Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 13, 2001 - Issue 27



Applehead Dolls

  This apple-head trio was designed and made in North Carolina about 1892. National Gallery of Art  

Applehead dolls are a very old tradition. Applehead dolls probably originated with the Iroquois Indians. The expression on the face was produced by pinching the surface of the apple when it began to shrink. No two appleheads will ever be alike, because each apple wrinkles differently as it dries due to the water content and where it is placed within the apple. These are very durable, they should always be stored in an airy place. Through the years the apple will take on it's own lifelike personality, as it becomes darker with age, however the apple will not spoil.

Carving the Applehead

  • A butter knife and vegetable peeler will be needed for carving
  • Choose a large, unblemished apple (recommend a Golden Delicious)
  • Wash apple well
  • Peel apple and shave away any bruised spots (do not remove core)
  • Using tip of butter knife outline the eyes, nose and mouth
  • Using tip of vegetable peeler, scoop out two shallow hollows for eyes
  • Carve out wedged shaped pieces from each side of nose
  • Slice out a shallow slit for the mouth
  • Remember to make features well defined to allow for shrinkage
  • Don't worry about mistakes. If you don't like the way an apple looks, you can just eat it and start again....

Preserving the Applehead

  • Soak applehead for 10 minutes in concentrated lemon juice (helps preserve apple)
  • Remember apples will float, so make sure the apple is completely covered
  • After 10 minutes remove applehead from mixture

Drying the Applehead

  • Push popsicle stick halfway into core of applehead
  • Hang applehead by a string in a dry place where it is reasonably free from drafts (not in the sun or near a heat register) making sure it does not touch anything
  • Air dry approximately 3 to 4 weeks (a wrinkly face will appear)

Creating the Body

  • After the applehead is dry, make a body with pipe cleaners
  • Twist the corner of a pipe cleaner around the popsicle stick just under the apple, and extend at both sides, this forms the arms
  • The middle of the popsicle stick will form the torso
  • Twist the center of another pipe cleaner around the bottom portion of the popsicle stick and bend downward, this forms the legs
  • Beginning with neck, twist cotton batting around pipe cleansers, continuing wrapping arms, torso and ending with legs
  • Wrap strips of cloth securely around the padded body by tying the cloth strips onto the body and wrapping until entire body is covered.

Dressing the Doll

  • Make a simple doll dress pattern....fold material in half....make shoulders of dress at fold.....cut a v-neck....measure out about 3 and 1/4 inches on each side of v-neck...cut straight down about 1 and 3/4 inches on each side....then cut in about 2 and 1/2 inches back toward now have your sleeves....angle out and cut down about 5 inches....that will give you the skirt of dress. Turn the dress inside out and sew back to front at side seams.
  • Hem dress, add lace or ribbon at neck or hemline if desired
  • Turn finished dress right side out and pull over doll's head and place arms through sleeves
  • Glue on simple felt hands and boots....cut hands like mittens....make simple boot shapes for boots....cut two for each hand and foot....then glue together over pipe cleaner end
  • Squeeze a line of glue along the hairline, I use mohair, but use whatever you like, pull back and form into a bun
  • Press the pointy side of a popcorn seed into each eye each with black
  • Add cheek and lip color with makeup
  • After hair has dried you can cut a small triangle shaped piece of fabric and tie a scarf, knotting it in front.
  • You can personalize these in so many ways, you can give her a small basket, or have her using a small butter churn....look for miniatures at any craft store


Applehead Dolls




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