Body / Doll Care and Repairs

How to Restring an American Girl Doll

Blueberry mush flying through the air… the result of one just one of my many failed shortcuts.  My best friend and I were making blueberry milkshakes during our first “no parents sleepover” in high school.  I had made milkshakes before, and I thought that I would save some time by keeping the lid off the the blender, this way I could easily add the blueberries while the ice cream was blending.  I was soon to learn keeping the lid off the blender doesn’t save any time, and only increases the cleanup time of the counter top, cupboards, floor…. and ceiling… oops!

Needless to say there are some shortcuts in life that you want to avoid.  There is a notorious shortcut in the American Girl community for tightening your doll’s loose limbs with hair elastics.  If you haven’t seen it, this is what it looks like:


With this method you pull the doll’s limb strings tight, and wrap hair elastics around the strings below the ferrules.  This method from my experience doesn’t work well, but it’s quick, requires less supplies, and overall it is a lot easier.

Since you are here, you probably want to know the best method to tighten your American Girl doll’s loose limbs.  This method is referred to as “restringing”.

Well let’s get started shall we?


Before you can go any further you will need to the supplies shown in the photo above:

  • 8- brass ferrules
  • 4- 4 inch long pieces of elastic cord
  • hemostat
  • needle nose pliers with a crimper
  • heat gun or a hair dryer
  • sharp scissors


First step grab your pair of sharp scissors and cut the doll’s  four limb strings.


Next remove the doll’s head and pull out the stuffing.  Be sure to keep all the stuffing together and in a safe place.  Any pieces of old limb string you find, just throw out, you will be replacing these strings shortly.


Once you have removed all the limbs, and the stuffing you should have a doll that looks something like this… don’t worry we will get her looking better soon!  You should have four white plastic tension cups at this point, but there are four more inside the limbs that need to be removed, so let’s get to it!


In order to remove the white plastic tension cup from inside the doll’s limbs you must heat it up.  Since I am very impatient I like to use a heat gun… it only take a few seconds.  However if you don’t have access to a heat gun, you can use a blow dryer, it will just take longer to heat the limb up enough to make it pliable.  Be sure to warm the limb, and NOT melt it!


There is the white tension cup peeking out of the limb.  Now that your limb is soft from the heat, you need to remove this little but important piece of plastic.


Using a small pair of needle nose pliers, grab the edge of the tension cup and pull it out from inside the limb.  If you are having a hard time getting it out, try heating up the limb some more.


Start with one ferrule and one piece of cord .


String the ferrule unto the cord leaving about a half inch tail at the end.  Be sure to have the flange pointing towards the center.


Next using your needle nose pliers crimp the ferrule as tightly as you can.  You don’t want it to slip off!


I crimp my ferrules quite a few times… I had a bad experience with a doll that had been restrung improperly, one tug and her arm came right off.  Don’t let this happen to you!


Next thread a tension cup on the cord, with the rounded end towards the flange of the ferrule.


I always clip my hemostat onto the end of the cord.  This prevents the tension cup from slipping off, and from the cord falling into the limb during the next step.


With the ferrule at the end, push the rounded part of the tension cup in the limb’s hole.  If you did the previous steps quick enough, you will not have to reheat the limb in order to push the tension cup inside.  However if you are having difficulty with this step, reheat the limb and give it another try.


Next line the limb up with body, this step ensures that you don’t put the leg where the arm should be, or heaven forbid put it on backwards!  You will notice that I still have my hemostat attached to the cord.  Seriously you don’t want the cord to slip inside the limb, it’s such a pain in the butt… please learn from my mistakes!


Next, simply thread the string through the plastic leg socket hole.  (You will need to remove the hemostat for this part, I just have it attached in case my string decided slip while I was taking the photo.)


Once the string is through, reattach your hemostat.  Pull the inside of the leg socket up through the doll’s neck hole so it is easier to work with.


Next slip on a second tension cup with the rounded end pointing away from the doll’s body.


Pull the cord as tight as you can… this is why it is important to crimp the ferrule well, if it was going to slip this would be the time!  Once you have it pulled tight, clamp your hemostat next to the tension cup.


Thread a second ferrule onto the cord, with the flange towards the tension cup.


Crimp this second ferrule well too!


Once you feel that your ferrule is crimped tight enough, you can trim the cord if you like. Be sure to leave a little length in case your ferrule slips a bit.


Looking good!  Now repeat the procedure on the other limbs.  Once you have all the limbs attached you will need to re-stuff your doll.  Start at the bottom and stuff in as much of the stuffing as possible at the bottom, and work your way up ensuring that you stuff well around the doll’s joints.


All done!  Now your doll has nice tight limbs, now go treat yourself to a blueberry milkshake,  don’t forget the lid!


8 thoughts on “How to Restring an American Girl Doll

  1. Ooo…..these images and the entire process still freak me out a little! Where would I find the ferrules and what weight elastic cord should I use? Not even sure yet that I’d attempt it, but …gulp….you never know!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I have the entire kit together to sell for anyone who is interested. I am just not sure where and how to list them for sale. If you ever want one let me know 🙂


  2. Okay, I did speed through this one. You definitely have skills.
    Regarding the milkshake…I only recently found out that the center of the blender lid is removable so that you can add ingredients without stopping or having it blow up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Xyra! I love fixing dolls, definitely my passion. Good tip on the hole in blender lid… seriously will not make that mistake again!


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