Appalachia crafts

Carving Apple Dolls

Apple Doll

Have you ever heard of apple dolls? It’s a traditional craft from days gone by.

Not many people continue the craft today, but Blind Pig reader Sallie Swor is an expert when it comes to making apple dolls.

Recently Sallie was featured on Tennessee Crossroads. Watch the video below to learn more about apple dolls and to see some of Sallie’s amazing creations.

I hope you enjoyed the video. Aren’t Sallie’s dolls wonderful? Just wow 🙂

I remember one of my friends and her mother made dolls that sort of looked like apple dolls, I’m thinking that’s what they were based on. The dolls were made from panty-hose stuffed with cotton.

Have you ever seen an apple doll?

Tipper

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Betty Brantley
    February 1, 2021 at 9:54 am

    I love this! Brings back memories of my childhood!

  • Reply
    Jen
    January 29, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Oh the memories my 4th grade class made apple face witchs it was so exciting , I’ll always remember this at greendale elementary school

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    January 27, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    I love arts and crafts and I loved this article too. One of my favorites are gourds. I like to paint on them. Gourds hold a facination for me. I’m working on doing some chicken gourds. Can’t hardly wait to get them all done up!

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    January 27, 2021 at 11:50 am

    I hope she had a sign prohibiting dried fruit lovers from entering!

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney Jr
      January 27, 2021 at 4:56 pm

      Sorry, I actually did not finish my thought. People who love dried fried apple pies possibly could have looked at this craft, which I think is beautiful, differently!

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    January 27, 2021 at 11:37 am

    These are so so cool ,what an artist she is, …I have seen the panty hose dolls…. but these made out of apples I haven’t….. amazing craft, love the look of the faces..

  • Reply
    Robin Castania
    January 27, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Miss Sallie, these are amazing. I had not seen apple dolls in quite a long time. I love the different personalities and I am happy to see old time arts still being practiced today.

  • Reply
    Sallie, the apple doll lady
    January 27, 2021 at 10:51 am

    I’ve read that apple dolls were thought to have been made by Native Americans by simply putting and apple or other fruit on a stick and pinching the features. Hasn’t everybody made a toy from a stick or whatever was available? Kids have to use their imagination sometimes. Over the years apple dolls have come and gone, people have told me they made them in Girl Scouts or art class in school. But many have never seen them. I made a couple of corn shuck dolls as a child after watching a demonstrator at Gatlinburg Craftsman’s Fair and still have them. But later tries were not very good. It has taken several years to get the apple dolls to look satisfactory and even now because they are apples they don’t always turn out as expected. But it’s easy to replace a head if need be. If kept dry they will naturally turn dark over time but can last for years. And if I don’t like the way it looks after I carve it I can always eat it! Give it a try! Just carve a face, soak a little while in lemon juice and salt water or rub some on. Then hang to dry in a warm place or stand on a toothpick to allow air to touch all surfaces and watch. As it finishes drying shape the features. I don’t add anything like beads for eyes or teeth, just at the end of carving I poke a hole in the eyes, add some slits for wrinkles, etc so that it’s easier to shape when dry. They aren’t meant to look like anybody in particular but it’s fun when someone says, “Honey, that looks like your mother!” I think there is beauty in those old wrinkles faces. Thanks for sharing, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Dana
    January 27, 2021 at 10:44 am

    Wow!….such a talented lady. I never heard of Apple dolls, they are unique. A interesting article, I enjoy hearing about crafts of days gone by.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 27, 2021 at 10:40 am

    I wonder if apple people was a tradition brought over or began here. Maybe the way apples shrivel gave people the idea, plus knowing how apples could be dried and kept. Or maybe a carver ran out of something to carve on in a snowy time. Anyway, while some might find them creepy it is because they probably have never seen an elderly person who has spent much of their life outdoors. We get quite a road map as a result. I think about Aunt Arie in the Foxfire books and my Grandma, although she wore homemade sun bonnets much of the time.

    I’m guessing one has to start with a big apple because of the shrinkage. Otherwise a Yates apple would work. I saw some of them at the farm market yesterday.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    January 27, 2021 at 9:06 am

    I have never heard of an apple doll. Those are amazing and you are one talented lady, Sallie.

  • Reply
    Fran Dixon
    January 27, 2021 at 7:54 am

    I made a apple head doll once. I guess I didn’t dry it out long enough before I finished it off and the head rotted. I was pretty disappointed about that. Never tried another one. But I love the looks of them.

  • Reply
    Glenna Smith
    January 27, 2021 at 7:25 am

    I remember taking my granddaughter to Cone Farm harvest Festival when she was little and they had the kids making apple dolls and cornsilk dolls. This was off highway 52 between Mt. Airy and Winston-Salem,NC Also shucking corn cobs in a bin and eating beans and cornbread, apple butter and chicken stew.There was a band and people dancing and a fun time for all ages. I’m not sure that is the correct name for the place.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 27, 2021 at 7:24 am

    Those are beautiful and that is quite a talent you have, Sallie! I can’t imagine how you manage to get those tiny hands done without them falling apart.
    “Waste not want not” I always heard and I guess you are the queen of that!

    • Reply
      Linda
      January 27, 2021 at 8:32 am

      Ms. Sallie agrees! She doesn’t use Granny Smith because she doesn’t like to eat sour apples!

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    January 27, 2021 at 7:10 am

    I’ve never seen any thing quite like these apple faced dolls. They’re quite unusual and unique. They look like old, old people and a few burned out hippies I’ve seen. I’m sure folks adore them. The nylon hose and cotton faced dolls I am familiar with . I enjoy seeing old folk art still floating around after all these years. When my nephew was small he whittled tiny people and it was wonderful. If you would, pray for my great nephew baby Owen and that his urine gets to flowin’ so he won’t have to go back to an operating room and be cut on. There’s talent in these hills!

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