Restring Your Vintage Dolls:
Our Classic Restringing Instructions

The Stringing Instructions on this page will work for most dolls that were assembled using elastic cord or rubber bands.

We do want to advise you that we're not experts. These methods work for us, but may not work as well for you. Anytime you're working on old dolls, there's a risk involved.

Our model is the Magic Attic Club Heather doll, made by MarianLLC in 2003. She belongs to my niece and her leg fell off.

In order to restring the doll, I also removed the arms and the other leg.

Magic Attic dolls are strung together using a cup system. The white plastic cup is shown in the center of the photo. Each arm and each leg has it's own cup that goes inside the body. Originally, the stringing cord is knotted through this cup.

The arms and legs are only attached to these cups: the strings don't go to any of the other arms or legs. So, each arm and each leg is strung separately.

I know of a few dolls that are assembled with the cup system. Baby Face by Galoob is one. And believe it or not, Baby Dollikin is assembled pretty much the same way but Uneeda used metal spring coils instead of the white cups. (We have special instructions for Baby Dollkin: CLICK HERE

HOWEVER... we are not going to use any of the original cups to restring the Heather doll. You can discard them or save them.

I chose to discard the white cups because they are defective. The Magic Attic dolls that were made by MarianLLC have defective cups that are brittle, so there has been a serious problem with the legs falling off. Which is really a shame, and it's possibly the reason why the company chose not to make the dolls anymore: they had too many problems at the factory.

SO... I have chosen to restring this Magic Attic doll using a classic stringing method. I am not going to put her together the original way.

I do have instructions on how to string a doll together using the cups, but it's a difficult method. CLICK HERE for the instruction page.

Okay, let's get down to business. The Magic Attic dolls have only a small round opening in the top of the limbs.

It would be nice if we could use our JOINT HOOKS on this doll, but there's not enough room. The photo shows are the joint hooks that we like to use, when we can. If these will fit in your dolls limbs, then go ahead and use them. They are ideal for many of the vintage and porcelain dolls. I think they will work for Baby Dollikin.

Whenever possible, I like to get the old pieces out of the limbs, but with Heather I didn't try. The opening was too small for me to fish the parts out. If she rattles a bit, that's ok. My niece didn't even notice when the doll was finished.

For this job, I'm going to use wing nuts from the hardware store. I used #8-32 wing nuts, along with our size 3 STRINGING CORD. I used zinc coated wing nuts, so they won't rust.

Thread the wing nut onto the cord and then tie a heavy double knot in the end of the cord.

Slide the wing nut down the cord a few inches, and push the knot into the hole first. Then, slide the wing nut up the cord and push it inside the limb. You will slide one "wing" in the hole first, and then the other wing.

Notice the direction that the wing nut is arranged on the cord. The "wings" are aimed down, away from the knot. This is important, because when I pull back on the cord, the widest part of the wing nut will brace against the vinyl. It's less likely to slip out again if the wing nut is positioned like this.

You can warm the vinyl with a hair dryer first, this might make it easier to push the wing nut in the little hole. HEMOSTATS are a very useful tool for stringing. I use hemostats for pushing, pulling and grabbing.

Do the same with the other limbs.

Now... pay attention to this next step. If you want the doll's limbs to position the way they should, you need to arrange the cords properly inside the body. The photo below shows the arrangement, but the body isn't there. So this is kinda like an "x-ray" photo.

The string from the LEFT arm is tied to the string from the RIGHT leg. And, the string from the RIGHT arm is tied to the string from the LEFT leg.

The wood ball spacer in the middle helps to hold the cords together and also controls positioning. All the cords go through the big wood bead in the middle. You can also use a short piece of small PVC pile instead of the wood bead.

If you don't arrange the cords like this, the doll's legs can end up in a wide leg stance, with ankles far apart. This wood bead arrangement helps to control the leg position so it is more relaxed and natural in appearance.

I arrange the limbs and cords loosely until I have all the pieces in place. You really need the hemostats at this point (long ones!) in order to grab and push the cords where they need to go inside the body. The large wood bead is in there too, you just can't see it.

When you have the cords arranged, then tie them. I pulled the ends through one of the armholes and tied it as tight as I can. It's possible to tie it too tight, and then the arms and legs will stick OUTward too much and look awkward. But you really do want to put a LOT of tension on the stringing cords so the limbs will be snug.

Tie one arm & leg together, then tie the other arm & leg together, making sure that the cord goes through the wood bead before you tie it.

Heather is back in one piece!


Alternate Methods & Suggestions

  • If only the arms have come off the doll, you can tie the cord from arm to arm. This works fine.

  • It does NOT work to tie the LEFT leg to the RIGHT leg directly. The doll will do the splits when you are finished.

  • If your vintage doll has her original hooks, then use them. That's probably better than replacing them with any of the hooks or wing nuts suggested on this page.

  • If you have a vintage doll with the head off, then string the LEFT leg up to the HEAD, and back down to the RIGHT leg. Then tie the ARMS to each other. Many vintage dolls were assembled this way.

  • Heather's head needs to be attached separately, and so does Baby Face. I use the original system to restring the heads of these dolls.
    CLICK HERE for the instruction page. (I intend to add more info on stringing the heads of these dolls.)

Baby First Love by Marx (from the 1970's) can be restrung using our joint hooks and stringing cord. First Love is a gorgeous doll and very poseable... but she tends to be floppy since the rubber cords have "relaxed" after 30 years. She has very unusual construction, so people don't realize at first that she can be restrung if you have the right tools.


Related Links

You can buy stringing cord, cord hooks, hemostats, elmers glue and other doll supplies at PrillyCharmin's Doll Shop.

Copyright (c) 2002, 2012 Cynthia Stevens All Rights Reserved