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Restring an American Girl Doll

Updated: Jul 5

American Girl doll limbs are fun to play with because you can move their limbs 360 degrees.

This feature makes it easy to pose them with arms up, sitting down, holding something, or standing.

The mechanism that allows for their arm movement is a simple elastic cord with 2 spacers that hold the cord in the body and in the limbs.

This cord is stretched inside the doll so limbs remain tight.

Over time this elastic cord loses its elasticity from being stretched or being played with. You'll notice a doll's legs and arms swing freely, they don't stand well and they are hard to pose when this cord gets loose.

Doll is held up in air and legs loosely fall with gravity.
Miss Addy Walker is pictured here with loose legs.

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Here's a brief tutorial on how to replace the elastic cords and get that doll back in good shape.

Here are the tools needed to restring American Girl dolls.


  1. 5mm elastic cord

  2. 18-10 steel clamps

  3. Lineman's Pliers

  4. Scissors

  5. Heat gun or hair dryer

  6. Needle nose pliers

  7. Household tape like scotch tape

If you only have 1-3 dolls to restring, then I suggest getting a restringing kit from Etsy. It will provide the right amount of elastic and clamps for a couple of dolls. If you have more than 3 dolls or plan to restring often, then it will be cheaper to purchase elastic and clamps separately. I have linked the clamps and elastic I use in the list of tools, I have used these items over and over and these are the best quality and prices I've found.

First please note to take care with a heat gun. The barrel reaches a high temperature quickly. It's very important to keep an eye on where the heat gun is laid making sure it doesn't touch dollies skin, your skin, or flammable objects.

  1. Remove the head by untying the neck string. I find taking a pin and sticking it in the knot and pulling helps me undo neck sting easily. The neck string should have 3 simple knots. Some dolls have zip ties, If there is no neck string please see the bottom of this post for further instructions.

2. Here are a couple of side quests that are fun before we continue. I like to look inside the head for a little piece of paper. Really old dolls have a paper that names the company, these are called fortune cookies. The other thing to look for is a tag sewn onto the shoulder on the inside. From 2000-2010 dolls had shoulder tags. It shows the date of manufacture. Take a look at the bottom of this post to see shoulder tags and how to date them.

3. So the head is removed, and we've looked for special tags and papers. Now we unstuff the doll. Remove all the stuffing and place it somewhere safe. I use a clean Tupperware bin to hold the stuff so it doesn't get lost. If you are washing the doll, throw that stuffing in a linen bag or pillowcase and put it in the washing machine.

4. Now we can see the limb mechanisms. We are going to replace each elastic cord and the clamps that hold it so carefully cut each elastic cord between the clamp and spacer.

5. The limbs have the same (probably) white spacers inside them. We are going to heat the hole in the limb for about 2-3 seconds to soften the vinyl, then use needle nose pliers to pull that spacer out. Pull out the spacer, the cut string, and the metal clamp for all 4 limbs.

6. Cut a piece of elastic cord 3" long. Tape the ends of the cord with scotch tape so we can slide the clamp and cup on easily. Slide one clamp onto the cord to about 1/2" away from the end of the cord. The shoulder of the clamp (that ridge) faces the long end of the cord. Press the clamp into place with pliers. I highly suggest lineman's pliers because they have teeth behind the handle close to your hand which makes it much easier to tighten the metal vlamp to the elastic. The tighter the better. I am weak-handed, so I push this tool against my dining room table. Then put one of the spacers we took out of the doll onto this cord. The assembly will look like this-

7. Heat the doll's limb with a heat gun and push the spacer back into the doll's limb. These spacers can be hard to put back in. I find it easiest to bend the spacer just a little, and with open end next to armpit/inner leg push the spacer against a table until the spacer pops in. If it is very hard you can reheat the limb to make it more pliable.

8. So the spacer is in the doll's limb. Good, we're halfway there! A long cord is hanging from the limb opening. Thread this cord into the corresponding hole in the doll's body. Place one spacer on the cord with the opening facing limb, and place one metal clamp on the cord.

9. Before you tighten the metal clamp know this, you have to pull the elastic taut and then tighten that clamp. So pull elastic as far as you can and hold tight in one hand while you use pliers to tighten the metal clamp down.

10. Now one limb is one. Give that limb a good tug and make sure that your clamps are tight. The first doll I ever restrung I was too gentle. I put the whole doll back together, picked her up and her arm fell off.🤣🤣 So now I pull each limb to make sure it's tight before I continue.

11. Repeat steps 6-10 with the remaining limbs. Be sure to check that you're putting the right limb in the right place and that they are tight after clamping.

12. Restuff doll. This isn't tricky and we are almost done. When you start take care to stuff around the legs and the butt. If you don't take care to get some stuffing around those legs then the doll will have a terrible crease right there. Return all the stuffing back into the doll. Another spot to take care with is the shoulders. Manuiver the spacers and string towards the doll's heart so it can't be felt from the outside and be sure to stuff above, below, and around the arm sockets. The doll should look prepubescent when you're done stuffing it: with a firm chest muscle, and solid shoulders. Do a once over with your hand on the outside of the doll to see if you can feel any of the elastic cords. Sometimes a cord can be felt through the "skin" of the doll. We want to make sure to position cords so they can't be felt.

13. Place head back onto the doll. Tie one simple knot and pull this string tight. Then tie 2 more simple knots to have the head on right.

14. Celebrate! This doll is ready to hold a new pose and have fun.

There are plenty of videos and advice on how to cut corners while restringing dolls. Don't believe the hype, I recommend doing this correctly the first time using these steps above.

You can find tons of advice that says you can use elastic hair ties instead of 5mm cord, they'll advise you to open the doll, remove the stuffing, pull the existing cord tight, then put zip ties between the spacer and metal clamp to tighten the slack from old elastic. Or put elastic hair ties between the spacer and metal. This advice is poor.

Or another mistake, one I made when I started, was to cut the metal clamp off, pull the existing elastic tight and just replace the metal clamp.

I don't agree with any of these methods. Here's why. First, we already have the doll open, let's fix her right! Second, and most important, I did this with a doll when I first started, and guess what happened? One week later that doll was returned to me with the same loose limbs.

Once a cord is stretched out, using something to stretch it out further is not fixing it. These dolls are well worth the effort of fixing correctly and will last for years and years after being restrung.

If your doll doesn't have a neck string

Starting with Lea in 2015, American Girl used zip ties to close the neck instead of neck strings. They put these modified bodies and zip ties on Girl of the Year, Truly Me, and any doll that was sent to the doll hospital from 2015 to around 2017.

There was a few ruffled feathers in the doll-collecting community about this change.

In order to remove a doll's head with zip tie closure, you will need to rip the seam open, cut the zip tie and then proceed to step 3. After the doll is restrung you will replace the zip tie with a new one and have to sew the body/neck area closed.

I have not yet performed this task so I cannot add pictures. I will update when I do and pictures are available to show you how.

If your doll doesn't have a neck string

Peaches & Fig makes 18" doll clothing, sewing patterns, and replica fabrics for doll play. I also enjoy finding damaged dolls and fixing, and customizing new dolls, changing wigs, and pretty much all doll subjects for 18" dolls.

Here are a few links to doll fun. You can check out our shop, learn how to doctor dolls, and other fun stuff at


Links to other great blog posts about 18" dolls

Here is a post that shows our videos from social media.

These blog posts are part of our Dolly Doctor Series

Free Sewing Patterns for 18" dolls

Our original Sewing Patterns for 18" dolls


If you don't want to sew it we offer the finest in replica and handmade 18" doll items.

We also offer replica 1:3 scale fabrics and wallpapers in our Spoonflower shop.

Check out all we have to offer at Spoonflower


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