Saturday, November 22, 2008

On Re-stringing Sasha Dolls

I believe I promised an entry on this topic some time ago, and I keep stalling, because I think it may be complicated to fit the directions in with the pictures. I'm not sure if I can clearly explain this, but I'm determined to try. As Sasha dolls age, eventually the stringing cords that hold us together can wear out. I was well played with by MamaT growing up, and from time to time when I lost my head, MamaT's Mama always knew exactly what to do, and was always able to get me back in shape. MamaT thought Gran-Mama was magic in her abilities to fix me, but she was a nurse by training after all. At some point or another along the way, Gran-Mama replaced my arm stringing and didn't know the importance of keeping original strings with Sasha dolls, so my arm strings were tossed and replaced with regular elastic. Fortunately, I still have my original leg stringing which is white with both green and purple flecks, positive proof of my age.

Up until this past year, my stringing was quite loose for a number of years. I could still stand—as long as I was balanced just so... But you could knock me over with a feather any time. Since my arm stringing was just ordinary sewing elastic, MamaT figured she couldn't do too much damage by attempting to replace my arm stringing herself. Then when Patrick arrived with his stringing all strunk, she immediately replaced his leg to head stringing, and next replaced my leg stringing (leaving the original string tucked inside my body). And when Lona arrived, she also needed to be restrung after her odor problem was resolved. MamaT took photos when she restrung Lona and is gradually getting better results from her work, so now I'll share her restringing methods with you.

Now before I go any further, I will recommend that you first consider sending your doll to a “Sasha Spa”. Prices will vary depending on what attention your doll needs, but after doing this on our own, I will say that $20 for a Sasha restringing is VERY reasonable. Below are links to a few different people I know of that do Sasha doll restringing and other repairs. If you know of others who should be included in this list, please post a comment.

However, for the die-hard do-it-yourselfer, here are a few tips on restringing a Sasha doll. I expect there is more than one way to do this, and I can't gaurantee this is the best way, but it is a way we've found that works for us.

1). The Big Picture. First, you need to understand how a Sasha doll is strung. One loop of string holds the arms together. A second loop is connected to both legs and the head, as crudely shown in the diagram below. This is for an older doll. Post-1975 dolls have a ring/neck assembly, we'll address later. When you do measurements later, you will be figuring the size of loop needed between these hooks when all the limbs/head are in place.

Sasha doll stringing sketch
2). Tools. Next you will need tools for the job. These include:

>Round elastic cord, at least 1/8” thick, but 3/16 or 1/4” would be better if you can find it.
>Metal tubing that just fits the width of your elastic (can be found at hobby stores). Kelly of "" above reminded me to point out to be sure not to use rust-prone metals, like steel. I used brass tubing, but copper tubing would also be okay. These oxidize, but they don't rust, and they only corrode in a very wet environment. My elastic loops look like hair bands, but the metal connectors on hairbands are made from steel and will rust. Kelly says there are hairbands available that do not have metal connectors, but I don't know if they come in the right size for Sasha restringing or not.
>Long hook – Ours was made from 12 gage copper wire
>Needlenose pliers (2 pair if possible)
>If you are working with a ring assembly, you will need a small hook similar to those found on the legs and arms of your doll. Like these hooks, it should have a hook on both ends to hook on both the ring and the elastic string. You might also need cutting pliers or a wire cutter if you are making your own hook out of copper wire like we did. It needs to be very sturdy metal.
Restringing tools
3). Measurements. Hold your elastic against a ruler and measure the maximum a given length of it will stretch. Most of the elastic we've seen will double in length, but you should check your specific material. Use a string (non-stretch) and whatever ingenuity you've got to figure out the size of loop you need between the hooks when the doll is all together. This part is tricky and hard to explain. The measurement you are looking for will probably make more sense once you've read through all the instructions, so do that first. Your first measurement is the size you would have if there were no stretch in your elastic. If you have elastic that can double in length at its maximum stretch, the size of loop you really need should be 75% of the loop you measured without any stretch. The elastic should be stretched to about half its capacity when the doll is in normal position. If the string is not stretched enough, your doll will be too loose. If it is stretched too tight, the stringing will wear out too fast, or worse yet, it could damage the shape of your doll. Once you've figured out the size of loop you need, you can cut the elastic to size. The amount of material you use will be surprisingly small. If your elastic is on the thin side, you may want to double the size of your loop and then loop the elastic around your hooks twice for a little extra strength if that makes sense. Just ignore the last sentence if it doesn't make sense.
Limbs and hooks
4). Elastic Loops. When you have the right length of elastic, slip both ends into either side of a short piece of metal tubing that matches the width of your elastic. Put a drop or so of superglue at the mouth of the tube on each end. The glue should wick down the elastic inside the tube aways. While superglue dries quickly, you should let it dry several hours or overnight before stretching your elastic again, so it will be good and set before you put pressure on it. Other methods we tried included tieing the string in a knot. Getting the right size loop was even harder with this method, and the knot always seemed to slip and not stay in the same place, so we gave this method up. We also tried crimping the metal tubing onto the elastic. This worked sometimes, but not all the time, and ends up wasting a lot of tubing with failed attempts. The superglue technique worked consistently for us, so we like that method.
Elastic Loop materials
5). Leg to head restringing. If you are replacing both leg and arm stringing, do the legs first as they are more difficult. If your doll has a ring neck assembly, you need to hook a double ended hook on the ring (see photo). Hopefully, you read all instructions before you begin, because I'll remind you here that you need to measure your loop from the end of this hook and not from the ring when you are doing your measurements. In most cases the original stringing will still be on the ring and will just hang loose inside the body when you're done. Since this doll had smoke issues, the stringing is being stored separately from the doll.
ring neck assembly with hook added
Now hook either end of your leg loop on the hooks on your doll's legs (see photo). If your doll is missing a hook, you can buy a similar hook or make one from sturdy wire. If an end of the hook is closed too tightly to get string on or off it, it may take 2 pair of pliers or maybe a vice clamp and some pliers to adjust the hook opening so you can remove the old string and hook on the new. DH's can be helpful here too. Put your long hook down through the neck of the doll and grab the elastic with the hook. Make sure you have both sides of the elastic so you will have a double elastic in your hook as shown in the photo, and not just one side of the elastic.
restringing legs
The next step is a two person job, so find an assistant. One person will need to pull the elastic up to the neck of the doll with the hook. This will be at its maximum stretch. The second person should attach the head hook to the string. When the head is hooked on, you can unhook the long hook and let the head pull into place. Needlenose pliers can come in handy for helping get the elastic on and off the hooks as needed. The legs and head should all be snugly attached now.
Pull the hook with the string up to the neck hole
6). Arm restringing. If you also need to attach arms, now hook your arm loop to the hook on one arm. Put your long hook through the opposite armhole and grab the other end of your elastic loop. Pull the elastic through and hook the second arm on this end. Unhook your long hook and let the arms pull into place. Now you should have a doll that can stand and hold his/her arms up. Voila! Try setting one foot flat, and the second foot on its toe and balance the doll. Sasha's can do this. Pretty cool, eh?

arm restringing
ready to switch hooks
Voila! I can stand now. Like the suit?
We've gotten a little better at this with each doll we've restrung. It does take some practice to get just the right tension you want. Most of us restrung dolls are still slightly on the loose side (which is better than being too tightly strung), but we can hold any pose we want now, so we're happy with that. I can even balance on a slanted log now (see Sasha's Summer Adventure entry), which I never could have done a year ago. So I will tell you from a personal experience--A properly strung Sasha is a happy Sasha. Hope you have good luck with yours!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Smokey the Doll

Lona Rachelle
Hi, Sasha says it is my turn to introduce myself. I told her she could it do it for me, as I feel a little shy about writing about myself to anyone who finds this on the intranet, but Sasha insists I write my own. I am a Sasha Brunette “Pink Dress”, #103, made in 1979-1982 by Trendon in England. Most likely I am a 1979 girl, because the dolls made in the 1980s had much lighter skin. My name is Lona Rachelle, which MamaT says is after a special little girl, although her name was Rachel. Also Lona is the heroine in a fairy tale by Dare Wright about a courageous and kind-hearted princess. In the storybook, Lona was portrayed by a Lenci boudoir doll and by Dare Wright herself (more well-known for her Lonely Doll books).

I was a birthday present for MamaT's last birthday from her husband. I needed restringing, but he had already helped with a couple of restringing projects, so he knew that could be done. I arrived exactly on MamaT's birthday. She was so excited she opened my box right on the front porch. It was a lovely spring day, and she sat down on the porch and gazed at my face in the sunlight and fell head over heels for me instantly. At least that's what she tells me. After a few minutes, she took me inside, and that was when she got a whiff of my hair, which reeked of cigarette smoke. The seller hadn't mentioned this. The seller picked me up at an estate sell, and later said she hadn't detected any odors, although she was a former smoker. I was also sold “As Is—No Returns.” MamaT got a lot of feedback from the SashaL list about this transaction so she learned a lot of lessons. In no particular order, some of these lessons were:
--If odors are not mentioned in the listing, ASK. If the seller says they can't smell, don't bid.
--Even if you didn't ask every possible question, it is still the responsibility of the seller to divulge major defects, and cigarette odor is a major defect. You don't have to take the “as is---no returns” clause entirely at face value.
--Contact the seller before attempting any sort of rehab on the doll. If the seller really wants to be fair, and realizes they made an error in divulging major defects, they should be willing to accept a return or make an adjustment in the sale price.
--Kitty litter, activated charcoal, fresh air and indirect sunlight are all effective at mitigating smoke odors.

Working under the assumption that a return was not an option, and since MamaT had already fallen for me, she didn't seek for a return, and she had no idea you even could ask for a price adjustment. So she set about cleaning me up first thing. Always before cleaning a doll, she reviews the do's and don't's of doll cleaning on Susanna Lewis' site (see self-help Sasha care). She washed my hair, and the first rinse water was disgustingly yellow. However, she was delighted to discover that I have naturally curly hair. She thought she was going to be washing out all of my lovely curls, but it turns out our hair has a memory, and tends to bounce back to its original form, even if our bangs have been retrained to stand straight up. MamaT also cleaned the nicotine residue off my body. With the surface cleaning accomplished, she did a search on the SashaL website for tips on cigarette smoke odor removal, and found several suggestions. She didn't think stuffing the doll with bounce or using Febreeze sounded like really good options, as that would only mask and not eliminate the odor and who wants to spray a chemical on their doll? Another suggestion that did sound good was using a negative ionizer, but those aren't conveniently available everywhere, so she didn't try that.

Here's what we did for my odor problem. MamaT got a plastic bin and covered the bottom with kitty litter and mixed in a jar of activated charcoal. I've heard wood charcoal briquettes for barbecuing could also work. I think near the end she also put a little baking soda in the mixture too. She put in some blocks and set a cooling rack on top of the blocks, and then she placed me and my shoes on top of the rack. I was all in pieces at the time. She then put the lid tightly on the plastic bin, and left me for a week. At the end of the week, she gave me an airing for a day. She put me outside in the fresh air on a sunny day, but not in direct sunlight (we dolls hate direct sunlight). She also turned my various body parts periodically during the day. After that I went back in the bin again. This went on for about a month or so where I'd spend one day a week in the fresh air and the rest of the week in the kitty litter bin.

Finally, MamaT determined that I no longer had such an offensive smell, and the other dolls conceded they would be willing to stand next to me after all. I have been out of the bin for about 4 months now, and MamaT just gave me the sniff test. She says she can't detect any odor in my hair at all, and nothing to notice on the outside of my body. However, if you pull my leg and sniff inside my body, you can still detect some odor, but it's not terribly strong. MamaT has never smoked and can't stand the smell, so I'm happy she thinks I'm tolerable now. She is really happy with the results of the combo kitty litter and airing treatment. I'll post a photo of the bin we used below. I was too embarrassed to pose nude so Sasha painted a swimsuit on me. Isn't that silly?

Lastly, I want to mention that we recently discovered there are two other Sasha blogs out there. How fun! One, Sasha Street, is by Ted Menten, known as Teddy Bear Ted, a long time Sasha doll and teddy bear enthusiast. MamaT has a copy of a very nice article he wrote for Dolls Magazine in 1983. See his post for 10/21/08.
The other blog is by Franberry, another avid Sasha doll collector. She was the first follower of this blog. Both of these blogs have more frequent updates than we do. Check them out!

Wishing all of you a great day from Lona Rachelle
P.S. Sasha recently added a hit counter to this page. She already had close to 1,350 hits to this blog and MamaT's blog before she added the counter. She figures easily at least 1,200 or more of the hits were for this page before the counter began.

my kitty litter box

Gregor & me