better way to make this dress every time? Well, I could have made it a fourth time, but I’ll explain the difference now so I don’t have to do that. So instead of just cutting that extra little piece on the right side cut the little extra length thing on BOTH sides. One of the pieces will just be ironed flush with the skirt side so you can top stitch over it and keep the edge cleaner (this is explained better below). If you don’t cut out both sides of the skirt like that, the side without the extra length ends up being a visible raw edge, which is fine with some fray-check, but isn’t the most professional.

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Cut? Check.

MAKING THE TOP

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Pin together the top so the sides are lined up, right sides together of course. Stitch up the sides so you have the right side and the lining finished. If you’re using a pattern like mine, you’ll have three pieces of fabric stitched together, like in the photo below.

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Trim the seam allowances to about 1/4″. Don’t go much thinner than that or you may rip the stitching out later! (Bad).

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IRON! Get out the iron and press under a hem on the skirt. Be careful that you iron the shorter side of the skirt, not the side that has that little cut-out on it. If you want you can turn the hem over twice, I only do it once to cut down on bulk.

While you’re at it, press the seam allowances flat on the two pieces for the top, too. Helpful tip: press the allowances to the outside on the right side piece, and to the inside on the lining. This will help keep bulk down when you stitch them together.

ADDING STRAPS

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If you don’t want your dress to have straps, you can skip all this. I make a lot of my dresses strapless because it saves a lot of time.

But if you like the idea of straps, take the lining for the top and wrap it around the doll to check strap placement. Make sure the side seams are lined up with the doll’s sides, then mark where you want the straps to be.

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Cut out two strips of ribbon for the straps. I’ll be making halter straps for this tutorial, and the ribbons I cut were each about four inches long. I used the 1/4″ fabric for these straps because I’ll fasten them with velcro, and I’ve found velcro doesn’t really work on thinner ribbon.

In the photo on the left I’ve pinned the ribbon straps to the lining, over the markings. In the photo on the right I’ve pinned the right side of the top to the lining piece, right sides together, with the straps in between the two layers.

Caution: if your ribbons have a front and a back side (right and wrong side, whatever weird sewing terms you want), be sure you’ve pinned them the right way (I messed that up on the first tutorial draft).

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Go ahead and sew the sides and the top of both pieces together. Don’t stitch the bottom side, so you can turn the whole thing right-side-out and press.

Clearly, my stripes-matching was an epic fail.

THE SKIRT!

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Sew the hem on the skirt (the hem you pressed earlier. You did do that, right?). I hemmed and stitched a ribbon on at the same time.

Optional: if you want you can turn over the raw edge of the hem another time so you hide that raw edge completely. I don’t do this unless my fabric is thinner, because otherwise I find it too bulky. And really, this is like a three-inch-tall dress for a doll that probably had a really skanky face on before you got your hands on her, so she can’t really complain about a raw seam. Please, doll.

 

Time to rouche! Which means ruffle, if you don’t speak bourgeoisie sewing language. I’m probably not even spelling it right anyway (‘rouch,’ that is, I looked up ‘bourgeoisie’).

Sew two loooong running stitches along the top of the skirt. Set the stitch length to the longest possible. Then pull one thread from each line of stitching and pull everything together. I use my dress top to measure the dress as I’m rouching. You want the bottom of the bodice (BODICE! That’s the word I’ve been looking for) to be the same length as the top of the rouched skirt.

Bodice. Bodice bodice bodice. Got it.

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Pin the hell out of this bad boy adorable little dress. Remember to put the right side of the bodice and the right side of the skirt together. I sew two lines of stitching, one to reinforce.

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Now we’re going to sew up the back of the skirt. Line up the sides of the skirt as shown, with the little extra cutout thing sticking out.

*Making this better tip* In the beginning of all this I said you should cut the little extra length thing (my vocabulary is utterly failing me today, but I’m charging on without it, apparently) on BOTH sides of the skirt. If you did that (you did, didn’t you? jk I don’t judge if you didn’t), press one of the little extra lengths back so the folded edge lines up with the rest of the side. Press, and just top stitch that little fold so it’s a clean line. This will be the side of the dress that overlaps OVER the little cutout thing that wasn’t folded over.

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Okay stitch up the back of the skirt until you hit the bottom of the little extra cutout thing. Backstitch or otherwise reinforce the hell out of this seam, it will get tugged on when pulling the dress on and off those doll butts that are always weirdly big.

ADD A FASTENER! You’re almost done.

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I used stick-on velcro, which works pretty well if you heat-set it with an iron after (it’s not iron on, which would be awesome, but the iron gets the velcro sticky stuff all up in the fabric weave so it doesn’t come off).

Just make sure that you put the velcro (or other fastener of your choosing) on the correct sides of the fabric. The side of the skirt with that extra flap thing goes UNDER the side where the flap was folded over (or the side lacking a flap entirely). So figure that out before attaching the fastener (that was the mistake in tutorial draft number 2).

FRAY CHECK

Does your fray check smell toxic? Mine does. It’s concerning.

Anyway, take a bottle of that stuff and put it alll over any of the raw edges. Let dry thoroughly.

FINISHING THE STRAPS

Okay sorry for the switcheroo here, but I didn’t take pictures of this on the plaid dress I’ve been working with. So here’s the first dress I made for this tutorial (it’s very funky. Bad.)

Take your ribbon pieces and wrap them around the doll’s neck to measure the length you want for the halter. Trim to the appropriate length and stick some more velcro on there.

AND YOU’RE DONE! You can go enjoy a glass of, well, whatever you want, and a good movie. Or keep going and make some shoe!

Part three of the makeunder series, shoe making, is HERE!

Oh wait…if you want to add accessories like bows or bows or roses or buttons or bows…go for it. I did. 🙂

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Tutorial: Bratz Makeunder/Natural Repaint Pt. 1

Time for another makeunder tutorial! I did one a little under a year ago with  a Moxie Girlz doll, but my style has changed (and improved) so much I figured another tutorial would be helpful!

You can find the Moxie Girlz repaint tutorial HERE.

Update: now that I’ve finished all three parts of the Makeunder/Rescued Doll series, you can skip to my tutorials on DRESSMAKING and SHOEMAKING for dolls, if you like!

Also, because this is the part of the blog people seem to write random things totally unrelated to the post that no one cares about or reads, I JUST WENT TO THE MOTHER OF ALL JOANNS FABRICS STORES AND IT WAS HEAVEN. My quick trip (I literally needed two items) ended up taking two hours and about $40 more dollars than I planned on. I know all you crafty people know how that goes!

Back on track….

WHAT IS THIS TUTORIAL GOING TO TEACH ME?

This is part 1 of a three-part tutorial that goes through my process of rescuing or making-under dolls like Bratz or Moxie or whatever. Part one (you are here!) goes over the process of repainting the face. Part two will cover making a simple dress, and part three will show how I make simple shoes.

This isn’t a quick step-by-step photo tutorial. It’s really in depth, with lots of tips and tricks for repainting explained under each photo. But if you don’t want to read all that, you can go through the tutorial by looking at the photos. The captions to the photos explain what I did in what order.

What is this tutorial NOT going to teach me?

Lots of things, I suppose. Like how to cook chicken without over-cooking it (this is a problem I have 100% of the time). But as far as doll-related things goes….

  • First, this tutorial does not cover how to wash/tame/fix/style doll hair. If your doll needs a good salon day, head over to my tutorial HERE on how to fix doll hair.
  • Second, this tutorial won’t teach you much about the materials I use or how to prep the doll for a repaint (“what?! But that is so important!” I know. Don’t panic. It will be okay.).

GETTING STARTED (This is the part where you should start reading if you skipped all that stuff above).

Materials

  • Matt Spray Sealant like Mr. Super Clear
  • Chalk pastels
    • You’ll use pastel dust, which you make by scraping the surface of a chalk pastel bar.
  • High-quality watercolor pencils (Derwent or Faber Castell or Prismacolor)
    • You’ll use these dry…don’t get them wet!
  • White acrylic paint
  • Satin varnish (or glossy varnish, I don’t care, you don’t care).

If you have questions about any of these materials go check out my post on Materials and Doll Prep.

FIRST STEP: Preparing the Doll

What, you thought you could get away without reading my tutorial on Materials and Doll Prep? If you have any questions about how I remove factory makeup from the dolls, and protect and seal them, you should read that ‘Materials and Doll Prep’ link just above.

If you’re a veteran, get your doll all ready to start applying pencils and chalk dust.

How many layers of MSC do I spray before repainting?

It used to be that I only put one layer down. That’s not enough. I use 2-3 layers of spray sealant now, and it’s SO worth it. Trust me. Go spray another layer just to be sure.

Our Model

We’re going to call her Andy, because Andy is an adorable name for a girl.

Andy is a 2015 Bratz, so her head is bigger than the older Bratz, her body shape is quite different, and she has articulated knees (whoo!). This particular Andy is the ‘Hello My Name is…Meaghan’ doll I got in a five-pack of Bratz from ToysRUs (at a price that made it worth it, I promise).

In the photo on the right I’ve gone through all the prep necessary, including spraying two layers of MSC on her. We’re ready to go!

FIRST LAYER OF SEALANT


This doll was done using only three layers of MSC after I started repainting. So we’re going to go by layer, because I’ve found it’s the most efficient use of MSC (which is expensive; you definitely want to minimize your use).

* Note on how this tutorial is organized: each picture has  a caption with numbered subjects. Each subject is then elaborated on (in numerical order) underneath the photo.

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1. Eye outlines. 2. Eyelid creases. 3. Eyebrows

1. EYE OUTLINES

Very first thing I do is outline the eyes. I never move on until after I’ve gotten both eye outlines where I want them.

Eye placement and size

The bigger the eyes are, the younger the doll will look (until they’re so big it’s just creepy. Don’t go to that place). I find that the 2015 Bratz look better with eyes about the size I did here. Smaller eyes start to look out of place on the super large heads. I went with medium-large eyes. They could be a little bigger, but not much.

As far as placement goes, on a big-headed doll I make the eyes wider than normal. You can see the shadows in the picture above where her ‘eye sockets’ are. I’ve made my eyes a bit wider than the sockets, and they’re definitely wider than the original factory paint.

Um….How Do I Make My Eyes Symmetrical? 

Practice? But seriously, practice. Some tricks I used in the beginning:

  • Do the left eye first so you can copy it while drawing the right eye (or if you’re left handed, do the right eye first). This way your hand isn’t blocking the finished outline.
  • Don’t be afraid to modify both outlines to make them match. I set one down, then the other, then I go back to the first and change it, then so on.
  • If you have a hard time reaching one of the eyes, turn the doll upside-down to work on it.
  • Look at the eyes from different angles, especially from the top (bird’s eye view). This is SO HELPFUL!
  • Don’t be shy about taking a ruler out and measuring distances between the corners of the eyes and the bridge of the nose.
  • Hold a pencil (or anything straight) against the bridge of the doll’s nose and make sure your eyes line up along the pencil. I use this to make sure the corners of the right and left eyes are on the same plane.
  • Hold the doll up to a mirror for a different perspective.
  • Put thin outlines down, and make them more symmetrical by making them thicker in the same places.
  • Practice. Repeat.

2. EYELID CREASES

After the eye outlines are in place, you can pencil in the eyelid creases!

To achieve a more natural, child-like face, I keep the creases rounded and fairly close to the upper lash line of the doll’s eyes. For other dolls I might make the eyelid larger and the eyes less round (this achieves a more sultry look).

I also do a double-crease, just because….why not?

3. EYEBROW OUTLINE

Now for the brows.

I only pencil in an outline for the outer edges of the brows, because I’ll fill in the rest with chalk pastels. These brows are going to be pretty neutral brows, nothing crazy going on!

 

Caption: 1. Fill in brows. 2. Eye whites.

1. EYEBROWS

This is where the chalk pastels come in. Make some chalk pastel dust in the right color for your brows. Then use a small flat brush (I use my black 10/0 flat brush for this) to pick up some pastel dust and fill in the eyebrows.

You can go back and clean the brows up with a kneaded eraser (the weird grey kind that’s like gummy clay) or any eraser, really.

2. EYE WHITES

Using a white pencil, fill in the eyes. A lot of people have trouble getting the whites to show up well enough, and this is normally because they didn’t seal the doll enough before beginning. The picture shows just one layer of pencil, and it shows up so well only because I sprayed two layers of MSC on the doll before starting.

If your white watercolor pencil isn’t showing up like mine, don’t worry, you’ll just need some extra layers of MSC sprayed on to make the color show up more.

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1. Nostrils

1. NOSTRILS

Use a dark brown or medium brown pencil to mark two nostrils, about the shape of those in the photo. Make sure they’re centered as well as possible, and even. As far as placement goes, I put them right where the nose mold curves into the lip.

Warning: don’t make them too round or too tall! The doll will look pig-nosed (of course, if you adore pigs, go for it).

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1. Lip outline

1. LIP OUTLINE

Use a dark or medium-brown pencil to make two very small dots in the corners of the mouth. Then draw a thin dark line from the dots towards the center of the mouth. My line is only about 4 millimeters long: they’re very short.

Then use a pink or red or whatever-lip-color-you-want pencil to outline the corners of the lips, and the upper lip curve. If you don’t want the lines to be too noticeable, use a lighter pink or nude pencil.

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1. Eye shading. 2. Nose shading.

1. EYE SHADING

Break out those chalk pastels again! Make pastel dust in nude colors. Here, I used  light tan, tan, and brown dust to shade the eyes.

Starting with the lightest shade, use a small flat brush (I’m using my black 10/0 that I used for the brows) to shade above the larger eyelid crease and the outer eyelids. I also used some of the tan dust under her lower lash line.

 

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Note on natural v. makeup looks: for a natural look, this shading should be fairly light. If you want the eyes to look more deep-set, you can use some darker shading, but you have to be very careful not to go overboard. If you want your doll to have a more smokey-eye look, just use darker/not-nude colors to shade!

2. NOSE SHADING

For the nose, use the light tan and tan dust to make the bottom of the nose (area around her nostrils) a bit darker. You can bring the dust up the sides of the nose if you want more realism.

Warning: I would advise against using a pencil to outline the bottom of the nose. I haven’t been able to do it where it looked natural, so I only shade with pastels. But if you are a braver soul than I…I can’t stop you.

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1. White highlights.

1. WHITE HIGHLIGHTS

This is more a personal style preference, so it’s up to you.

I use a white or off-white pencil to mark highlights around the doll’s tearducts and eyelid creases, and her upper lip curve.

Note: If you’re nervous about how white and bold these highlights are, don’t worry. They’ll fade a bit after they’re sprayed with sealant.

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1. Waterline.

1. WATERLINE

Use a dark brown (or whatever color you outlined your eyes with) pencil to add a waterline to the doll’s eyes just underneath the lower lash line you already drew. I keep them very narrow, and only extend this waterline to about the middle of the lower lash line. You can extend it all the way if you want; it’s just a personal preference.

 

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1. Color the waterline. 2. Fill in lips.

1. COLOR THE WATERLINE

Use a light pink pencil to color in the waterline until it ends and hits the white highlight pencil.

2. FILL IN THE LIPS

Using pink/red pastel dust, fill in the lips. I use a larger brush for this (my short clear makeup brush that I show in the Materials and Prep blog linked at the beginning of this tutorial).

I use darker pastel dust in the corners of the mouth and the center of the upper and lower lips.

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1. Blush

1. BLUSH

Using pink/light pink pastel dust, use a fluffier larger brush to blush the doll’s cheeks. I use a fluffy eyeshadow brush for this.

I use a lighter pink dust to blush the doll’s chin and center of forehead.

Why blush now and not earlier?

Because we’re trying to minimize sprays of sealant, I do blush right before I’m about to seal the doll. If it’s done earlier in the process it’s super easy to smear the blush dust all over the place, which sucks.

SEAL WITH A THIN LAYER OF MSC (OR WHATEVER)

SECOND LAYER


First, let the layer of MSC dry for ten-fifteen minutes.

IMG_6046
1. Iris outline. 2. Eyebrow lines.

Tiny note: see how much the white highlights faded? It’s more natural-looking now.

1. IRIS OUTLINE

Using a color that is a shade or two darker than the shade you want your iris to be, make two round outlines for the iris. For example, I’m going for light blue eyes, so I used a dark blue pencil to outline here. You can go as dark as black, though, if you want.

I made Andy’s eyes looking to her left, but it’s easier to make eyes that are looking straight forward, if you’re just starting out.

Placement

Your outline shouldn’t be perfectly round. The iris should always be partly obscured by the upper eyelash (if it isn’t the doll will look crazy or terrified or some horrifying combination of both). For a rounder, more Caucasian eye, the bottom of the iris should just touch the lower lash line. For a more almond-shaped eye, or an Asian eye, the bottom of the iris can be partly obscured by the lower lash line, but generally not as much as it is obscured by the top lash line.

2. EYEBROW LINES

Using a pencil with a darker color than the pastels used to fill in the brows, use fast, short strokes to create individual ‘hairs’ inside the eyebrows.

I also colored in the outer edges of the eyebrows with a dark brown pencil to make them more solid. I often make the outer edges of the brows darker than the inner edges.

IMG_6053
1. Iris color. 2. Iris shading. 3. Pupils.

Oops, I forgot to take more pics of this process (sorry, I was watching Jurassic World and got REALLY caught up. Ahhh the raptors!).

1. IRIS COLOR

After penciling in the outline, color in the whole iris with the lightest shade you want in your eye. I chose a very light blue for this.

2. IRIS SHADING

Then take a darker pencil and lightly shade in the top 1/3 of the iris, trying to blend it into the lighter color as well as possible.

3. PUPILS.

Using a black or dark brown pencil, pencil in the pupils using circular strokes. Start small, then build them outward so they don’t get too big too fast (if they get really big, your doll is going to look really stoned, which would be funny, but probably is not the intent).

IMG_6055
1. Small eye line things.

1. SMALL EYE LINE THINGS

Using a dark brown or black or dark blue/green/purple/I-don’t-care pencil, make tiny lines in the irises, radiating out from the pupils.

IMG_6058
1. Make upper lash line darker. 2. Eye whites.

1. DARKEN UPPER LASH LINE

Sorry about the lighting that keeps changing in these photos. I was chasing the good natural light around my tiny studio, which is definitely easier said than done!

Use a black pencil to make the upper lash line a bit darker and thicker. This is less ‘natural,’ so I suppose it’s my own personal style preference. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but I’d recommend it.

If you want a more natural look, use dark brown instead of black.

2. EYE WHITES

Using a light grey pencil, very lightly shade the part of the whites that is just beneath the upper lash line.

Then, go over the entire whites with white pencil (including the grey, unless you want your shadow more pronounced).

IMG_6059
1. White highlights. 2. Lip lines.

1. WHITE HIGHLIGHTS

If you want the white highlights to be more pronounced, go over the white highlights again with your white or off-white pencil. Remember, after we seal the final time they’ll fade a bit more.

2. LIP LINES

Using a light red/dark pink pencil, draw tiny lines inside the lips. These are the lip creases that most people have!

SEAL WITH A THIN COAT OF MSC!

THIRD LAYER


Remember to wait for the MSC to dry!

IMG_6062
1. Eyelashes. 2. Eye whites. 3. Darken Pupils. 4. Highlights

 

1. EYELASHES

Technically you could do these on the previous layer. I sometimes do that. But I normally try and do them after sealing because I often have to erase them once or twice to get them perfect, and I don’t want to ruin anything underneath.

For the upper lashes I do thicker more doll-like lashes using a black pencil. For the lower lashes I use a dark brown pencil and do tiny, thin, straight lashes until the waterline ends. For a more natural look on the upper lashes, you can use a dark brown pencil instead of black, or you can just make the lashes thinner and shorter!

2. EYE WHITES

Go over the whites of the eyes with white pencil again. If you want more shadow, add more light grey underneath the upper lash line.

3. DARKEN PUPILS

Go over the pupils once more with a black pencil, or dark brown, or whatever color you chose for the pupils (they don’t always have to be black!). If you want you can also darken the shading in the irises.

4. HIGHLIGHTS

If you want, go over all the highlighted areas from earlier again with a white or off-white pencil. If you like where they’re at already, you don’t have to go over them again.

However, ALSO add some thin white lines to the lower 1/3 of the irises, and to the lips.

IMG_6063
1. Freckles.

Sorry about the weird green lighting. Dunno what was going on there.

1. FRECKLES

Optional, of course, but Andy’s a redhead so I decided to give her some freckles with a tan pencil. So adorable. Love freckles.

SEAL WITH A LAYER OF MSC

FINAL LAYER


Let that stuff dry.

IMG_6064
1. Unwrap doll. 2. Catch-lights.

1. UNWRAP DOLL

She’s looked like a serial killer victim for long enough. And she’s SO CUTE!

2. CATCH-LIGHTS IN EYES

Or eye reflections, whatever you want to call them.

Mix up one drop white acrylic paint with two drops of water to thin the paint down. Then, using a toothpick, make a small white dot in the same place in each eye. Then make a couple other small white dots (or not, the number of white dots is up to you. I use two-three, normally).

Just make sure the white dots are in the same place in each eye (for the most part).

IMG_6069
1. Varnish

1. VARNISH

 

Using a gloss or satin brush-on varnish, brush a coat over the eyes and lips (or eyes only if you don’t want the lips to be a bit glossy).

I have a satin varnish, and I used one coat on the eyes, and two coats on the lips, so the lips are shinier.

And she’s done! I don’t have Part 2 written up yet, but I’ll try to do that this week. Stay tuned!

Furthermore, if you like Andy, you can adopt her on my Etsy page, here! She comes with a cute pair of glasses, a pink dress, and booties.

IMG_6070

 

 

How I Made Thirty Doll Dresses

Two years ago, I made a promise to myself.

I will not make doll clothes. I WILL NOT make ANY doll clothes AT ALL. EVER. 

At the time, I think I was trying to save myself hypertension issues, because who in their right mind wants to make super tiny doll clothes?

Me, apparently.

The past two weeks I spent visiting my parents in the house where I grew up. Incidentally, I store my sewing machine in that house so it doesn’t distract me while I’m living my life in Colorado.

Two weeks before I left on vacation I bought a gazillion used Bratz dolls who came naked (of course), and I couldn’t find a cost-effective method of clothing them. Except making clothes myself.

I began collecting fabric that would work for dolls, meaning it had to have small print or no print at all, be in child-friendly colors, and be mix-and-match-able.

I tried to buy a pretty large variety of fabric, mostly so I don’t get bored while sewing. Buying such a huge variety of patterns and colors in amounts like “four inches, please” and “a quarter yard,” gets you some weird looks. But it may be that the ladies who work at my JoAnn’s Fabrics are just really judge-y.

Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar....What? Don't judge.
Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar….What? Don’t judge.

Pattern-making.

I hate buying patterns, but I recognize that sometimes they are a necessary evil. Picturing how clothing comes apart is a skill I don’t actually have, so I invested in some initial patterns. They were okay. The design was cute but literally everyone makes this dress, because it’s super easy and versatile. I wanted something different, but still easy.

Either way, I bought the pattern, made it, sized it up to fit a Moxie Girlz (why the ‘z’ MGA?!!)  doll, and that was all set.

I settled on a strapless dress with a full gathered skirt (because hemming circle skirts is the worst). To make the pattern I took a Bratz top I had gotten with the naked dolls, used a seam ripper to take it apart, and traced it onto paper with a seam allowance added.

That’s it.

Assemble!

I started my stopwatch.

Okay, my smartphone timer.

It took me twenty-five minutes to make a dress, starting from cutting the fabric. The twenty-five minutes doesn’t include sewing velcro onto the back, though. But some things can be sped up by assembly-lining, and I was tired of getting up and down and up and down and walking from the iron to the sewing machine and back.

So I started cutting out bodices and didn’t stop. I cut out enough bodice pieces to make about sixteen dresses.

I sewed the pieces together. Each side of the bodice (these are lined) requires three individual pieces stitched together. So the completed bodice takes six individual pieces.

The pieces sewn together (partly).
The pieces sewn together (partly).

After the front and lining pieces are stitched together for twelve dresses, I turned them all right-side-out and ironed them flat.

The bodice stitched together and turned right-side-out.
The bodice stitched together and turned right-side-out.
Pressed flat.
Pressed flat.

That’s the hard part!

Then I cut out twelve skirt pieces, which are just rectangles varying from about 11 by 3 inches to 8 by 2.5 inches. A shorter rectangle makes for a less-full skirt (8 inches as opposed to 11). You also have to be conscious of the fabric you’re using: stiffer fabric will make a fuller skirt, and thinner fabric will be less full.

Skirt strips.
Skirt strips.

Apparel fabric is my favorite to work with, for doll purposes. It’s thin but sturdy. A close second favorite of mine is lower-quality quilter’s fabric that has a relatively loose weave. It gathers neatly.

After I have all the skirt pieces I drag them over to the iron, press the sides in and press the hem up.

Hemmed skirts.
Hemmed skirts.

Then I sew around the sides and hem. Sometimes I’ll add some ribbon to the bottom, just to dress it up a bit more. Ribbon on the bottom will stiffen the hem and make the skirt seem fuller, however, so it’s best to not use ribbon with thick or stiff fabric.

Unless you want a tutu.

After everything is hemmed, I sew two basting seams across the top of each skirt so it can be gathered.

Then for the fun part: sewing the bodice to the skirt.

I start by pinning the edges of the bodice to the edges of the skirt. Then I gather the skirt to match the length of the bodice, and pin the hell out of it.

Pinned the bodice to the skirt.
Pinned the bodice to the skirt.

Stitch them together, and ta-da! A dress.

Now I add the velcro. I have a sticky velcro, but the destructive power of five-year-old girls is not to be underestimated, so I tried to stitch it down in a couple places for good measure.

NO NO NO! Do not use adhesive velcro, unless you want a gummy needle, gummy thread, and gummy sewing machine. I made the adhesive really, really sticky by ironing it in place after sticking it down, and I think it’ll hold against normal five-year-old wear and tear. We’ll see.

A few dresses didn't match the others, so they got left out of the picture. But I did make them, I promise.
A few dresses didn’t match the others, so they got left out of the picture. But I did make them, I promise.

There was one batch. I did the whole thing again with a different size of dress. The ones above fit Bratz, and then the ones below (my second batch of dresses) fit Moxie dolls.

IMG_3345IMG_3346…And there was the other batch.

And then I checked in to my flight 24 hours prior to boarding, as is recommended, packed up all my sewing stuff…

After  two weeks of sewing. But it probably looked about the same two hours after I began sewing...
After two weeks of sewing. But it probably looked about the same two hours after I began sewing…

… Swept the floor…

Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar....What? Don't judge.
Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar….What? Don’t judge.

… And went home.

Favorite my Etsy page for notifications when I have new dolls wearing these dresses!

Tutorial: How to Curl Doll Hair

Doll hair just looks better when it’s curled into adorable little ringlets that are going to be destroyed by an enthusiastic five-year-old girl shortly after receipt.

There are a few different kinds of curls you can go for, and this tutorial focuses on curling hair into ringlets as opposed to natural wavy curls.

What you need:

  • A doll with medium-long hair
  • Pipecleaners
  • Tinfoil (sort of optional)(actually, not optional)
  • A comb or brush
  • Boiling water

To start, your doll hair needs to be straightened and brushed. If you’re starting with a doll with messy hair, follow THIS tutorial to brush and straighten the hair. Then come back here!

We’ll use Violet as our model today.

IMG_2761

To see how I repainted Violet, check out here Transformation Story HERE! Also, look for her in my Etsy shop later this month. She’ll have clothes on by then, because even faeries can’t walk around naked all the time.

1. Cut up the tinfoil and pipecleaner.

Here are my tinfoil pieces and pipe cleaners. Also a comb.
Here are my tinfoil pieces and pipe cleaners. Also a comb.

The tinfoil will be wrapped around the bottom of the small sections of hair, so the size of the rectangle depends on how small you want your ringlets to be. The smaller the ringlet, the smaller the foil. For a section of hair slightly smaller than the width of a pencil I make my rectangles about 1.5 x 1 inch (approx. 4 x 1.5 cm). You could probably go for a square, too: 1 x 1 inches or 1.5 x 1.5 cm.

You need one foil rectangle for each section of hair you curl, in between 10 and 15, depending on how much hair the doll has.

The pipecleaner straws should be cut into lengths in between 2-4 inches. Sort of up to you and what style of curl you’re going for.

2. Get the hair wet. 

You don’t get a picture of this.

It shouldn’t be drenched, but wet hair is a bit easier to work with than dry hair because wet hair will stick together and isn’t affected by static.

3. Section and wrap the hair. 

Now you can start sectioning out the hair, wrapping the end of each section with the foil strip or square.

Halfway there.
Halfway there.

What a pain! Why do I even have to do this!? 

You don’t have to do this. But the foil strips will help the ends of the hair stay in place, and it will also help the hair sections curl down to the very tip. Without the foil strips the hair will curl the same, but I often have to clip off the ends of the hair when the ends didn’t curl as well as the rest. If you don’t care about cutting the doll’s hair feel free to not use foil.

All done. See how I haven't slid the tinfoil down to the end of the hair? That's to keep the foil from slipping off when I'm wrapping the rest of the sections.
All done. See how I haven’t slid the tinfoil down to the end of the hair? That’s to keep the foil from slipping off when I’m wrapping the rest of the sections.

*NOTE: some people like to combine this step with the next by sectioning out a piece of hair, wrapping it in foil, and then wrapping it around the pipecleaner before sectioning out the next piece of hair. The advantage to this is that you can get slightly neater curls by brushing out the section, wrapping in foil, and then wrapping before the section of hair gets mussed. Feel free to mix and match the steps!*

4. Put the hair in ‘rollers.’ 

Slide the foil down to the end of the hair.
Slide the foil down to the end of the hair.

Did you guys hate having your hair in rollers as much as I did when I was a kid? My mom used to put these horrid pink plastic rollers in my hair for Easter. It was the dreaded Easter hair-do to go along with the dreaded Easter dress to go along with the dreaded Easter mass.

If you hated rollers like I did, you can now get some vindictive pleasure out of making an innocent little doll suffer, too. Now is the time. Seize the day.

Wrap the pipe cleaner around the foil.
Wrap the pipe cleaner around the foil.

Take a section of hair and make sure the foil is covering the end of the hair. Pinch the foil-wrapped end with the pipecleaner by folding the end of the pipecleaner over the foil. This will help keep the end of the hair section in place. Now roll the pipecleaner up the strand of hair.

When it’s all rolled, secure the roll by wrapping the pipecleaner around it.

The first roll.
The first roll.

There are different ways to roll. If you want looser ringlets you might want to roll so that each rotation isn’t directly above the previous rotation. You basically roll the section of hair so that it spreads out over the space of an inch or so. If you want tighter ringlets you do want to roll so that each rotation is directly above the previous rotation, so that the completed roll is only about 1-1.5cm wide (you all love how I’m mixing my measurement units from metric to imperial, I know).

Violet’s curls will be very tight because I rolled all the hair on top of each other.

So now your doll looks something like this:

All rolled up!
All rolled up!

5. Boil the head. 

This is another point at which you get to torture the doll.

Boil water by whichever method you prefer. If you are a small child or just an accident-prone person PLEASE GOD GET SOMEONE TO HELP YOU WITH THIS. Hot water is hot.

Put the hot water into a bowl deep enough to submerge the doll’s hair. Then stick the doll’s head into the water, making sure that all of the rolls are submerged.

6. Wait. 

This is an easy one. Just let the doll lounge around in the hot water for five minutes or so. I normally forget about it and just leave the doll until someone in my family tells me to get the creepy doll off the counter.

7. Cold set (optional)

After taking the head out of the hot water, put her head into some cold water to set the hair.

NOTE: you only have to do this if the water she was lying in was still hot/warm at the time you pulled her out. If you forgot about it like me, and by the time you remembered the water was cold, you don’t need to cold-set.

8. Let dry. Or don’t. Whatever.

After you take the doll out of the water, hold her upside-down over the sink to let any water in her head drain out. You can lightly dab at the hair with a towel to get some of the excess water out.

Now let the doll’s hair dry. You can let it dry halfway or all the way before removing the pipecleaners. I normally dry it halfway because it makes it easier to tame frizzies if it’s not completely dry.

9. Remove the hardware. 

Gently undue the pipecleaner rolls and slide the foil off. If the curl gets messed up during this process you can neaten it with your fingers. The curls will snap back into place when they are unrolled, unless they weren’t boiled enough.

I split each ringlet in half after taking the pipe cleaners out to get slightly more volume in the hair.
I split each ringlet in half after taking the pipe cleaners out to get more volume in the hair.
She knows she's the cutest faerie ever.
She knows she’s the cutest faerie ever.

Other stuff you can do to make the curls look nicer.

Every time I take the pipecleaners out I’m always a little disappointed. Mostly this has to do with me being impatient and rolling the hair as fast as possible. But the way that the curl’s get rolled up is the exact way they will lay when they are unrolled. That said, it’s hard to get them perfect!

I always break up the ringlets with my fingers after unrolling them, and this takes all my disappointment away! I split each ringlet in half, and it makes the curls look MUCH better.

Tips for keeping the ringlets nice. 

First, don’t give the doll to an enthusiastic five-year-old girl. But in the event that that isn’t an option, there are a couple other thing you can do to help the ringlets.

Second, don’t brush the ringlets, unless you don’t want them to be ringlets anymore. Like I mentioned above, if your ringlets are larger than you wanted them to be, you can split each one in half by separating the section of hair with your fingers.

I have had some success with taking the pipecleaners out of the hair while the hair was still damp and lightly spraying each ringlet with hair spray. I don’t like to do this when the hair is dry because the spray won’t go on clear (unless you use really nice hair spray but I refuse to use my nice hair spray on a doll I found in a thrift store).

I’ve also put a light coating of hair mousse on each ringlet while the hair was still damp. This works super well if you have the patience to re-roll each section of hair after applying mousse, but I’ve never had that kind of patience.

IMG_3119

Transformation Story: Devon; Part II (Bratzillaz)

Why work on my real job when I can just paint dolls instead?

That was rhetorical.

Here’s part two of Devon’s transformation, her repaint! If you missed part one and want some tips on fixing wobbly heads, removing ink stains, and taming hair, check it out HERE.

Here’s the ‘Before’:

If only 80s hairstyles were still in...
If only 80s hairstyles were still in…

She was a Hot Mess. She came with another Bratzillaz, Violet, who I repainted first. If you want more tips on painting Bratzillaz and on using PearlEx powder, you can check her Transformation Story out HERE.

This doll has been named Devon. She’s a teenage witch, and attends a school for witches and other creatures with magical powers. That’s how she met her best friend, Violet, who’s a flower faerie. 

And ^ that is what happens when I watch fantasy TV shows while repainting dolls.

I wanted Devon to have a lot of character. Her friend Violet came out very nice and innocent and flower-faerie-ish, and I thought it would be fun if Devon had a noticeably different personality. She’s the edgy one of the duo.

IMG_3061As I’ve mentioned in other tutorials, eyebrows are the main conveyor of personality, so I knew right away that Devon would have a raised eyebrow and a lot of sass. I also figured I’d put some darker makeup on her.

At this point I think I’ve actually lost her body, because her head has been impaled on a Bic pen for so long.

Her eye shadow is a mixture of browns, black, and a dark purple (all chalk pastels). She also got heavier eyeliner compared to Violet. Her lips will be a reddish pink.

I broke down and decided that because Violet got glitter (and I mean glitter EVERYWHERE) Devon could have glitter. Check out Violet’s transformation story for more on PearlEx glitter.

IMG_3066Instead of putting glitter all over Devon’s face, though, she just got a touch on her eyelids and a dusting over her cheeks.

Because she still looked too ‘normal’ at this point I put some tiny black stars around her eyes. Because that’s…witchy….kind of…

IMG_3064 - Copy

Transformation Story: Devon; Part I (Bratzillaz)

For the rescuers out there: you know when you get a doll from Ebay or Craigslist or wherever, and when she comes in the mail and you look at her you can’t help but think “what the hell happened to you?!”

Meet Devon, the red-head on the left.

Read on for tips on taming doll hair, fixing doll heads, and removing ink stains from doll faces.

They look worse in real life. This photo doesn't do the tragedy justice.
They look worse in real life. This photo doesn’t do the tragedy justice.

Devon arrived a Hot Mess with a capital H (and M). I have honestly no idea how a child could take a doll and mess it up so much. Did it get run over with a car? Did you try to draw and quarter it? Did you think her face would look better with blue marker over all of it?

“Yes” to all of the above!

To categorize the damage:

  • Her hair was not in optimal condition. As in, it had been converted into a mass of frizz and then a frustrated mom, in an attempt to tame it, put the frizz into five braids that really didn’t help the situation much.
  • Her stomach joint (yes, stomach joint) was a little loose. Still haven’t figured out how to fix that without drawing and quartering her all over again.
  • Her head was so wobbly it was pretty much just not attached to the neck anymore.
  • Best yet, there was blue marker all over her face.

The hair.

If only 80s hairstyles were still in...
If only 80s hairstyles were still in…

Fixing the hair was a three-day process. Now, hair is normally something I spend about half an hour on per doll. That’s it. I have no patience for hair.

For Devon, though, I was willing to put in more time only because I love Bratzillaz. Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of the process, but it went something like this: brush brush brush brush boil boil brush boil brush pour pour brush brush scream in frustration boil brush. Brush.

For an in-depth tutorial on fixing, smoothing, and straightening doll hair, see my post here.

And after all that, here she is:

Look at the waves!
Look at the waves!

The head.

I followed the method explained in a video here by Novastar Dolls. Bratz and Bratzillaz are both made by the same company, as are Moxies, so their neck joints are all built the same way, and can thus be fixed the same way.

The only change I made to the steps in the video was to heat up the head by immersing it in hot water before I popped it off and on. The heat makes the vinyl more flexible, which makes it easier to remove the head. Heated vinyl is less likely to tear or crack, as well.

The face.

The stains are on her nose, cheeks, and chin.
The stains are on her nose, cheeks, and chin. They’re a little difficult to see from a computer screen.

Before I could repaint Devon, I had to get the stains out of her face.

If you have  a doll with ink stains or marker stains on her face, you know that acetone won’t get them out. You have to bleach the stains out, but regular bleach doesn’t work.

I used:

  1. Acne spot treatment with 10% benzoyl peroxide.
  2. UV rays (sun)

IMG_2829I bought a cheap acne treatment from Walgreens (it was about $5.50), and then removed Devon’s factory paint with acetone, being very very careful not to get acetone on her acrylic eyes (it will melt them). Then I used a Q-Tip to liberally apply the cream to the marker stains on her face.

IMG_2830It looks like shaving cream.

Then I put her out on the porch, hoping that the sun would do it’s work and I could get to work on the faceup in the evening.

Of course, that didn’t work out, because I live in Colorado, USA, where the weather is notorious for NEVER DOING NORMAL, PREDICTABLE THINGS. The sun immediately disappeared and it started thunderstorming out of the blue, so I gave up hope and decided to start a custom project for a customer.

Five days later….So the sun came back. Finally.

Technically, the sun came back two days later, but I have some carpenters re-building my deck and I figured I’d spare them the trauma of building around a body-less doll with white cream all over her face. See, that was nice and considerate of me.

After a day in the sun, all the stains were gone!

Blog_FB

Part II of Devon’s Transformation Story: the repaint!

Click HERE for more Transformation Stories!

Back to Basics: How to Fix and Straighten Doll Hair

So you just got another doll to rescue, and like many dolls in need of rescuing, her hair is styled in the ever-fashionable ‘single dreadlock’ style.

Shiiiiiiiiit.

Darn.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • A sturdy, wide-tooth comb (or a fork)
  • A fine-tooth comb
  • Scissors (unless you have the patience of a Saint)
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Boiling water

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

1. Put a movie on. Seriously, that is an important step.

2. Stare in misery at the doll. Start by staring in misery at the dreaded mass of doll hair. Just take it all in.

My name is Rapunzel and my hair is a mess.
My name is Rapunzel and my hair is a mess.

3. Brush the hair out. Begin brushing the hair out with the wide-tooth comb or the fork. I take small sections of hair and brush from bottom to top. Brushing from bottom to top helps keep little snarls from developing (or worsening) as you brush. This is the step that takes me the longest.

I'll let you figure out the before and after.
I’ll let you figure out the before and after.
Finished with the first brush-through. Minor hair loss was involved.
Finished with the first brush-through. Minor hair loss was involved. No idea why this picture is green.

4. Shampoo and condition. Once the doll’s hair is pretty much brushed out—at least, you can kind of get a comb through it, sorta—shampoo and condition it. Depending on how badly tangled the hair is, I’ll comb the hair after I’ve put shampoo in it, but before rinsing. The soap helps keep the snarls from reforming. After conditioning, but before rinsing, I brush the hair out once again. And then AGAIN, I brush after rinsing for the final time.

Brushed after sudsing with shampoo. Pretty sure 'sudsing' is not a word.
Brushed after sudsing with shampoo. Pretty sure ‘sudsing’ is not a word.

Some people condition the hair with coconut oil. But let’s be real, I can’t even afford to cook with that stuff let alone use it on plastic doll hair. So I use Pantene conditioner that I got from the clearance rack of my local grocery store.

Hair cut. Also a great shot of the messiest workspace ever.
Hair cut. Also a great shot of the messiest workspace ever.

5. Trim the hair (optional). Sometimes the bottom inch or two of a doll’s hair is really, REALLY frizzy, even after all this. I have a pretty good feel for when frizzy hair can be fixed with boiling water and when it can’t be, so if I think the hair is just too dense and frizzy at this point the best thing to do is just cut an inch or so off.

When I trim a doll’s hair I layer it, so that the bottom layer of hair is the longest and the top layer of hair is the shortest. All in all, the bottom and top layers probably differ in length by a centimeter. It’s not much but it helps the hair lay flatter.

If I’m going to curl the doll’s hair I will make the difference between the bottom and top layer about three centimeters. This will help show the curls off.

This doll won’t get curls, but she will need a trim. I just don’t want to deal with the frizz at the bottom of her hair.

After her haircut. I put a rubber band around the bottom of her hair to try and help it dry a little flatter.
After her haircut. I put a rubber band around the bottom of her hair to try and help it dry a little flatter. Still not sure why the green is happening.

6. Boil and brush (only needed for dolls with very curly hair). Boil water in a pan. There should be enough water that you can submerge the doll’s head and hair in the water, and a little extra left over won’t hurt anyone. When the water is boiling, submerge the doll’s head and hair in the water for ten seconds or so. You can do longer, just keep an eye on the hair to make sure it’s not melting (’cause that would be tragic). Then, take your fine tooth comb and brush through the hair while it’s still hot. If it doesn’t seem to be helping, you can take smaller sections of hair and boil and brush those individually.

Okay do you HAVE to do this? It seems like a stupid amount of work. Honestly, I skip this step with a lot of my dolls. If the doll doesn’t have curly hair to begin with, then I’d just go straight to step 7, below.

Nope, I didn’t boil and brush Rapunzel’s hair.

7. Pour hot water over her head. After I’ve heated the hair once (or two times or seven times or not at all) in boiling water, I boil a kettle of water and pour that water over the doll’s head while she’s sitting in an upright position. The force of the water will help flatten and straighten the hair more than simply boiling and brushing.

I normally section out the hair in layers, starting with the hair closest to her neck and adding more hair as I’m happy with how the lower layers look. This helps the hair straighten evenly.

8. Cold-set the hair. When the hair is as straight as I want it to be (or as straight as I have the patience for, whichever comes first) I cold-set the style by brushing her hair under cold water (use the fine-tooth comb).

Honestly, I’m not 100% this step is needed. But the cold water feels kinda nice and makes the hair easier to brush so why not.

After boiling, brushing, pouring hot water on her, brushing, brushing, cold-setting, and brushing. And at some point she lost her body. Weird how that happens.
After brushing, pouring hot water on her, brushing, cold-setting, and brushing. And at some point she lost her body. Weird how that happens.

A word of warning! I don’t have proof for this, but I’m always a little concerned when brushing boiled doll hair that the brushing stretches the hair, making it snap back a little frizzy, or just stretching it out in general. I know many doll rescuers have complained that after straightening doll hair it will slowly lose some of its sleekness over the following few weeks, and my theory is that boiling and then roughly brushing the hair may damage it in some way. Not like that has changed my boiling and brushing behavior, though.

Can you use heat tools on doll hair? The safe answer is ‘no.’ Curling and straightening irons are generally too hot; they will melt the plastic hair and trust me, you do NOT want that to happen.

However, if you are very, very, very careful about using heat tools, you can do it. I’ve had success straightening doll hair by wetting it, wrapping it in a thin rag, and pulling it through a straightener on the lowest heat setting. That said, I’ve also had success melting the doll hair this way, too. Try at your own risk. Or, at the doll’s risk, I guess.

Okay hold the phone. Her body is gone. Why is it gone?

Look so easy. And yes, that is dental floss.
Look so easy. And yes, that is dental floss.

Rapunzel had a slightly wobbly head, so while her vinyl doll head was soft and pliant from the hot water treatment, I went ahead and popped it off so I could fix the wobble.

Taking Bratz/Moxie dolls heads off is super easy. Heat them up with hot water, push down on the head, and pop them off. Don’t twist or angle the head: just pop it straight off.

And yes, that is dental floss. Waxed, to be specific. Because no one has string just lying around anymore.

9. Dry. After cold-setting the hair, squeeze the water out but don’t brush it out. Let the hair dry completely.

Here she is, straightened (enough for my purposes at least) and brushed. So much better.
Here she is, straightened (enough for my purposes at least) and brushed. So much better.

10. Style. At this point, you have a nice blank canvas to work with. Styling straight hair is much, much easier than styling frizzy hair. You can, of course, leave the hair straight at this point, or you can curl it into ringlets if you want to spend some more time playing with hair.

Curl? Check out my tutorial on how to curl a doll’s hair HERE!

11. Finish your movie.

Before and after. I'll let you figure out which is which.
Before and after. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Questions or suggestions, leave it in a comment below! I love to help and learn from other rescuers.

Made-Under Doll Repaint Tutorial (Moxie Doll)

Sometimes I am in the mood for instant gratification. And by ‘instant gratification,’ I mean two-to-three-hour gratification.

What I mean is: I wanted to feel like I did something productive with my day, so I decided to start and finish a doll in one sitting.

Mostly it’s an excuse to watch a movie. My repainting movie tonight was Mission Impossible II, which is a terrible movie, as it turned out.

So in an effort to feel productive, I grabbed one of the three blond Moxie rescue dolls I have lying around and the TV remote, and pressed play.

The before.
The before.

So there’s the ‘Before.’ Honestly, compared to Bratz, Moxie dolls are already pretty made-under. But I have enough of an ego to believe I can make her look cuter.

FIRST STEPS – PREP

(1) Removed makeup with acetone.
(1) Removed makeup with acetone.

–> The first of the first steps is to seal the doll’s face with a sealant that has some tooth with it. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT! In order to get good color build up on the doll’s face, the face has to be sealed first. Otherwise the pigment won’t stick to the vinyl and the colors will be very faint.

For a more-detailed explanation about how to prep a doll for repainting and the materials involved, please see this post: Repainting First Steps

Note on sealing layers: I do my made-under dolls in two layers. So I seal the plain vinyl (with no makeup at all); do the first layer, which includes the eyes, eyebrows, and mouth; seal that layer; add the second layer, which includes some little details and the cheeks; then seal for a final time. You can seal more or less often depending on your preferences.

To learn how I fixed this girl’s hair, go HERE!

(2) Fixing the wobbly head.
(2) Fixing the wobbly head.

Photo 2 was taken while fixing this doll’s wobbly head. Thankfully, Bratz and Moxie dolls are pretty easy to fix (unlike the Monster High heads). I won’t take credit for this method: Novastar Dolls has a helpful video on how to do this; I learned from that. The only change I made to her video was to heat the doll’s head up with hot water before popping it off and on again. The hot water heats the vinyl head and softens it, making it easier to pull the head off.

Next (after the head was reunited with it’s body), I wrapped the hair and hard plastic body in saran wrap and sprayed the bare face with a layer of Mr. Super Clear.

The eyes. Getting the eyes done takes the most time, so I do that first. I also just kinda want to get it out of the way.

(3) Outline the eyes.
(3) Outline the eyes.

First I use a dark brown watercolor pencil to get the rough outline of the eyes down. Because I was planning on making the upper lid a little thicker than normal for this doll, I didn’t worry about making the eyes perfectly symmetrical at this point. You can see in photo 3 that they’re pretty different.

(4) Finished outline of the eyes, plus eyelids.
(4) Finished outline of the eyes, plus eyelids.

Then I go back and draw over the outline, making the lines thicker in certain places to get the two eyes as symmetrical as I have the patience for. (Photo 4).

Eyelids. After the outline of the eye is in good shape, I add the eyelids. Usually I draw two lines for the eyelids, but you can do as many or as little as you like.

(5) Added eyebrows.
(5) Added eyebrows.

Eyebrows. As I’ve mentioned in other tutorials, eyebrows do the most expressive work of any characteristic on the doll’s face. Basically, whatever expression you want the doll to have, the eyebrows are going to be your best friends.

I use a pale pink watercolor pencil to pencil in the eyebrows, shown in Photo 5. I use pink because it usually doesn’t show up under the pastel. This little gal got asymmetrical brows. It gives her a bit of sass.

(6) Erased the brows until they were very faint.
(6) Erased the brows until they were very faint.

After penciling the brows in, I lightly erase them until they are very, very faint (Photo 6). This ensures that the pencil marks don’t show up under the pastels.

(7) Applied brown and yellow pastel dust to her eyebrows.
(7) Applied brown and yellow pastel dust to her eyebrows.

Then I apply pastel dust with a 10/0 flat brush to the pencil outlines (Photo 7). Getting very light colored (read: blonde) eyebrows is almost impossible with pastel dust, so I combined some light brown and yellow dust and used that. The outer edges of the brows got darker pastel dust than the inner edges.

(8) Filled in the whites of her eyes and colored her lips.
(8) Filled in the whites of her eyes and colored her lips.

The next steps are combined in Photo 8. First, I used pastel dust to do a bit of shading on her eyelids (brown, pink, and orange pastel dust). Second, I filled in the whites of her eyes with a watercolor pencils. Third, I added some color to her lips (otherwise she looked like a zombie and it was creepy).

Lips. I use a small brush to scrub pink/dark pink/red pastel over the lips (Photo 8). It can be difficult to build up color, so I use quite a bit of pastel dust. Residual dust flies everywhere (all over her nose, chin, and cheeks), but that dust will brush away easily.

(9) Brushes I use to apply pastel dust.
(9) Brushes I use to apply pastel dust.

The larger brush in Photo 9 is an eye-shadow brush (the Q-Tip can give you a size reference), which I use to brush loose pastel dust off the doll’s face. I also use it to apply blush to the cheeks. The smaller brush is a weird eyeliner brush that I use to apply pastel dust to smaller areas, like the lips.

*Seal this layer!*

I seal at this point to protect the color on the lips, the shading on the eyelids, the eyebrows, and help the color of the irises (next step) really pop.

Irises. So when you get tired of your doll looking like a soulless zombie, go ahead and add the pupils. This gal (I really need a name for her) is getting side-glancing eyes, because those are my favorite with a raised eyebrow. It’s by far my favorite look for a doll.

(10) Adding the irises.
(10) Adding the irises.

I set the irises with a light blue pencil, then outlined them with a dark blue pencil (Photo 10). Side-glancing irises will never be perfectly symmetrical because the shape of the inner and outer eye is different, so I don’t worry as much about making them symmetrical.

Pupils. Then I begin shading in the pupils. I use a ‘soft pupil’ look, where the pupil sort of fades into the iris. It’s very unnatural and if a real person had this they’d probably be blind. Then again, if us real people looked anything at all like dolls we’d be missing half our organs.

(11) Shading the pupil.
(11) Shading the pupil.

I use a dark blue pencil to begin shading the pupil, but you can use any color that will go with blue. I shade using small circular motions, making sure that the darkest area is in the same place on each eye–that’s the direction of her gaze. (Photo 11).

Then I shade over the dark blue with a black pencil (Photo 12). When the pupils are dark enough and fade nice and gradually into the irises, they’re done!

(12) The finished irises/pupils.
(12) The finished irises/pupils.

If you want a more traditional ‘hard pupil,’ it’s actually much easier. Just outline it in over the iris, then fill the outline with black (Photo 13). Make sure they’re symmetrical. Otherwise the poor doll will be forever cross-eyed.

(13) An example of 'hard pupils.
(13) An example of ‘hard pupils.

Facial details. Next I added a few little details to her eyes (Photo 14).

(14) Another layer of white over her sclera (whites of her eyes), and changed her lashes from brown to black.
(14) Another layer of white over her sclera (whites of her eyes), and changed her lashes from brown to black.

First, I applied another layer of white pencil to her sclera (new word! = whites of the eyes). Second, I changed her upper lashes from brown to black by going over them with a black pencil. Third, I drew in faint eyebrow hairs with a dark brown pencil. I drew the left eyebrow hairs in first by turning her upside-down. Fourth, I added tear ducts.

Blush. Now for the easy part (finally!). Blushing the cheeks is pretty simple. I use my eye-shadow brush (shown in a photo somewhere up there ^), dip it in bright pink or red pastel dust, and just lightly dab it onto her cheeks (Photo 15). See? Simple. I wouldn’t lie to you.

(15) Added blush to her cheeks.
(15) Added blush to her cheeks.

She’s pretty much done at this point.

*Seal this layer!*

This is the final time I will seal the doll. The sealant protects the blush, the pupils and irises, and all the other little details we added.

Eye reflections. Take a tiny bit of white paint, water it down a bit (or use a fluid retardant like I do), and use a teeny-tiny brush or toothpick to apply a white dot–or two, or three–to the eyes (Photo 16).

(16) The little white dots! They add a LOT to a doll's face.
(16) The little white dots! They add a LOT to a doll’s face.

Be sure to apply the dots in the same place in each eye. Don’t measure it by where the dots are in relation to the pupil (especially if the eyes are side-glancing), measure the dots by where they are in relation to the upper or lower lid. This helps me align the reflections in both eyes correctly.

Varnish. The LAST STEP! YOU MADE IT! See that wasn’t too bad, right? Took you, like, ten minutes from start to finish, right?

This is a pretty simple step, shown in Photo 17 below (barely shown. It’s hard to photograph). Use a brush to apply a shiny varnish to the eyes (avoid the eyelashes). I also glossed this girl’s lips, although I don’t often do that with my made-under dolls. If necessary, apply a couple coats.

Note on varnish. I mentioned this in my post about materials, but some varnishes apparently dry tacky. Those varnishes probably don’t like the vinyl the doll head is made with–few sealants like this material, which is why you have to be a little careful with what you brush or spray onto your doll’s face. Anyway, I use a Delta Ceramcoat gloss interior varnish. It’s for use over acrylic or oil paint, but it fully dries on the dolls, so I’ll take it. It’s an ancient bottle, so I’m not even sure if Delta makes this type of varnish anymore.

IMG_2805(1)Here she is, all done! What should I name her?

Unfortunately this little girl won’t be available in my Etsy shop for some time…She needs a new outfit and my sewing machine access hovers in between non-existent and not-worth-it.

If you repaint a doll using this tutorial, please show me your results by posting a picture of the doll (either finished or in progress) to my Facebook page! As always, if you have any questions about my methods or process, don’t hesitate to ask a question in the comments below.

Transformation Story: Violet (Bratzillaz)

I found a decent deal for two Bratzillaz on Ebay a couple weeks ago.

When they arrived, they were in horrible condition. Go figure.

They look worse in real life. This photo doesn't do the tragedy justice.
They look worse in real life. This photo doesn’t do the tragedy justice.

Yasmina (renamed Violet), the one with purple hair, has very frizzy hair, and a loose mid-section. These dolls have a weird stomach joint thing that I couldn’t figure out how to fix without major surgery. Her hands were also not doing so well (I performed surgery with a razor and cut off some extra plastic that was starting to split).

Meygana (renamed Devon) is my favorite doll of all the dolls ever (love her red-red hair and side-glancing eyes), but this Meygana is kind of a wreck. Her head is very wobbly, there are marker stains on her face, and her hair was a disaster of rather epic proportions. She deserves her own transformation story.

Back to Violet.

The 'before.' I honestly like this look a lot. Felt a little bad taking her paint off.
The ‘before.’ I honestly like this look a lot. Felt a little bad taking her paint off.

I first attempted to tame her hair a bit. It didn’t work all that well because a lot of her hair is just frizzies that no amount of boiling would fix. So I just threw it into pigtails and called it good. There are plans to curl the pigtails in the future.

The WIP.
The WIP.

After attempting to fix her hair I removed the paint, wrapped her up, and started repainting. I was going for a fairy.

The WIP below shows scotch tape over her eyes, which prevents Mr. Super Clear from dulling the glossy plastic. Unfortunately, I managed to get some acetone on her eyes while taking the paint off, which made a big streak of melted plastic over her pupil. I fixed it with a coat of varnish at the end.

WHY IS SHE GLITTERY?! Such an important question. Whenever there is glitter involved, ask questions.

PearlEx powder was made by the craft gods for those who love making everything sparkle.
PearlEx powder was made by the craft gods for those who love making everything sparkle.

PearlEx powder, or any similar product, is basically sparkle dust that can be applied dry to dolls’ faces or mixed with acrylic paint to make the paint metallic. I took a brush and applied dry dust to Violet’s eyelids, and then to her whole face. Because why not? She’s a baller fairy.

Clawdeen's lips were glossed with varnish that had been mixed with PearlEx powder.
Clawdeen’s lips were glossed with varnish that had been mixed with PearlEx powder.

A little note on applying PearlEx power dry: don’t forget to seal it! Also, sealing it will make the sparkles less noticeable, so I apply more sparkles than I think I need to, and sometimes I do two layers of glitter.

I finished Violet’s repaint with a flower design on her face. She is now adorned with an orange and purple pansy (my yellow watercolor pencil is MIA) and a dozen or so tiny lilacs.

She also got a coat of gloss on her lips and eyes.

IMG_2761