apple head dolls. ..we made these in elementary school

Black Apple Dolls (made by Delia Creates) from the free pattern on Martha Stewart by Emily Martin.

The Apple Doll

  • Review
  • TAG : To go with the black apple doll.
  • This penchant for country-style crafts and Americana in the home decor and fashions of the 1970s and early 1980′s has evident roots in the fact the USA celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976. An interest in things of the past sprouted up almost overnight and even the wealthiest citizens suddenly wanted their homes to look more ‘countrified’. Close your eyes and you can conjure up memories of dried floral wreaths, wallpaper done in tiny civil-war-style floral figures, Christmas trees done up in old-fashioned fabric bows and popcorn strings, decorative straw brooms as wall decor, ladies dressed in peasant blouses and prairie fabrics, and yes, those dried apple dolls. Nearly every visual aspect of American life was touched by the Bicentennial, from odd nods to ‘Western’ design in things like television cabinets to the opening up of craft shops across the country that would enable people to make all kinds of homemade articles of decor.

    Handmade apple dolls – what some collectors think of as ‘the real thing’ – are an authentic example of American folk art. Flash forward to the 1970s and it seemed like no display of handcrafts or home decor was complete without an apple doll or two. In the above photo, taken from a display at the Lansing Public Library, you can see two genuine 1970s apple dolls, exactly the way you remember them. I was just thrilled to come across these and hope they trigger some golden memories for you, too.

  • The apple dolls, in their prairie dresses, straw hats, bonnets and overalls, fit right into the picture. You would see them at the teller windows of banks as part of a fall display, in the windows of boutiques where they were sure to bring in foot traffic, and most especially, standing in ranks at craft fairs and holiday gift fairs.

    In my hometown, there as a yearly harvest festival. I remember so well the scent of walking into the big, dim barn filled with local apples, beautifully arranged by variety. Big wooden boxes filled with greens, yellows, reds, oranges and the fragrance was just out of the world. You could get a glass of fresh apple cider, so cold it had little splinters of ice in it, and oh so sweet. Just beside the apple barn was the hall filled with giant pumpkins – so big that, like Cinderella, I could have ridden in one as a child. There were heaps of warty gourds, striped with color. There were exquisite hand-crotcheted afghans, lovingly-made quilts, home-designed fashions, hand-carved wooden boxes and a host of other treasures entered by community members in hopes of winning a prize. The apple dolls stood amongst all of these remarkable objects.

    History And Cultural Relevance of the Apple Doll
    Variously known as apple dolls, applehead dolls, apple head dolls and dried apple dolls, the origins of these handmade dolls are somewhat misty. The first crafting of dolls as playthings for children in America can definitely be attributed with honor to American Indian Peoples, and such dolls were often made of dried foodstuffs such as corn. I have seen numerous Internet sources linking the first Apple Dolls to the Seneca Peoples, but have not found reliable citations to explain such statements. If you know more about this, please feel free to share your research. What is certain is that Native American children were gifted with imaginative and important dolls in many cultures and because these dolls would often have been made, at least in part, from plants, they deserve recognition as part of an ancient history of creative doll manufacture that eventually leads to the development of Apple Dolls.

  • Collectors Value of Apple Dolls
    Collecting handmade apple dolls is a relatively affordable hobby, with least expensive dolls running around $15 while others into which more skill and time have been put may come nearer to $100. Labeled ‘Skookums’ dolls with tags are more expensive, but not terribly so, being in the range of about $50 for less-rare dolls and going up into the lower hundreds for the oldest dolls.

    And don’t forget, you can always try making your own, which for the cost of an apple and some fabric scraps should be a craft within most people’s means.

    Do you have memories about apple dolls? Please, share them!

    Now, I must confess, as a small child, I found these dolls to be just a little bit spooky. My own grandparents were still young – in their 50s. They didn’t look like these shriveled folk whom I assumed must be old, old…old as the hills, perhaps. Some of them had little glittering eyes and teeth made of beads, and some were dressed up as witches for Hallowe’en, which must have added to my sense of their mysteriousness. The Christmas ones, like apple doll Santa and Mrs. Claus, seemed a little more approachable, more cute. Do you remember feeling like this about dried apple dolls back then? I’d love to have you share your memories.

How to Create an Apple Doll: 10 Steps (with Pictures)

A small bleach bottle makes a good body for an apple doll. You can look around your kitchen or laundry room for many types of bottles that are a good "body" shape. You might want to pour sand or something into the bottle to give it more weight so that it will not turn over easily. Punch a hole in the lid of the bottle and push the stick you dried the head on into the hole until the neck is in the right position. Make a dress for the doll out of gingham or calico. A bonnet and apron for a "granny doll" make a nice touch.