This poor body is in really sad shape as you can see. This is the first leather body I restored and I just figured it out as I went along. The broken celluloid was daunting at first, but I wanted to be able to do celluloid doll repair. This is a good first project.
First I took it apart as you see in the picture, then I started on the legs. I ironed WonderUnder onto some muslin to line and strengthen the leather. Then I took all the sawdust out of the lower legs and turned them wrong side out.
Then I cut thin glove leather and glued it to the larger holes and the seam lines. Next I cut a rectangle of my prepared muslin and ironed it onto one of the seam lines so I could lay the muslin around the leg and cut it nearly to size. I rolled up a couple paper towels to put inside the leg so I could iron the muslin onto the leather. Next I cut the muslin to size.
This picture shows the finished inside of the lower leg with the muslin ironed onto the leather. It also shows my firmly rolled up paper towels that I used on the inside of the leg so I could iron the muslin. Then I turned each leg right side out and finished ironing the muslin to the bottom of each torn leg. Then I cut pieces of glove leather to cover any larger holes in the leather and glued them on, but I cannot remember what kind of glue I used.
I wish I had taken more pictures now. Then I stuffed the legs with new sawdust and tried on the lower legs to make sure I hadn’t stuffed too much. Then I finished filling the top of the leg with a little stuffing so the sawdust wouldn’t leak out the top. There was a torn, oval cardboard piece at the top, so I cut a new one and inserted it into the top of the leg and loosely stitched the opening closed. Then I cut new holes at the top and put a brass eyelet in each hole.
After removing the buttons and lower arms, the leather upper arms were so dirty and fragile that I just peeled the leather off and recovered the wooden part with new leather. I got these from a doll business in NY years ago when they were still in business. I don’t know where to purchase them now. I had to be really careful putting the celluloid arms back so I didn’t break them. Celluloid is so fragile. That is what makes celluloid doll repair so hard.
Celluloid is very fragile and doesn’t like water, so I used a barely damp cloth to wipe most of the dirt off the arms and legs. Then I tackled the puzzle of putting the leg together with super glue one piece at a time. There is a great, free celluloid repair guide on ebay. http://www.ebay.com/gds/Celluloid-doll-repair-guide-/10000000000962075/g.html Then as I progressed, I dipped torn strips of muslin into glue to reinforce the inside of the leg. I found out later, that I could have used Gorilla glue also. When it was all dry, I sanded it smooth. I tried just sand paper, but it was so slow that I used my motorized sand-o-flex to get it all smooth. If I run my fingers over the celluloid now, it is completely smooth with no cracks or bumps.
Then I pulled the upper body back and reinforced the leather with the ironed on muslin, like I did with the lower legs. Then I glued some leather patches on the upper body. I couldn’t find any way to clean the body, so I just wiped it carefully with my fingertips and hoped the paint would glue it all down (which it did). Then I used Angelus acrylic leather paint on all of the leather, except the label, let it dry, then gave it one more coat. I let the paint dry for a week before putting the body back together. Now I just need to find a head to fit!
Here are a couple pictures of the restored body. I need to take the legs off and air brush them before it is really finished. I just wanted to see it all together.
I recently discovered the book “Celluloid Dolls Toys & Playthings” by Julie Pelletier Robinson that has references to celluloid repair throughout the book and a chapter on celluloid repair. She still sells the book, and answers her emails at email@example.com 🙂 Now I am certain I will be able to tackle celluloid doll repair.