APPLE HEAD DOLLS


from January 1986 "Drying Times"

Here is an old fashioned craft that you can share with your children. Applehead dolls have long been a part of our American heritage. It is believed that the Seneca Indians were the first to make dolls from apples. The craft was later adopted by the mountain folk of Appalachia. Today, applehead dolls remain a popular folk art of the Appalachian region and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. These dolls are often sold for as much as $25-$30.

Applehead dolls are fun to make. With your dehydrator, it is easy to create your own fanciful doll heads. The bodies of the dolls can be made from scrap material and odds and ends from around the house.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Begin with a few large apples, a bottle of pure lemon juice (preservatives and additives don't matter here), a sharp paring knife, a pair of pliers, and a few bowls. For the body, you'll need some heavy gauge wire or wire coat hangers, some clean strips of sheets or rags and adhesive tape. The scraps of material you choose for the clothing will, of course, depend on how you plan to costume your doll. For the finishing touches, you'll want a few cotton balls, some make-up and some clear Varathane® spray.

PREPARING THE HEADS: Peel the apples. Using the paring knife or a sturdy toothpick, begin to carve out the face. Make a curved slit for the mouth and two more for the eyes. Be sure to space them widely to allow for shrinkage. Remove small wedges to form the nose. Try not to carve too deeply or too shallowly. To finish the eyes press two whole apple seeds or two whole cloves into the eye sockets. If you wish, you can carve tiny "crowsfeet" beside the eyes with the tip of your knife. Next, soak the carved heads in lemon juice for at least an hour. This will prevent them from browning.

DRYING THE HEADS: Take a 12-inch length of wire and push it through the top of the apple. Make a loop at the top and bend it at the bottom to prevent the apple from sliding off. Using a paper clip, hang the apple from the metal screening of a heavy duty tray, or from a piece of doweling set across the tracks (our Pasta Rack works perfectly). Dry on high for 3 or 4 days. Remove when it is completely dry and feels solid. Your doll head will take on its personality as it dries and shrivels. Apply one THIN coat of Varathane®.

MAKING THE BODY: Using pliers to twist the wire, form the body by bending the wire into a simple stick figure. Use double thicknesses of wire to form a sturdy figure. Pad the wire frame by wrapping it with strips of cloth. Secure it with a wrap of adhesive tape. Attach the head to the body by skewering it firmly on the protruding neck of the body. Reinforce it with a little glue. Hands and feet can be made from wood or dried apple chunks.

DECORATING YOUR DOLL: Now let's give your doll some character. Pull apart a cotton ball and glue it around the face to form the hair. You might want to arrange it in a bun, or add a scarf or hat. Use a little rouge or acrylic paint to add a blush to the cheeks and lips. A tuft of cotton might be added for eyebrows. Sew simple clothing for your doll. Create your own applehead kitchen witches. Let your imagination go and have fun!