Blythe Blythe and more Blythe

Hello friends!  It’s been a few weeks since my last post.  As I round the corner towards the one year anniversary of this blog, I’ve found myself putting more and more pressure on myself to continue to produce the highest quality dolly blog content.  If I’m not confident that what I’m writing will inspire you in some way, then I worry it’s not worth the effort of publishing.   This perfectionist’s curse has led to an ugly case of writer’s block.

It’s particularly frustrating because I DO have some good stuff in my head, some wonderful patterns I’d like to publish (3 are nearly finished!), some fun DIY crafty projects that I’m dying to get my hands into, and I have been struggling to do any of it! Actually, that’s only partly true. I’ve been doing a lot of dolly stuff (more about that in a minute), but I haven’t been writing about it.  I’m just afraid you won’t like it, or you won’t be interested, and that has me all pasted up.  Pfft.

So in an attempt to get myself out of this perfectionist rut that is leading me to publish.. nothing at all, I’m going to write the following without worrying too much that I’ll disappoint you, or that you’ll be so bored your eyes fall out of your head, or that you’ll throw tomatoes at your computer screen. If you do throw tomatoes, just don’t tell me, okay? 😀

Allow me to introduce you to Blythe.

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Maybe you’ve already met?  She was introduced in 1972 by the toy company Kenner, but not too many people were interested.  She was a fashion doll ahead of her time in a Barbie world, what with her odd proportions and “creepy” eyes that changed colors with the pull of a cord emerging from the back of her over-sized head. After a year of poor sales, she was shelved by Kenner.

Then in 1997, a photographer named Gina Garan was given a Blythe doll by her friend.  She began taking pictures of Blythe in various locations and published the book, “This is Blythe” in 2000.  By the next summer the Japanese toy company Takara began producing Blythe again, and the first run of dolls sold out in one hour!  She became an overnight sensation, at least to a niche market of mostly adult collectors.

Many collectors buy and enjoy the Blythe dolls “as is” from Takara, but another sector of hobbyists enjoy transforming the  dolls by highly customizing her with new makeup (commonly called a “faceup”), carving her lips and nose into unique shapes, and adding beads and charms to the pull strings that emerge from the back of her head and are pulled to change her eye color.  Her hair can also be styled by cutting, re-scalping, or re-rooting, and her eyes can be altered with new (often hand-painted) eye chips.

Blythe is an expensive girl.  The Takara dolls start at about $150 and go up from there.  An option for the more frugal or the beginning customizer is to to buy an unofficial “fake” Blythe.  These dolls are often franken-Blythes, made of up parts from official Blythes or reproduction parts.  I wasn’t sure how well my first customization would go or how interested I’d be in my finished product, so I decided to buy a fake Blythe on eBay.  The picture at the beginning of this post is what my doll looked like in her auction photo.

There are quite a few tools involved in the customizing process.  Fortunately I had a few already on hand, but I had to go on a deep dive to research the other tools, paints, and sealants I would need.  I found out that the only sealant recommended by the majority of the Blythe customizers, Mr Super Clear, is not only expensive, but highly toxic! So in addition to purchasing new customization  toys tools, I ordered the proper respiratory protection too.  Here’s my first girl, before her makeover, staring pensively at my new respirator.

Customizing Blythe Doll

As is my style, after reading everything I could about customizing and watching several YouTube videos, I dove right in.  I loved the entire process, made a TON of mistakes, and had a blast.  I found it completely absorbing and relaxing work.

And here she is, post transformation!

 

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I decided to give her a haircut.  It was just too long and cumbersome at it’s original length.

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I was so pleased with the outcome and so enjoyed the process, that I immediately ordered another “fake” Blythe to work on.  Here is her “before” picture:

Img_1323And here is her “after”:

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The two meet!

Image3I sewed both of their overalls and the pink and blue dress from a Japanese pattern book that I’ve have for ages.  Don’t you love finding hidden treasures in your stash? I did a combination of hand stitching and machine sewing, but mostly made by hand.  Their clothing is the perfect size for portable handmade projects while waiting at soccer practice or in the dentist’s office.

I just love these dolls.  Would it shock you to know that I have two more waiting in the wings to be customized?  You don’t look shocked at all.  😉 I’ll update with before and after photos when I’ve finished.

Well, there you have it.  Hopefully this is the post that breaks the dolly writer’s block.  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting my (fake) Blythe dolls. Do you collect Blythe?  Have you ever tried your hand at customizing?  Let me know in the comments!

12 comments

  1. Cathy says:

    Really enjoyed your blog today. If you ever find free patterns for Blythe please let your subscribers know. What paint do you use? I love how you have done her lips. I am thinking of modifying a Disney Animator Doll I found at the Goodwill. Is there any other less toxic sealer to use? I bring rescue dolls and clothing to kids at the hospital here and would like something non toxic or less toxic… Thanks again, Cathy

    • Steph says:

      Thank you Cathy! I have been using chalk pastels to give the face color, watercolor pencils for lip color, and inexpensive acrylics for eyelid painting and freckles. I tried to use ModPodge matte sealer for a different (thrift store) doll, and it didn’t come out matte *at all*.. totally shiny! I was disappointed. Jennie of Wren*Feathers has a tutorial for customizing Blthye-like dolls and she recommends Krylon matte sealer in her tutorial: https://jenwrenne.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/custom-doll-tutorial/ I think (part of) the toxicity for Mr. Superclear comes from the fact that you are spraying microscopic bits of plastic and if you breathe that in, you are essentially coating your lungs with plastic that your body has no way to remove. EEEK! But I don’t think it’s toxic after it has adhered to the doll. I have never smelled any off-gassing, anyway!

  2. Catholic Bibliophagist says:

    Here’s to breaking blogging writer’s block! Keep up the good work. Even though I will probably never buy a Blythe doll, I was very interested in reading about yours. I am just amazed by your sewing overalls at such a tiny scale.

    (I’m struggling with writer’s block too, so you have inspired me.)

  3. Kathy says:

    Please don’t let the perfectionist curse stop you from writing! I enjoy your blog so much, I am living vicariously through you. I don’t have the time in this season of my life to sew or collect favorite items but it is so inspiring to see what you do! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  4. Amanda S. says:

    That was not boring at all! I’m still not sure about the Blythe dolls. I’ve seen some beautifully done dolls with great photography. I just don’t think I’ll get into them. Their eyes are kinda creepy, yet curious and pretty too. I think I’ll just sit back on this one and admire the work of others without the temptation to dive into their world myself. Thanks for sharing with us what you’ve been up to. I’m glad you decided to bore us, it was fun! Good work and can’t wait to see more.

  5. Val says:

    Can’t say I like the Blythe dolls but I love how you modified their looks. Very creative. love your blog.
    valspierssewsdolldesigns.blogspot.com

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