Do you have a desire to create something from materials you may already have lying about in your home? How about apple dolls? You know those delectable balls of fruit you most likely have in your fruit bowl? Let me share with you how to take one of those delicious fruits and set you on your way to creating art by making apple dolls.
Before beginning this project–or any project–, please be sure to secure the needed materials.
- APPLE, medium size
- WIRE, stovepipe wire
- STUFFING, cotton or fiberfill
- WRAPPING, strips of rags or bias tape
- CLOTH, cotton of various colors
- DECORATION, felt, yarn, ribbon, lace, etc.
- GLUE, white
- PRESERVATIVE, undiluted lemon juice, salt, or sulfur fumigating candle
- WHOLE CLOVES
The apple is used to form the head of this doll. Sometimes the apple is also used to make the hands. These apples have been dried. The remainder of the doll is made from other materials, usually dressed in cotton. The apple head should have carved into it the facial features.
As the head dries, shrinkage will create wrinkles that give character and give the doll the appearance of old age. Sometimes the apple stem is left on, and occasionally the apple skin is left on to create the look of hair on top. Surprisingly, dried apple heads can last over fifty years! A similar-looking doll is the dough doll. The head is molded from a mixture of cornstarch, sawdust, salt, and water.
Because apple dolls are made in a variety of shapes and sizes and in numerous ways, it is difficult to produce a one in all pattern that will fit. For this reason, these instructions are only general. You will need to tweak sizes for your individual doll by applying the materials (fabric, wrapping, etc.) and experimenting. See what fits, what looks proportionate, and remove or cut off the excess. This will require creativity on your part, but you can do it!
Making the Apple Head
Pick a nicely-shaped apple (medium size). Remember that the size of the apple will shrink 1/3 or more as it dries. Peel the apple. Select a nice-looking side to begin sculpting. The nose is the most prominent feature, so work around it as a starting point. Use a knife or sharp object to make deep slashes on each side of the nose, as well as below and above it. Make slashes and depressions between the forehead and nose, thereby creating eyes.
Shape a chin at the sides and back to the neck. Make the mouth cut deep, turning it down to form a scowl or up to make a smile, depending upon what sort of character you are creating. Finally, add several light cuts at the corners of the eyes, around the mouth, and in the forehead. These wrinkle cuts will develop during the drying process.
Preserving Your Apple Head
Preserving the apple head can be accomplished in several ways:
- Soak the apple in a saturated salt solution for 45 minutes. Then drain. Or…
- Soak the apple in undiluted lemon juice for an hour and drain. Or…
- Expose the apple to a lighted fumigating candle for one hour inside a cardboard carton.
Regardless of the treatment you use, it is imperative to hang the apple on a wire run through the core making sure it doesn’t touch another object. Keep it in a warm ventilated place for at least a month.
During the drying process, the apple will shrink and the wrinkles accentuated. When dry, put whole cloves in the apple at eye placements. Cloves make great eyes as well as help preserve the project. Apply a modest amount of rouge at the cheeks. If you desire apple hands, preserve and dry them in the same manner as the head.
Making the Apple Body
The body of an apple doll is made of a cloth-wrapped wire armature. The frame is made by twisting and bending stovepipe wire. Make the frame by bending the wire in the middle (the head spike), twisting it several times (neck), spreading it out and doubling back (arms), twisting together (chest), dropping down and twisting together again (stomach), spreading out and doubling back (legs), and anchoring near the stomach.
Size the figure proportionate with the dried head. Fill out the armature by wrapping strips of rags or bias tape around the body. Use pink cloth (or a color similar to flesh pigment) for wrapping around the arms and other exposed areas. Use black cloth around the legs.
Clothes for the doll can be made and filled out with cotton stuffing or fiberfill in the bust and hip areas as it is sewed on and into place. Details can be added to the dress such as hat, umbrella, pantaloons, shoes, purse, basket, shawl, cotton for hair, and baby. A man can have overalls (made from denim scraps), a bandanna handkerchief, and a burlap straw hat.
Now for the final fun. Take the head and hands and pierce and glue them onto the armature. These dolls are delicate and should not be handled excessively if you want them to last, but they are very novel. Be sure to store them in an airy well-ventilated place.
Preserve a Folk Art Tradition!
From apples growing in an orchard to an old-time work of art, making apple dolls can be a creatively fun experience that you, your family, and/or friends can enjoy together. The poor folks of old made these dolls because they are made from fragments that can be found around the house and/or farm. Truly a part of folk art tradition. So grab an apple and begin creating your very own folk art today!