Make Applehead Dolls

Making ppplehead dolls is an old down-home craft that's fun and potentially profitable too.

| July/August 1980

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    For the apple in the applehead doll, the first cut is the cruelest. 
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 064 apple head dolls - three panels
    LEFT: Peel a large apple and carve out miniature facial features. Don't whittle too deeply or too shallowly. And add a few "laugh lines." CENTER: Soak the carved applehead in lemon juice for about one minute. RIGHT: Sprinkle the little face with non-iodized salt. The salt and citric juice will preserve the fruit.
    ROBERT DOWNES
  • 064 apple head dolls - heads drying
    LEFT: String up your "appleheads" on wire and hang them in a north-facing window for a two- to four-week drying spell. RIGHT: Twist a light gauge, doubled coat hanger into a stick figure, and wrap the form in rags to put some "meat" on your applehead doll's bones.
    ROBERT DOWNES
  • 064 apple head dolls - finished dolls
    Assembled, coiffured, and dressed, these appleheads—crafted at home with 50 cents worth of supplies—rival any $20 dolls sold at gift shops.  
    ROBERT DOWNES

  • 064-040-01
  • 064 apple head dolls - three panels
  • 064 apple head dolls - heads drying
  • 064 apple head dolls - finished dolls

Way back when—before the "petroleum age," large-scale technology, and mass production—life was simple and most homesteaders lived miles from their nearest neighbors ... so family entertainment was (by necessity) more often homespun than manufactured. Children had to invent their own games, and since cash was a scarce commodity, parents made toys for their young'uns from a variety of natural materials. Well, now you can revive the spirit of those simpler days (and even make a nice profit for your efforts) by carrying on the fine old tradition of dollmaking.

Creating applehead dolls is an easy at-home craft that requires a minimum of (lowcost) supplies ... and best of all, the wizened faces of the tiny dolls will entrance any child. No two of the figures turn out exactly alike, so applehead toys make unique conversation pieces and gifts, which can also be sold at gift shops, craft fairs, and country produce stands.

The Legacy of Dollmaking

Apple-headed dolls are part of along, fascinating history ... one that extends back to prehistoric times, when primitive puppets appeared in ceremonial magic displays. Tribal healers in Africa and Asia often used dolls in their medicinal rituals ... and, even today, the ancient superstition of causing sympathetic harm is preserved whenever a mob burns the stuffed figure of an unpopular person "in effigy."

Dollmaking has a rich—and innocent—heritage in America, too, where the Indians taught early settlers the art of constructing such playthings from native raw materials. Corn husks and cobs were most often employed ... as well as wood, lobster shells, nuts, twigs, and gourds. Just about any object that could be bent (or carved) into a human shape, clothed, and hugged was fair game!



The Seneca Indians were reportedly the first people to make dolls out of apples ... but the craft was later adopted by mountaineers in Appalachia, where such handmade toys are still produced as part of the area's cottage industry. The miniature figures command a surprisingly high price, too! We've seen applehead dolls on sale in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains for as much as $20 each ... which amounts to quite a tidy profit from a toy that requires an initial investment of perhaps 50¢!

Apple Whittlin'

You'll need very few supplies to make your own "appleheads" ... in fact, you probably have most of the necessary materials on hand. To get your craftwork underway, gather some apples (the larger they are, the better, because the fruit shrinks quite a bit as it dries). You'll also need a sharp paring knife, several shallow bowls, a bottle of pure lemon juice, a box of non-iodized salt, a few light-gauge coat hangers, a pair of pliers, clean strips of old bedsheets (or other rags), a supply of small cotton balls, and some scraps of cloth.

Cris
5/8/2016 12:25:33 PM

This is so interesting, I just googled Applehead dolls to show my son them, a relative use to make them. But I never expected to find the mention of our Cornhusk dolls. They come from the Haudenosaunee people (Iroquois-Six Nations) The story behind those are is that the Creator made her to play with and entertain the children while parents were hunting, tending gardens etc. But she was near the water and seen her reflection and ended up sending her time admiring her beauty & forgot about her responsibility to the children. So the Creator took her beautiful face away so she would get back to her duties. This teaches one to not be vane about their looks.







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