Replacing Neck Strings Tutorial

   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.


1992 Do Not Cut tag

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.

ACEBC6EB-1889-4E72-8B94-65974F752153If 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.

AG zip-tie closure "knot"

The bulging “knot”

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!

For more doll repair tutorials check these out! Eye Removal and ReplacementRestoring Doll HairDoll Cleaning and How To Re-String A Doll. Have a great week!

6 thoughts on “Replacing Neck Strings Tutorial

  1. Thank you for this very helpful tutorial! I haven’t bought any new AG dolls in the last few years, so I haven’t gotten any with zip ties yet. When/if I do, I will definitely be replacing them with neck strings.

  2. This is good information for folks who like to work on their dolls. I will share this with the women in my doll club who do.

  3. From what I’ve heard a while ago they’d replace neck strings with zip ties when they went to the doll hospital. They stopped because it was unpopular. I have a PC Addy with a zip tie that is likely a product of that period. Unlike the contemporary zip-tied dolls you can see the little white zip tie nub at the back of her neck.
    Also thanks for the tip about getting candle wicking, it’s going to be so much cheaper than getting pre-cut cord from etsy or eBay.

    • Yes! I had a few dolls come home with zip-ties from the hospital in the early 2000’s and again around 2010. I heard from other collectors they sold the dolls new with zip-ties in the early 2000’s but I can’t confirm or deny because I didn’t buy one new during that time period. 😊
      Absolutely! The candlewicking cord is almost identical to the new neck strings. I bought one of those kits (a restringing one as well) off eBay and took them to Hobby Lobby and Lowe’s to find the pieces. I can repair 10-15 dolls for under $10.😉
      Thanks for your comment and insight! ❤️

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