Sooner or later, whether you intend to or not, if you purchase dolls second hand, you will end up with a doll that needs her limbs tightened. I purchased an Elizabeth doll in an Ebay auction that was listed as new and still in her box. When I took her out of the box however, her right leg was literally dangling. All her limbs were very loose but the right leg in particular was just hanging there. It really is a mystery as to what happened because there is otherwise not a scratch or mark on her.
She was completely unable to stand on her own, so I needed to tighten her limbs. Limb tightening is probably the most basic thing you can do to restore dolls. If you have never taken apart a doll before, it can seem daunting, but it is really quite simple and makes a huge difference in improving the doll.
I used hair ties in my previous restoration post I did for Kirsten which you can see here: https://crowncountrycrochet.com/2021/03/10/kirsten-doll-restoration/. They worked great and probably most people have extras on hand so it is easily accessible. This time I wanted to try something a little bit more professional and polished looking. I found these spacers that are 3D printed on Lazy 3D Printing’s Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/861572058/american-girl-doll-limb-spacers?ref=yr_purchases and decided to give them a try.
To take the doll apart, locate the neck string in the back and work the knot out. I used a yarn needle to easily get under the knot and pull apart. Remove the head from the body and pull out all the stuffing.
locate the string for the the limb you want to tighten on the inside of the body. The doll’s right leg was in the worst shape, so I started there. Pull the string up and insert the spacer of the appropriate size in the space between the knot or clamp and the cup. The spacers come in small (7, 8 and 9mm), medium (10, 11 and 12mm), large (13, 14 and 15mm) and extra large (16, 17 and 18 mm). I purchased one pack for each size because I frequently tighten limbs and it would be easier to have them on hand. I ended up needing the largest size spacer for the right leg.
What I really like about these spacers is it makes the process quicker and looks really clean. With using the hair ties, it was more difficult to hold the string away from the limp cup and wrap the hair tie around multiple times. Then I did the left leg and the arms. The left leg needed a large size. It was also completely loose but not dangling. I placed 2 different medium sized spacers for the arms. The arms were loose enough that they could not hold a pose.
Once all the spacers are placed, stuff the doll. I use the handle of a wooden spoon to get the stuffing back down into the body. Be especially diligent about getting the stuffing between the legs and on the sides. The stuffing also helps to secure the limbs in so I check after stuffing to ensure they are as tight as I would like them to be.
When you are happy with the tightened limbs, place the head back in and pull the string around the neck tight and knot securely.
The limb spacers worked really great and I am completely happy with them! I much prefer using them than the hair ties for ease of use and a cleaner finished look (although it is on the inside). To finish sprucing her up, I moved her ponytail to the side a little more because I like to drape the hair around the front and I thought her pin curls had a bit too much product in them. They were too rigid in my opinion, so I took a hair pick and ran it through the center of the curl once to loosed them up a little and give a softer look.
While it was incredibly disappointing to pay for a new in box doll and still end up having to repair her, I always end up liking the repaired dolls more. Whenever you make or repair or build things yourself, they always have more meaning to you.