a carved apple, after drying

Making apple head dolls is a very old crafting technique that is thought to have started with the Seneca Indians. These dolls are fun and easy to make, and are a great way for a child to discover his or her creativity. It’s also a very inexpensive craft that requires very few materials. Since there are an abundance of apples available in the fall, it’s the perfect time to try making one or more apple head dolls.

Materials You Will Need

Several large apples
Sharp paring knife (be sure not to let your child use the knife)
Lemon juice
Wire cutter
Plastic pumpkin carving tools
Small metal spoons
Several wire coat hangers (or similar weight wire)
Roll of sturdy adhesive tape
Clear acrylic spray
Fabric scraps, batting scraps, cotton balls and other embellishments

Preparing the Apple Heads

Start by using the paring knife to peel the apple for your child. Once the peel has been completely removed, your child can use plastic pumpkin carving tools, small metal spoons or toothpicks to carve a face. It’s important to remember that the apple will shrink as it dries, so the eyes, nose and mouth should be widely spaced. Your child can get as creative as he or she likes, but basically you just need two slight depressions for the eyes and a curved slit for the mouth. Then carve out the area around the nose. It can be fun to carve a few apple heads at the same time, using slightly different carving techniques, to see the differences when they dry. When finished, soak the apple in lemon juice to prevent excess browning. You can also press two apple seeds into the eye sockets if desired to form the eyes.

Once you’re finished carving the apple head, it will have to dry. So that it dries evenly on all sides, simply push a 12-inch piece of wire through the apple from the top. Bend the wire at the bottom so that the apple doesn’t slip off then make a hook at the top. Hang the apple in a warm, dry place such as the attic for several weeks. You could also speed things up if necessary by positioning the oven rack as high as possible, so that you can hang the apple head from the underside of the shelf. Set the oven to the lowest possible temperature, and leave the door ajar. After five hours, remove the apple and continue to dry for several days by hanging it in a warm, dry place.

Making the Body

While you’re waiting for your apple head to dry, you can make the doll’s body. Help your child bend the wire into a stick figure body. Keep in mind that the apple head will shrink significantly as it dries, so size the body proportionally. Use scrap strips of cloth or batting to pad the wire body, using tape to secure the padding. Once the basic body frame has been created, your child can get as creative as he or she would like with the clothing, using fabric scraps and other embellishments.

Joining the Head and Body

Once the apple head is completely dry, apply a light spray of clear acrylic to seal and protect it. If desired, use a bit of acrylic paint to lightly color the lips and cheeks. Snip off the top of the wire hook used to dry the apple so that it’s no longer visible, and unbend the bottom. Trim the bottom of the wire so that it’s only a couple of inches long. Push the wire into the body (do this step for your child,) and secure with tape if necessary. Then give the doll some hair using cotton balls or scraps of fur fabric.