Friday, May 24, 2013

A Doll for an Arm

After receiving the beautiful hand sewn dressings from Betty A., I telephoned her to offer my personal thanks.  During our conversion, Betty shared that she enjoyed my post on Mama Dolls and marveled about the variety I own.

During our discussion of these dolls, I asked Betty if she was able to answer the question I posed in the post regarding the 27-inch transitional mama doll that is featured at the end:  Can you tell what she's missing? 

As shown more clearly here, the doll is missing her right arm.   She arrived to me with one arm over a dozen years ago.  My plan had been to find a replacement for her but I never put forth the effort.

Betty shared that she has the exact same doll, "but it's white," she said, and offered to send it to me to use for parts.  "You'll have to paint the arm," she said in her soft-spoken voice.  "Are you sure?" I asked.  "She's in storage and I'm not doing anything with her" is what she said to convince me to accept the doll.  I assumed the doll was in disrepair and was only good for parts.  To save on postage, I urged Betty to remove the right arm and just send that to me.  She politely declined stating she wanted to leave the disassembling to me.

Mama doll received from Betty A. to use for parts.

After the doll arrived, I understood her dilemma.  Had she removed the doll's arm, she would have damaged a near perfect doll!  With the exception of a few minor crazed areas and her hair needing to be reset, there is practically nothing wrong with this doll, and I won't be the one to remove an arm from a near perfect doll either.  Once again I called Betty to thank her for her extreme generosity.

After naming the doll, Jane, I decided the two will be "sisters under the skin."  Twins from different mothers (or perhaps different fathers!).

Jane, the would-be arm donor, and her one-armed twin.

Instead of removing Jane's arm, I decided to take a stab at making a mold of her right arm.

My first bright idea was to wrap Jane's arm in foil paper to create the mold.  I did this but decided that was not the best approach.
Plan A:  The foil wrapped arm.
I removed the foil paper, Saran wrapped the arm, and covered that with paper tape.  The plan was to next apply glue over the entire surface of the paper-taped arm, allow that to harden before slitting it along the under surface of the hardened mold to remove it, and hopefully not damage Jane's arm in the process.  The "hopefully" part worried me so I axed the glue application idea.

Plan B, Step 1:  Saran-wrapped arm

Paper tape has been applied over Jane's Saran-wrapped arm in the above image, step 2 of plan B.

Instead of glue I decided to cover the plastic and paper tape-wrapped arm with some of Husband's polymer clay (if he still had enough, I thought).  I asked.  He did and suggested that I just sculpt the arm with the clay.  "You don't need to put it [the clay] over the doll's arm.   You can just sculpt it."  (Easy for him to say and easier for him to do, I thought.)

So I said, "Show me" before proceeding to gingerly cut the Saran wrap and paper tape from Jane's arm with a pair of scissors.

Saran wrap and paper tape removed from Jane's arm.

(This is her arm, I thought... if his sculpting doesn't work, I'll add a step 3 to plan B -- stuff this with Polyfil, paper-tape the cut edges, paper mache it, shape the fingers, and paint it to create the arm.)

So far, here's the arm Husband sculpted with polymer clay.

Plan C:  Doll's right arm visually sculpted using polymer clay.

It appears I will not have to add a step 3 to plan B!  The sculpted arm looks pretty darn good, almost identical to Jane's right arm.  I helped with the smoothing, but Husband did the sculpting.  After he smooths it out, rounds off the upper portion and flattens the under surface that will attach to the doll's body, I will bake it in a glass dish at at 275 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until it hardens.  I can handle painting it to match my doll's complexion, but I'll solicit his help once again to attach it to the body.

I'll post a followup after Lynn (I just named my one-armed doll) has two arms.


Follow my Dolls for Sale blog

Please visit and "Like" The Doll Blogs: When Dolls Speak I Listen



  1. How generous and sweet of Betty to send you her doll. I'm happy you decided to keep her in tack. The two look very happy together. I'm impressed with your creative thoughts concerning making a mold, and even more impressed with your husband's sculpted arm. Together you two make the perfect creative team.

    1. Thanks, Vanessa.

      I think I'll keep him another 40.


  2. What a heart-warming story. Looking forward to seeing the finished arm.

    1. Thanks, Paulette.

      Betty is a true gem and her generosity motivated me/us into action.


  3. What a generous gesture. It is wonderful that you are able repair your dolls. I have purchased several dolls on eBay that need some work done but I am afraid to experiment for fear of causing further damage. I eventually hope to be able to work on some of the dolls that need help. Repairing dolls seems like a labor of love,

    1. Hi Saliyah,

      Please don't let your fear of damaging dolls that need work prevent you from exercising your creativity. I was like you at first with composition dolls, but after my experience of buying vintage vinyl fixer uppers at thrift stores to restore and sell, I knew I could work on composition.

      Begin with a small project, but first research what materials are best to use for the type of doll to be restored. Baby steps... take those first. Soon you'll find yourself leaping.


  4. Wow Debbie, you are very creative. I never would have thought to sculpt an arm. I would have just posed her with the "no arm" side not showing. Lol! That was very sweet of Betty to send you her doll. Doll people are the best for the most part. : )

    Looking forward to seeing Lynn finished.

    P.S. You and your husband are the dynamit duo. Lol! Great job on the sculpting!

    1. Thanks GG. It took me nearly a dozen years to do somether for Lynn other than clean her up. I have had her on display with similar dolls with that part of her body turned away (out of sight out of mind). It was Betty's kind gesture that motivated me to "just do something" for Lynn to make her whole.

      Hubby's creative talent far exceeds mine with reference to artist skills, but whenever I display a little bit of "what I can do, if I put my mind to it," I amaze myself. I am also glad to have his assistance and that of my son's, when needed.


  5. Cute dollies. Lovely story about Betty's generosity and your hubby's crafty contribution. Thanks for sharing.


Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!