Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Youth dolls

I have had several people ask me why I charge a bit more for youth dolls. They are smaller than the adult dolls so should cost less right? In the normal course of things that would be true. Smaller things take less time usually. If you are prepping a horse it should take less time to prep a traditional foal than a traditional adult. Though painting might be a better example since how long it take to prep really depends on how much of a mess the horse is to start. So we will use painting for an example. And the color bay. It should (in theory) take less time to paint a Bay traditonal sized foal than to paint a bay traditional sized adult. Agreed? I thought so. Now we will move onto why youth dolls cost a bit more. Here is a regular Breyer youth doll. So far nothing has been done to her except for taking her out of the box and taking off the ugly, giant, out-of-scale factory clothes. So far not too bad, let's move on.
This is the youth doll after I have taken her apart and prepared her for surgery. What a mess! Well at least this one's head came off without the neck peg breaking or popping out. That is a rare occurance and one I am very grateful for. Or I will be when it comes time to put her head back on. But that comes after dressing and hairing.
Here are the basic tools I use to improve the Breyer dolls into something that can sit a horse properly and manage to hold her arms down by her sides so she doesn't look like a body builder (have you ever noticed none of them can put their arms down?) I use scissors, round nose pliers, wire cutter, wire, gauze (I happen to have 1 inch but if I can find narrower I am going to get it) and flesh colored medical tape. Oh yes and the class mate finish from Rio Rondo. I know it seems odd but it does have a purpose.
Next is leg rebuilding. I remake from the thigh down because I have found it leaves a better definition between the upper and lower part of the leg. Also when you bend the leg you still have somewhat of a knee so the doll looks more natural. I use the thigh to measure how long the wire should be for the new "thigh". You have to poke a hole through the leftover rubbery plastic on the lower leg (there should be some left even if you had to cut to get the thigh off) and I trim the knee so it doesn't stick out too much when the leg is bent. Then I wrap the top of the wire around the round stump that is left when you pull the legs offf. Yes, a lot of people think I am odd for what I do. Moving on though.
since my gauze is too wide I cut it down the middle. I don't have an exact measurement for how much I use, but I would guess 4-6 inches of 1 inch wide gauze per leg. I could be wrong though.I wrap the leg from the knee to the top of the thigh. I also wrap around the ball the original thigh was attached to. I try to make the top part a bit wider than the lower part so it looks more natural under the breeches. But you can't make it the exact size you want it to be because the medical tape takes up some room as well and will make your piece bigger.
Here's how it look wrapped with the medical tape. It looks just about like a normal thigh. The first couple of times it doesn't come out as well but most things will get easier with practice. I try to keep it as smooth as possible since breeches, even on kids, are tight and if your leg is lumpy it will probably show.Here's a quick pictures of the first leg done and the second leg wire attached. You want to be very careful that they end up the same size. Who wants a lopsided doll? You may not be able to tell when the doll is seated, but if it has to stand... Here are both legs done and they match up really well. That of course is a good thing. They are also just about the same size and shape. A little bit of difference won't be noticeable since the doll will have clothes on.
The arms are a special challenge of their own. You want then to be the same length they started out (no gorilla arms) the same length as each other, able to be held close to the body, etc. I work on both arms at the same time to try to keep things even. First I attach the wire to the first arm in the same way I put the legs on. I roughly measure with the old part of the arm to see if it is about the right size. I bend the wire down at the shoulder and then bend the other side down as well.

Then I attach the second arm. As long as they match up and still bend I'm happy. If there is extra wire, as there was with this doll, I cut some off. Wrap it around and try to keep the "arm" fairly straightNext both arms get wrapped in gauze like the legs did. Though you only need an inch or so of the gauze since the upper arm is so small. I keep the gauze in place with a tiny bit of medical tape until I am ready to wrap it. Here both arms are wrapped with the medical tape. Again, it doesn't take much because they are so small and you don't want the arms to be too thick. The coat sleeves are going to add a bit and you don't want a youth doll with giant arms. Another view of the finished arms only bent. They can be held close to the body and bent for proper arm position. Though right now the doll is just holding her arms close, her arms can bend a bit more. The next project is finding a way to replace those giant man-hands. Why does a little girl have larger hands than an adult? They also cause issues with dressing but that is another story.The last step is to brush the Class Mate all over the parts that are covered in medical tape. There is a method to my madness. I found that the medical tape when left alone is a tiny bit sticky, but when you brush on the Class Mate and let it dry dressing the doll is very easy. The tape that was once a bit tacky and would grab the clothes (especially fitted breeches) making it harder to dress a hard to dress doll is now super smooth and the clothes will slideright on with very little fuss. As long as everything is already made to fit a youth doll (I have an extra body I use as a model while I am sewing) and I've made the new arms and legs the same size as the old ones the dressing should go well.

So now you know why I charge a bit more for a doll that is a bit smaller than average. It's because the doll on it's own is a pain, doesn't sit, or ride well and has to be almost totally remade. These things take time. It takes the same amount of time to make the clothes for a youth doll or an adult rider, almost the same amount of material (the difference is minimal) but the prep work is much greater for those youth dolls which have become so popular recently because of the Breyer pony, Newsworthy. So it seems like youth dolls will be on my books for a good long while to come. I'm glad I found a way to make them a bit better at what they do.