You may have heard about Tree Change Dolls, which is becoming much more than just one woman’s artistry, as the viral idea takes on a life of its own and is now being referred to as “a movement.” The brains behind the Bratz doll make-under phenomenon is Sonia Singh, a scientist/mom turned doll rehab specialist. After watching her video and becoming a little bit obsessed with how much I wanted to buy a doll for myself (I mean Stella…), I found another video by Sonia about how to take the factory makeup off your own doll, along with encouragement and information about how to make a DIY Redeemed Doll.
Finding my Doll
Never in my life did I think I would purposefully go looking for a Bratz doll, but a couple weeks ago, I found myself on my knees, rifling through a bin of discarded Barbies and other woefully over-sexualized play things at the back of my local Goodwill store, seeking out the perfect specimen.
I knew I had to try. The feeling was more than me just wanting to fulfill my long-running fantasy of being that ancient toy cleaner who gives Woody a makeover in Toy Story 2. It was a deeper, more emotionally-driven motivation.
So back to Goodwill. There was ONE Bratz doll at the bottom of the bin, AND she was a redhead.
Fate. She would become my Redeemed Doll.
Holding her in my hands in the car, I imagined the possibilities. I recalled in the Tree Change Dolls video how Sonia’s partner said how KIND she was to the dolls, and all of a sudden I got it. I held her gently, touched her face and pulled her matted hair back away from her face. I wanted to be kind to her, to do right by her, to help her become a better toy than the way she was created. I wanted to see her loved and played with again, to give her a second chance.
Maybe I’m reading into it way too much, but I was like her. I tried too hard to be pretty and have people approve of me. I sometimes dressed provocatively to be noticed, and did my makeup to be showy and starry-eyed. And I, too, ended up discarded and worse for wear. I was redeemed, and now she would be, too.
There is something lovely and poignant about buying a naked doll with ratty hair for 49 cents, and seeing what you good you can make of her.
That night I was forbidden from doing any kind of research or creative work on my doll (or what Stella had already begun to affectionately call, her dolly). My husband is very good for me, and he knows when he has to enforce certain creative boundaries for me. I have a tendency to get a little bug-eyed, and my mind gets on one track and can’t stop or slow down. Usually this results in a lack of sleep, as I stay up until all hours of the night working,
So, the following morning I spent a few hours taking off the doll’s makeup and giving her hair a wash and a trim. It was easy going, but time consuming.
You can’t rush art. Right Geri? Geri gets me.
Redeemed Doll Supplies List
Things you will need to attempt this project from start to finish:
- A discarded Bratz doll
- Nail polish remover (with acetone)
- Cotton balls (Q-tips can also be helpful)
- Eucalyptus oil
- Fabric softener
- Comb, scissors, and toddler hair ties to style doll hair
- Acrylic paints
- Paint brushes, fine enough to paint detail on faces
- Fabric scraps or felt, and whatever sewing/knitting/crocheting materials you use to create your doll clothing
- Silicone caulk
- Corn starch
Total cost: about $15, but I already had a fair few supplies just laying around. My highest cost item was the acrylic paints, and I bought those at my local craft store and used a coupon to save money.
Removing factory doll makeup
It really is as easy as Sonia says in her video (above). Wipe the face, alternating between cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover (with acetone), and eucalyptus essential oil. Use a Q-tip where necessary (I needed some extra precision on lips and corners of eyes), and then clean the body with the eucalyptus oil.
Detangling doll hair
I used this DIY tutorial from Lil Boo Blue, but only followed the first four steps. The reason I only did the first four is because I somehow didn’t see there were more steps in the article. It all worked out, though, because I gave my doll a hair cut and style to suit a younger age character. Toddler rubber bands worked very well for styling.
Painting a Redeemed Doll face
This was the hardest part for me. I really have no tips because I found it really difficult and I’m not really that pleased with the outcome of my labor. This was the first time I’ve EVER used acrylics, I do not have steady hands, and I am not detail-oriented.
But I think when you choose to do a project that, for various reasons, scares you a little, you just have to dive right in. So my tips are these: do not compare your ability to anyone else’s, and don’t be afraid to wing it. Expect to see an obviously handmade product that is all your own, and be proud of whatever you accomplish!
If you’re really displeased, you can always use the nail polish remover and eucalyptus oil to start over again.
Making the shoes
I am thrilled to say that in the time I was working on this doll, Sonia posted another DIY video about how to make the boots. HOORAY! If you follow her tutorial closely, you shouldn’t have many problems. There are online tutorials for “oogoo” but the most popular one seemed long and wordsy to me. Sonia does an excellent job at explaining the process in the video below. And you can, of course, buy the commercial product, Sugru, here.
Making your own doll clothes
I wanted to provide a pattern for you all, but the clothes proved to be as difficult for me as the face had been, even for someone who has sewn for years. I eyeballed it and used trial and error, making a pleated circle skirt and the simplest felt top I could dream up (made with three rectangles: a large one wrapped around the chest and torso and sewn at the back, and two thin long rectangles used as straps). If you knit or crochet, the clothes might be easier for you… but alas, I have none of these skills.
If you’re a complete novice like me, don’t attempt to make the clothes removable. Sew the clothes onto the doll as you go. It’s tedious and finnicky, but a necessary part of the process. Clothes should be done last. I did the boots last, and ended up having a hard time working around the clothes and desperately trying not to get everything sticky and red.
My Redeemed Doll: The Finished Product
Hhere are some photos of my doll, who I have named Ruby.
Drum roll, please.
Redeemed Doll before and after:
I highly recommend this project. Try your hand at making your own! The time consuming factor is completely made up for by the fact it is incredibly satisfying to redeem a doll.