I have a very large collection of AG dolls and the majority of them came to me secondhand. Over the years I have learned how to repair almost every issue I have encountered. Today let’s focus on loose limbs.
American Girl doll vinyl limbs are attached to the body with an elastic cord from inside the limbs going into the body. After years of play the elastic can stretch out causing the legs to hang out of the sockets. Storing or displaying dolls in a sitting position can lead to loose limbs quickly. All of my dolls stand when on display and lay down if they are being stored.
I picked up this 1998 Molly locally for $25. She was in great overall condition, but all of her limbs were swinging from their sockets so she could no longer stand or hold anything. Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to re-string a doll.
To begin you will need tweezers, needle nosed pliers, crimp sleeve connectors (found at Lowe’s), bungee cord (found at Hobby Lobby) and scissors. I also used a dowel rod or wooden spoon (not pictured) later on.
Using tweezers, I loosened the neck strings and removed her head. Next I removed all fluff and set it aside.
Using scissors, I cut the existing elastic cords. I removed all the pieces from inside the cloth body. There will be four tension cups in the body and one in each limb for a total of eight. It will require the pliers (and some patience 😉) to remove the tension cups from the limbs. Sometimes they come out easily and sometimes they don’t, it just depends on the doll. In my experience newer dolls are much harder than older ones and require more strength to get them out.
Cut off four pieces of the bungee cord, making each piece about 3 1/2 inches. Here’s the part where you need 3 hands! 😂 Using the pliers, crimp one of the sleeves near the end of the cord while pulling it on both ends. You want the cord to be stretched slightly when the crimp sleeve clamps down on it. Place a tension cup onto the cord.
Push the cord with crimped sleeve and tension cup into the limb. Thread the cord sticking out into the socket on the body and pull it up into the body.
String a tension cup onto the cord and then a crimp sleeve. Pull on the cord while squeezing the pliers on the crimp sleeve. ALWAYS create tension on the cords when clamping down the crimp sleeves, this will keep the limbs tight when the doll is finished.
Repeat the steps until all limbs are re-attached. Refill the body with the fiber fill fluff. I use a dowel rod to manipulate the fluff in the body. Sometimes the fiber fill can make the body appear lumpy if it’s not evenly distributed, so the dowel rod can be helpful. You could use the handle of a wooden spoon also. Once the body is filled, re-attach the head.