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Restring a Doll: Doll With A Basic 5-Part Body

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Doll ready to have its legs restrung.

Doll ready to have its legs restrung.

Denise Van Patten
The most common doll repair request that I get in my doll shop is to restring a doll. This can be complicated if your doll has a walking mechanism or if you have a multi-part antique composition body with jointed knees and elbows. However, for most dolls which have simply 5-piece bodies (torso, two legs, two arms) it is quite easy to restring a doll. This article will tell you how to restring your 5-piece bisque, composition, vinyl or hard plastic doll like a pro.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 20 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Prior to starting the restringing, obtain doll re-stringing elastic in the appropriate size. A good guide to the size you will need would be the size of elastic originally used to string the doll. If the original elastic is not available, then consider the size of the hook or loop on the limbs of the doll (you will want elastic that fits comfortably, but without leaving too much room) and also the material the doll is made of (heavy composition and bisque needs stronger elastic than vinyl).
  2. Assemble your tools. Besides elastic and scissors, which are required, you may also want to use a hemostat (a clamp that can hold the elastic outside the doll's body as you tie a knot in the elastic) and a doll stringing hook which can help you guide the elastic through the doll's body. I generally can guide the elastic without using a doll stringing hook, but some people find a hook to be helpful. I DO like using a hemostat, which helps you maintain proper pressure on the elastic when tying.
  3. Look at the doll limbs and head (each part should have a hook or loop) and decide which pattern you want to use to restring the doll. If your doll is still loosely strung with original elastic, cut it now and look at the path of the elastic before you remove it completely. Some dolls will have the head and legs strung on one elastic and the arms on another, some will have the arms and head on one elastic and the legs on another, and some will have all four limbs and head strung on one elastic.
  4. If you don't know how your doll was originally strung, experiment with the elastic, trying to string different parts to others to see how the limbs lie best.
  5. Once you've decided the restringing pattern, you can then start to restring the doll. Lets use as an example a doll with the head and legs strung together, with the arms strung separately. First, estimate how much elastic you will need to string the arms together and make a knot (double the length of the torso, plus enough to form the knot). Cut this piece of elastic.
  6. Take your cut piece of elastic and string it through one arm's loop or hook, leaving one end of the elastic outside the doll's torso. Take the end strung through the arm's loop/hook, and string through torso. String it through the other arm's loop/hook, then string it back through the torso.
  7. You now have both arms on the same piece of elastic which is properly placed through the torso. Now, you need to make a tight knot. If you have a hemostat, grasp both ends of elastic in the hemostat (coming through the one armhole and doll arm loop/hook) after tightly pulling the elastic to an appropriate pressure. Don't pull TOO hard--you can easily break delicate composition or bisque if you do. Clamp your hemostat. If you don't have a hemostat, simply pull both ends of elastic tightly.
  8. Tie a knot that won't slip out--double knotting in opposite directions is one good way. Now cut any extra lengths of elastic to near the knot. Release your hemostat (or your grip on the elastic) carefully. Your doll arms should now be restrung! If the pressure on the elastic is too tight or too loose, you may have to re-do the proccess, so it helps to have extra elastic.
  9. Repeat the entire process with the legs and head; this time, you will string the elastic starting at one leg hole, through the first leg loop/hook (leaving the extra length of elastic outside that first leg hole), then through the head loop, back down to the second leg loop, and then back to the first leg hole. Repeat the instructions for tightening and tying the elastic knot.
  10. Your doll should now be whole again!

Tips:

  1. These instructions only work for dolls with hooks in the limb openings or loops in the limb openings; some later vinyl dolls have rims which pop into the body instead. These instructions also will not work for peg-limbed dolls or cloth-bodied dolls.
  2. Don't pull the elastic too tight! If you do, you run the risk of breaking dolls made of bisque or vinyl. You also will make the doll look unnatural in its posing if the doll is strung too tight. The proper stringing pressure will keep the limbs close to the body, yet let you naturally pose the limbs without the limb snapping back into another position.
  3. Don't use sewing elastic! It is not strong enough, nor does it have enough spring to string most dolls. Use doll stringing elastic only. See the source for doll stringing elastic below.
  4. Don't use rubber bands! Rubber bands disintegrate very quickly.

What You Need

  • Doll with five limbs
  • Scissors
  • Doll Stringing Elastic
  • Hemostats (optional)
  • Doll Stringing Hook (optional)

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