There was a time when seasonal crafts relied on natural materials only. Long before the supplies could be purchased down at the Ben Franklin, they had to be sourced from the grocery store or the family farm. In addition to pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns, corn husks for dolls, and straw for scarecrows, there was one type of produce that was used to make some of the scariest dolls ever created. Applehead dolls were once a really common sight around Halloween, and now you can learn (or re-learn) how to make them.
This craft has a long history in America and in Europe and here’s how to make this homespun craft. You start with an apple and peel it completely. Then carved out the eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth. With skill you can create a realistic-looking face. However, if your carving skills aren’t that great then this craft still works just as well.
If you’ve carved a delicate face in the apple then as the apple dries it will take on more personality as it “ages”. The thing is that some of these appleheads really do look like older folks once they dry- wizened and wrinkled with time and knowledge.
If you have carved with less skill then the result after drying out will be more like a shrunken head. So, if you’ve made this type of applehead doll for a Halloween decoration then it will be all the more creepy. Both ways work, they just create different results.
Depending on your house and the weather the carved and peeled apple will attain that dried up look after 2-4 weeks. After carving make sure to hang your apple up out of direct sunlight to dry. When completely dried out it’s a good idea to coat the head with varnish to keep it from deteriorating even more.
The dolls may need hair, like cotton balls torn apart and glued to the back of the appleskull. Next, you can make a body from stuffed cloth, wood, or from bent coat hangers wrapped in fabric. This should be attached using a wooden or metal skewer which goes well into both the apple and the body. If you attach the head in a less secure way then it might come off and become damaged so make sure it’s skewered onto the body well!
You can make dolls clothing or make the appleheads more ghoulish by making little cloaks or white sheets like a ghost costume. Bonnets, mustaches, lace, eyeglasses, or other props can add to your dolls’s character. And, you can add details like rosy cheeks, eyes, eyelashes, lips, or other facial features using some acrylic paint. Or leave them blank for a creepier look.
And that’s about it. The reason this custom has been around so long is that it’s not difficult and it can be made quite cheaply from materials you have on hand. Whether you decide to go cute or scary with this craft is up to you, but either way it can be a really fun fall activity!