Welcome to My Red Cape. Long ago in another time my husband Jack and I lived in a little old red house. It was the stuff of dreams to us for the few years that we were there. I live there still a number of hours every day in imagination, with old dolls and paintings and fabrics and feather trees. I draw inspiration and happiness from the memories of that space in time and share some of it here with friends who remember how to step with Alice through the looking glass and take delight in whimsies and antiquities.

For more than sixty years I have studied, collected, repaired, and bought and sold antique dolls. They have been back ground music in my life at every stage, sometimes louder, sometimes subdued, but always there with me. To see only the posts about dolls on this blog, click the banner on the right titled Dolls for My Red Cape. Keep clicking “Older Posts” to see more. Some of the posts featuring rug hooking are gathered under the banner For Cathy. From time to time items are offered for sale under the banner “O’Neill’s Antiques” which was our shop name for many years. ~Edyth O’Neill

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mending old leather doll arms

 Can you see her ring in the picture below?

The pictures do not show much difference, but I have lightened the lip color and pulled in the lip line, corrected the hair line, slightly lightened the eyebrows and touched up the hair a bit with less than solid dark black. Overall there is a softer look.    The dolls are redressed and are quite pretty. I am watching for a matching shoe for the lost one.

There is quite a stash of leather here for me to choose from, and at first I considered how to add patches to the torn leather arms on these antique twin dolls.  I did not like the look of the added patches, so I decided to place some strips of leather inside the arms as I stitched them back together, hoping to reinforce them that way.   The leather was so fragile it came apart in layers in my hands if I attempted to sew with small neat stitches.   Therefore the stitches are about a quarter inch wide catching 1/8th inch of leather on each side of the new seams.   The thread matches well in color and the creases and flaws in the leather make the new stitching less prominent.  There were also mends long before mine.

I did not find it easy to sew through all that new leather under the old so by the time I was on the last of the four arms, I switched to using pieces of sturdy old brown twill inside and was able to neatly sew through the fabric as I sewed the leather, making a stronger mend. I am very pleased to have the worn old leather arms rather than new replacements.  At first look I did not think I could save them.

While I sewed on one arm, the other was protected, wrapped close and pinned in a beautiful linen tea towel gifted to me by Mary W. 

Brown fabric inside the leather arm

Here is a mystery. I have said the clothing is identical, and it almost is, but one twin was wearing a chemise that was markedly too small for her. It was torn and poorly mended where someone had forced it on the doll. I can't see how it ever went on her as it is not big enough to clear either the large seat or the large shoulders.  It seems as if it could only have been put on when the head was not on the body?  See how tight it is when I try to get it up on the shoulder plate?   The other doll's chemise is quite proper. All six pieces of underwear are of the same fabric, with the same almost invisible stitches and perfect French seams and tiny hems.  I have pictured them here, one on top the other.  The only way to get it off without tearing it all to pieces was to cut it, which I did after some consideration right up the center back. I will hem that opening to use it for a smaller doll.  So that twin now has a borrowed one from a great wax Alice who is fussing about that.

On each doll there is a little ring on the index finger of her left hand. I don't think I have had this before. 

This weekend I have to shift back into painting mode as my art classes start back on Monday after a two week hiatus. I am painting with an outstanding group!  All the dolls must quiet down and stay in the background as I work on paintings instead. I hope to sew a few little doll clothes along, but generally I can ride only one horse at a time. 
         Some friends may remember when country decorating was at its zenith I painted and sold over 250 primitive children's pictures in imitation of early American portraits .  I think I would like to paint portraits of some of my dolls. Maybe these will happen in the future.  I have so many interests I wonder how anyone ever gets bored!    e


  1. They are stunning dolls Edyth, I love the dresses and I do hope you happen upon another shoe, they are darling.

  2. They are so sweet in pink Hope you find another shoe The ring is interesting Enjoy your painting class

    linda m

  3. Thank you Linda. Actually I have another pair like these shoes except about an inch longer and on a very large doll. They are not rare, so if I am lucky I will find the needed shoe or pair. e

  4. How beautiful the dolls are Edyth , and I wish we knew the story behind those rings ! How touching and dear....I always love how you take us along on your journeys, I always learn so much, there is so much that is fascinating and rare, plus the setting - your beautiful home and antiques - make me feel at peace and at home.

  5. The repair job on the leather is spectacular! Good job! I find repairing leather difficult because it gets brittle with age and the holes left behind by needle and thread remain. Nice detail regarding the rings. Maybe they used just what was available for the second doll. I do prefer the softer look you have given them. I searched over 20 years for appropriate shoes for a composition Shirley Temple doll of my mother's. Then one day a quilting friend offered me a perfect vintage pair of shoes that she found in her mother's jewelry box. Serendipity!

  6. Thank you Diane and Mary, sometimes I wonder if I am putting in too much detail, am glad to know you enjoy it. One option not used for these was an antiqueing glaze of umber, either in oil or wax base. I usually do use one on a repaint. For the twins I felt the repairs on the shoulders would be pointed up by the glaze as it stays in all little hollows. I did shadow the mouth, ears, nose and eye corners just a slight bit. e

    1. It's the details that make the difference and set everything apart - whether included or omitted !

  7. I think we are learning from you! I have two china headed dolls that need restoring and I gain much confidence reading about what you tackle. Let me begin...

  8. Twin girls--I love that you have them. They are in a good place with you.


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