Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wendy Re-Strung: Step By Step Doll Stringing Tutorial

A doll in need of stringing.

If you want to collect dolls it is very important you know how to string them. You can buy dolls much more economically if you find them in pieces. Stringing is easy, and the small 8-inch dolls are easiest because you can buy the elastic cord you need locally for the most part. I just spent several hours re-stringing a bunch of 1950s-1970s Alexander-Kins dolls and listing them in my store, and I took photos throughout the process of stringing various 8-inch so I could show you exactly how. You can buy the finished dolls and many more in my store, so please check:

The original bands

Alexander-Kins dolls rarely hold together for decades. They are strung with rubber or latex bands that rot fairly quickly. It's not at all uncommon to find an Alexander-Kins made as recently as the 1990s in pieces, never removed from the box. You can purchase latex tubing and cut it into pieces to make new bands, but you'll be re-stringing your dolls probably every 5-10 years. I recommend using elastic cord, which is more durable. Besides cord you will need tools like tweezers and needle-nose pliers. My favorite stringing tools are two sets of tweezers, one with sharp teeth and one without, jewelry pliers with magnetic tips, and a small hemostat. These are surgical tools, but you can usually buy them at fabric stores. I got mine from eBay.

A hemostat

You can buy cord elastic in the sewing section at Wal-Mart or at a fabric store. This size elastic is fine for dolls about 12 inches or smaller. If you want to string a larger doll you will need to order bigger elastic cord from a specialty doll shop like Dollspart, unless you're lucky enough to have a doll repair shop in town. When you are experienced to know what size you need you can find it on eBay. I am considering whether it's economically feasible to offer elastic in my store. If I decide it is I will have it in my doll repair section, so make sure to bookmark my store at the above link. You can also order doll hooks from Dollspart.

To begin, cut a piece of elastic about twice as long as the doll's torso from neck to crotch. Loop the elastic through the head hook or stringing bar if there is no hook. Use tweezers to pull the elastic down to the leg holes.

Pull the elastic through the leg hook.

Loop the elastic through one leg hook. Then pull it through the body to the other leg hole and hook that leg. Pull the elastic as tight as you possibly can without hurting the doll's body. Knot the elastic, and pull the knot so it isn't right on either leg hook. A hemostat is a good tool to help hold the elastic in place while you knot it.

Bring the elastic through the leg hole and hook the leg to it.

Pull the elastic through the body and hook the other leg.

Knot the elastic, but not on either hook.

The arms are strung separately on these dolls. If you try to put them on the circuit with the legs they lose mobility unless you leave the elastic too loose for the doll to pose. It's really hard to get the arm loop tight enough with elastic, but I devised a method I find fool-proof. Take a piece of elastic and knot it around a #2 pencil to make a little loop.

Slide the elastic off the pencil, being careful not to pull on the ends and tighten the loop. Hook one side of the loop through an arm hook. Pass a hemostat through the body from the opposite arm hole and lock the hemostat on to the elastic. Do not grip at the knot or the ends, so you don't untie the knot. Pull the elastic through the body. It's very hard to pull it so far; that's why I use the hemostat. When you have the elastic pulled through the body hook the other arm hook through it.

Hook one arm to the loop.

Grasp the elastic with tweezers or a hemostat.

Pull the loop through the body.

Hook the other arm hook to the elastic.

Now your doll is all re-strung! It should be able to sit and stand alone and hold poses. When I string old dolls my goal is to get them tight enough to pose while keeping them loose enough that I won't strain the seams or doll body. It just takes practice to be able to feel when the doll is just right. I have noticed dolls tend to loosen a little over time, so I make them just a tiny bit tighter than I want for the long term.

Besides stringing, a particular problem with Alexander-Kins dolls is that their wigs tend to be full of white flaky pieces. I think this is a combination of the glue used and a styling product applied by the company during the 1960s-1980s. To fix this you have to be very patient. You will have to wash the hair with dish soap or fabric softener make times. Let it dry each time and brush it with a wire brush. After a few times you can pick most of the remaining flakes out with a straight pin. On brunettes, however, the flakes still tend to show. You also might not want to brush a doll's hair out if it's in its original set. In this case, I take Sharpie permanent markers matching the hair and a shade or two darker and color lightly over the flakes. The color variation helps the color look natural.

Flaky hair, a problem with 1960s-1980s Alexander-Kins.

Color with Sharpie markers over the flakes.

The colored hair
Once you master doll stringing and hair coloring, you will be all set to add to your collection, fix your child's toys, or even restore dolls to sell. I hope this helps you and wish you the best of luck!

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