What are neck strings and why do we want them? From 1986 to 2016 American Girl dolls had neck strings to keep the head attached to the body. The single cord goes in one side and out the other in a sewn loop on the cloth body and can be cinched tight around the vinyl base of the doll head. It can also be easily loosened for repair, working much like a drawstring on sweat pants.
If you buy previously loved AG dolls like I do, you may encounter neck strings that were cut or broke off due to wear. As a child in the early 90’s, I received my Samantha doll and was surprised to find neck strings. Sam was my first American Girl doll and I had never seen one in person. Before AG dolls, I had Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbies. The neck strings were a new concept to my child mind, so I can see why some children cut them off. Around 1991-1993, Pleasant Company put a sticker/tag on the the neck strings saying; Important DO NOT CUT.
If your American Girl doll was made in 2016 or after, she most likely will not have neck strings. Now the company uses zip-ties to hold the heads on. Personally, I am not a fan of the new way for two reasons: First and foremost, it prohibits easy access for repairs. Secondly, more than one of my newer dolls has the very hard “knot” of the zip-tie bulging out under the fabric on the neck.
I heard a rumor that AG tried the zip-ties in the early 2000’s but went back to neck strings because it “didn’t work”. I personally haven’t had a doll from that time period with a zip-tie, so I do not know if this is true.
I have replaced neck strings on many dolls during restoration so I decided why not add neck strings to my new dolls. Here is an easy tutorial on replacing or adding neck strings. This is probably the easiest repair tutorial we will ever do!
You will need a pair of scissors, a safety pin and round, braided candlewicking cord. Find the seam on the back of the neck and cut the couple of loose stitches keeping it closed. Gently insert the scissors under the zip-tie, being careful to not poke the fabric or dolls head, and cut. If you are replacing worn-out neck strings, simply cut and pull it out.
Grab hold of the zip-tie and pull it out. Securely attach the cotton cord to the safety pin and work it through the neck to the other side.
I like to pull the cord down to the doll’s bum and then cut the strings evenly. Place the head on the body and tie the cord securely. That’s it! Easy peasy!