Restringing a Tonner Child doll

Restringing a doll seems a lot harder than it is, at least in the case of this doll and similarly made dolls. In the case of the 14″ McCall’s and 10″ Ann Estelle dolls they are strung crosswise. This means head and both legs are attached to the same piece of elastic and both arms are attached to a different piece, as in this example.


Last year this poor Barbara McCall came to me looking like this: dollinbox

The reason being that the either someone restrung the doll with, or the Tonner company used, a piece of rubber elastic that did not endure time.


So after a look at the pieces, I decided that with my previous experience with restringing antique china dolls, a look through a very handy tutorial by my friend Joan for restringing 9 jointed dolls, and a chat with Dolly Doctor Noreen from Tonner, I’d grab the bull by the horns and give it a try. It took me all in all 45 minutes.

Tools needed:
– pair of tweezers
– 1 meter of 3MM stringing elastic (I got mine from
– scissors
– pair of pliers, but only if the loops of the hooks are not properly closed or too closed. I did not need them

First I ensured that the hooks in the head and limbs where in the correct position, mine had all slipped inside the limbs/head. I used narrow long tweezers to carefully pull the hooks back out. You might need to wiggle the limb or head a bit, hold it with the hole pointing down and shake, with some patience you will get the hooks back out. Tip: grab the hooks by the loop, this makes it a lot easier to pull it out.

Once I had your hook in position make sure the end of the ‘hooks’ are nicely closed loops you can thread your elastic through, if not use your pliers to squeeze them shut a little till they are/
I stuck a toothpick through the loop and secured it with a bit of cello tape to make sure it wouldn’t slip back in the limb/head/.


So now you are all set to do the actual restringing. Hooks in position, elastic, tweezers and scissors handy.


Take the elastic and push it down the neck opening. You will notice there is a tube inside the torso


DONT remove it. This tube is there for a reason. As you can imagine there will be immense tension on the body once we attach the head and legs to the same elastic loop, this tube helps with lessening the tension of the body, if you remove it (what I hear some people do) you risk that your dolly will end up with a very short and very fat body over time.

So, take the elastic and push in down this tube you see inside the torso (My elastic had a nice clean cut and threading it down and back up caused no issues at all), push it through there than out one of the leg openings and thread the elastic through the matching leg.


Now thread it back inside the body and out the other leg opening, and thread the matching leg on. Then back up the tube and out the neck.


Adjust the elastic so that one of the ends sticking out is about 10CM/4″ long, and then pull the other carefully so the legs slide into position.
Careful that you don’t pull the elastic all the way through or you will need to start again.


Now carefully remove your toothpick (or other ‘hold the hook in place’ aid) and slide the head on one of the two pieces of elastic that come out of the neck.

At this point, I advise you ask help from someone, in my case my DOH (dear other half). Get them to hold the doll tightly by the torso and pull the elastic tight. I mean really tight. Keep pulling till it won’t stretch anymore, and then make 3 knots. Make sure you pull each knot tightly before you make the next.

The head is now attached and the only thing left to do is to cut off the elastic about 1cm from the knots, and push the ends inside the head.


Half way there, admit it’s not too hard is it?

OK on to the arms.

Slide on arm onto the elastic, then both ends of the elastic through the tiny plastic tubes that came out of the torso. (Don’t remove those, they have the same function as the long tube in the body)


Now slide both pieces of the elastic through the torso to the other side, through the little plastic tube again and then one end through the arm hook.


Make sure that when you start pulling the elastic, that the little plastic tubes slide inside the body as shown in this picture:


Then arrange the elastic in such way that the shorter end protrudes by about 10CM/4″ then locate your helper again. While they hold on to the doll again by the body, pull the elastic as tight as you can. As tight as you can. Then make 3 knots, make sure each knot is tight before you make the next.


Cut the elastic off, about 1CM/0.5 inch from the knots and with help of your tweezers or scissors push the cut ends inside the torso.

Voila done! Easy peasy don’t you agree?

Barbara looks a lot sturdier now, she is back in her box (which I think she never really left as her laces where still factory tied.


Hope this tutorial is helpful and feel free to contact me if you have questions or suggestions for this tutorial

Thanks Joan and Noreen for your assistance with fixing Barbara McCall



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lynn
    Jan 16, 2013 @ 02:52:56

    Looks fantastic!


  2. Diane
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 06:42:35

    Yeah, now I can fix my Ann Estelle who arrived with floppy legs. Thanks so much, great explanations and pics.


  3. Jan Jillson
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 08:53:09

    I was directed to your site for the information on restringing my 14″ Betsy. She didn’t come with tubes. Betsy also has metal convex/concave discs that the hook goes through before attatching to the elastic. Does the convex or concave side show looking at the body part? Hope you can help.


  4. Jan Jillson
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 04:38:26


    I appreciate the help you have been able to give us. Here are pictures of two of the disks. There are also disks in the legs that are like to those in the arms. Included is a picture of the dress she came in. I think she had been wearing it for some time because there is body staining from the dress.



  5. Brinda Compton
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 13:04:58

    Thank you for the great, simple instructions! Much easier to do than I imagined! If you don’t have someone to hold the torso when tying the knots at the head, pull the string super tight and use the hemostats to hold the cord tightly in place while you tie the knots.


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