Generations of Memories
Heart of the Blue Ridge
By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012
Issue: November, 1983
Make and give a homemade doll to little girls of all ages.
Dried Apple Head Dolls
To make dried apple head dolls, start with a large, firm apple. Peel it and drop it into salt water to sit for about a half hour. This keeps the apple from turning so dark. Then, with a paring knife, cut away the apple to make a head shape. (Round in back and sides a little flat) Carve out areas under eyes so a portion is left in the middle for the nose. Cut a slit out for the mouth and chin. Even carve ears if you wish. You can carve hands out of pieces of apple too.
Press apple onto a stick from the bottom of the apple and sit it somewhere it will not touch anything and air can circulate around it until it is good and dry. Each apple dries to have its own personality. The mouth might turn up or down, smile or frown.
When dry, you can make a body for the head out of a wire structure covered with cloth or a small bleach bottle has a woman’s figure and makes a good body. You can fill the bottle with sand or something to give it weight. Make clothes for it as you would do any doll.
The apples will dry wrinkled and look “elderly.” A good hair is made from the fluffy stuffing you can buy for pillows and stuffed toys. A small tuff of lamb’s wool makes nice hair too.
Use your imagination and there is no end to the possibilities for your doll. You might want to sit it in a tiny chair, put a small cane in its hand, or bend little wire “spectacles” to place on the doll. The choice is up to you.
Try it. I think you’ll find it really isn’t very hard and if you make a mistake and cut away a nose, you can eat your mistake and start on another one!
Gourd Head Dolls
Start with small gourds that are round and have a one or two inch slender neck. Dry them until you can scrape off the color coating and get down to the mellow color of the gourd itself. Then carefully bore a hole through the “neck” to sew it to a rag doll body. Paint the face. Hair may be painted on or something like pillow stuffing may be used for a wig. I prefer the painted hair, it makes the doll look like the old wooden ones.
I have included a pattern for a rag doll with this article. You might want to adjust it a little larger or smaller for the size gourd you are working with. For a rag doll use the whole pattern For a gourd head doll, simply eliminate the head part. Draw the pattern off onto a square piece of material. With another piece of material the same size behind it, sew around the outline. Then cut out the doll, clipping curves, and turn right side out. (If making a rag doll, leave a side opening to turn and stuff the doll.) Next, stuff the doll, pushing the stuffing down into the hard to get places first. Place the gourd head inside of neck of body and sew securely in place.
I have also included a pattern for a dress and a pair of pantaloons for this doll. For the pantaloons, sew the center seams, front and back first. Then hem the bottoms of the legs. Sew leg seams next. Then, turn under and gather the waist to the doll. You can decorate them with lace if you want to get fancy.
For the dress, sew the raglan sleeves to the dress front and back. Then sew side seams. Hem the bottom. Turn under and gather the neck of the dress to fit the doll. Gather the sleeve bottoms the same way. Again, you can trim with lace or ribbons as you wish. A pretty touch is to take a few dried flowers and sew them to the hand of the doll with six strands of embroidery floss, leaving the ends long enough to tie in a bow. You can draw up the feet into a natural position and a couple of stitches will hold them there. The fingertips of an old pair of thin leather gloves make nice little shoes.
The end result is an old fashioned looking doll. What little girl could resist it, especially if its holding a bouquet of flowers!
Start with a standard, white man’s handkerchief, unfolded. Fold in half and sew the two sides together, close to the hem, from the bottom edge about two-thirds of the way up the handkerchief. Turn right side out. Knot each of the two top corners close to the corner. This makes it look like a “puffed sleeve with the corner sticking out for the arm.” Place a wad of stuffing in the center between the two knots. Gather the material up around it and wind thread around it tightly several times and knot to form a head. Sew lace around the bottom of the “gown” and across the top of the head to look like a bonnet. Embroider a face on the doll and it’s finished.