One, Two, (Three) Buckle My Shoe


Can you tell from my recent posts that I have plenty of time at home right now to catch up with my creative work—both sewing and writing? Today’s small project was switching the buckle from the single brown antique child’s shoe to the blue pair to make a match.

I found this adorable pair of Victorian blue leather child’s shoes several years ago. When I bought them, the left shoe was complete with soft metal buckle and original lacing. The right shoe had no buckle and was laced with a modern cream colored narrow ribbon. Wanting to improve the pair closer to original condition, I diligently searched for an antique replacement buckle, or for single shoes that would supply the needed buckle. Eventually, I found a sale-lot of single antique doll shoes, including one with the buckle I needed. Unfortunately, when I received them, I found that the buckle, though the same style, turned out to be smaller than the one on my blue child shoe. I sewed it on anyway, and made a new twisted crochet cotton lace for the right shoe. As you can see, the lace that I made is too light in color. Perhaps a tea bath could solve that problem. . . .

Finally, after another year or so of not really searching, I came across this single brown child’s shoe with the same style buckle. This time, I made sure that it would be the right size before purchasing. Since the shoes themselves are similar, but not identical, they make for an interesting comparison of this type of Victorian children’s shoes. These shoes are a common style for children that were made from around 1860 to 1900.


Shoes were not shaped to fit the right and left foot until the 1850’s and later. Before that time, people shaped their leather shoes and boots to their feet by soaking them in water, then wearing them until they were dry. On my shoes, the sole of the single brown one shows minimal, if any, shaping as a left shoe. The larger blue shoes are just discernible as right and left.


My camera is not capturing the true colors. The brown shoe is slightly lighter than shown here, while the blue pair is also lighter; more of a cadet blue.

The brown shoe is 4 1/2 inches long at the sole, and the blue pair is 5 inches long. Both shoes here are machine stitched. A machine for sewing shoe soles to the uppers was patented in 1858. Before that, making shoes was a craft, as they were made by hand, and sewing a hard leather sole to the upper took much effort.  Remember the visit of the shoe cobbler to the Wilder farm in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Farmer Boy? Wilder describes in detail how the cobbler made shoes for the family right there in their home.

Both of these shoes (above and below) have decorative variable zig-zag stitching surrounding the lacing and tops. Metal grommets are used for the lacing holes. Also of note is that the brown shoe is higher in front at the top, while the blue pair is slightly curved across the top. The brown shoe has a two part upper, while the blue shoes have a third part for the toe.


Another intriguing difference is that the brown shoe has a tongue, while the blue shoes lace without a tongue underneath. I could not find a reference about when shoes for children in the 19th century began to have tongues. It is my understanding that laced shoes without tongues are generally earlier than those with tongues. However, other features of the brown shoe would indicate that it is earlier than the blue pair.


Here is the pair of blue shoes with the right-size matching buckles. I like how they display much better now.   —And what to do with a single brown Victorian child’s shoe?


Fear not! A single shoe (sans buckle) can be brought to good advantage in a home filled with Victorian antiques and dolls!

Carte-de-Visite toddler girl wearing white lace shoes (2)

This Late Victorian to Edwardian era girl wears white shoes similar to the ones I have shown. Hers appear to have hard leather soles with a low heel.


Flower Child: Restoring a Small Hertwig Print-Body China Doll


I recently purchased a small Hertwig china doll who is inferior in her china head, face painting, and bisque limbs. Yet I like her because she is a doll made with an intriguing  print body.  Print bodies for Hertwig dolls were available possibly from about 1895, and definitely from Butler Brothers distributor from 1905 to 1907.  Many print body dolls are made in alphabet or flag print on the nanking (cotton) body. They brought a new twist to the old china dolls who were going out of favor by this time. The print bodies were considered to be educational for children. They are not easy to find in today’s market.

Hertwig ABC body Photo from Pinterest

Here is an alphabet print body. (Image from Pinterest)

Hertwig numbers print

This doll with a numbers print body is larger than the one above and has a more detailed hairstyle and face painting. (Image from

Hertwig Kate Greenaway print body Photo from

The nanking body of this doll has an intriguing Kate Greenaway print. (Image from

I purchased this doll because I had been searching for a print body doll, and I was captivated by the lovely floral print which I had not seen before. The pansies got me! I knew that the doll had some issues with her cloth body, and that she was leaking sawdust. She arrived with one hole covered with tape, and  another hole that I didn’t know about upon purchase. I did not handle her until now, as I made the repairs.


The patch on her right leg is complete, while the left one is in progress. You can see that the china part of this leg is almost torn free. Also evident is the excelsior (sawdust) leaking out as I work on her.

Repair work on this doll was delicate because the cloth is brittle. She had obviously not been living in optimal conditions these many years. I had to take care in placing stitches so as not to break the fibers further.


Rose, Carnation,  and Violet are shown on her front, along with a peek of daisy, and the meandering vine.


Pansies are evident on the backside, with a hint of forget-me-not. Poppy shows only a small bit under her arm.

This floral print body would be considered as educational because the flower names are printed with the flowers. They include rose, violet, carnation, forget-me-not, sunflower, pansy, poppy, and daisy.

While I didn’t like having to cover part of this doll’s endearing body with patches, she is much better off now that her body is stable. At nine inches tall, she will remain “au naturel” without clothing to show off her fine print. What a sweetie to behold!


The repairs are complete, and the cloth body stabilized.

Antique photo girl with star collar china and carriage

This girl poses with what appears to be a large Hertwig “lowbrow” doll in her carriage in the late 19th century.