Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kid's Craft: Pirate Dolls Made From Apples

 ARGGG...Ahoy there matey!
This craggy-faced, sea-faring fellow and his weather beaten shipmate are my son's newest pirate pals...

...and can you believe that they are made from... APPLES!  

Want to know how?  

When I was a kid (many...eherm... years ago) I used to spend a considerable amount of time crafting little doll people from the apples that fell from our tree in my parents back yard (exciting times, eh?).
I would play with these dolls until they either got moldy and fell apart (gross!), or were splattered into a million pieces after being catapulted at high speed against our shed wall by my brother.  Gotta love little boys, eh!

I had pretty much forgotten about this childhood pastime, until I recently read a book called "The Apple Doll" written by the very talented author and illustrator, Elisa Kleven

The book is amazing and tells the darling tale of a young girl, called Lizzy, who decides to make a doll out of an apple. I won't give away the plot, except to say that it is all about friendship, creativity, imagination and life experiences.  If you haven't read it to your kids, I highly recommend!

The other nifty part about the book is that it includes a tutorial explaining how you can make your very own apple doll.   The good news is that this one will NOT end up becoming a manky, rotting, mess rubbed into your living room carpet because of the way the apples are preserved.

I set to work using the instructions and a little of my own improvisation along the way. Here's what you'll need if you want to try this out yourself...

1 cup lemon juice (which is roughly the juice of 3 or 4 lemons)
A large firm apple
A peeler
A sharp small knife
A skewer
1 tablespoon of salt
Pipe cleaners
Red paint
Small brush
Beads (for the eyes)
Fabric and yarn (for clothes and hair)
Construction Paper (for accessories)

 Peel the apple
(you can core it too if you like, but I didn't).  

Carefully carve a nose and mouth into your apple with the knife. 
Then make two small holes for the eye sockets.
Pour the cup of lemon juice into a jug, or bowl.
Mix in the tablespoon of salt until it dissolves. 
Add the apple.
Make sure that the apple is completely submerged.
You can do this by holding down the apple (see pic above).  
I used a bowl with a spoon underneath.
Now leave it for 30 mins.  

After 30 mins, pat your apple dry. You can now begin the drying process. 
Ok, so this part requires some patience.  I must admit to initially feeling a little miffed at having to wait so long for the apples to dry, but once I started the process off, I just kind of forgot about them until they were ready to be used.  Trust me, it's worth the wait.  Also, it's interesting for the kids to see how the apples change over time. Sort of like a mini science experiment. 
You have two options for drying your apple...

1) Air dry - put your apple in a warm, dry place (like near a radiator, or in front of a sunny window) and leave it for up to a week until it shrinks up. You'll have to rotate it occasionally, so that it dries evenly on all sides.

2) Oven dry  - set the oven to 200 degrees.  Place the apple on a greased baking sheet and cover the nose of the apple with a small piece of foil (to prevent burning).  Place the apple on the tray in the oven for 30 mins.  After 30 mins, reduce the heat to LOW and let it continue to dry.  It will take roughly three days to dry this way.  Be sure to turn the oven off at night, and again, remember to rotate the apple so that it dries evenly on all sides.

Now, your apple is ready for transforming.  Let's add a little life to his face!  

Glue the beads into the eye sockets (I used rivets because I didn't have any beads, but you can use whatever you have available).

Water down your red paint to make a pinkish hue.  Apply this sparingly to the apple doll's cheeks and along the mouth fold.  Now you're ready to make the doll's body.
Ouch! Looks painful, right?   Push your skewer through the apple doll's head and rotate a couple of times so that you make a hole all the way through. 

Bend one of the pipe cleaners in half and push it through the hole, so that it sticks out about an inch above the top of the apple.
Use other pipe cleaners to wrap around the body (underneath the head) until it is thick enough to support the head.  Wrap more pipe cleaners around the middle and at the bottom, to make arms and legs.
 You can also bend the pipe cleaners at the ends to form feet and hands (see below). 

No pirate would be complete without his twisted, matted mane of hair.  You can do this by simply gluing strips of yarn (or fluffy cotton wool balls) to the back of the apple doll's head. 

I wanted to add a lot of hair so I cut a handful of yarn and then folded the inch of pipe cleaner, that was sticking out the top of the apple, over to hold the yarn in place (see pics below). 

Braid the yarn at the back of the apple doll's head and tie it off at the bottom. 

Use a strip of fabric to make a head scarf.  This can be glued at the front and tied at the back to secure.
So, now the main construction of the doll is done.  It's up to you how you dress and accessorize.  Here's how I clothed our pirates...

For boots, wrap yarn around the dolls feet.  

For his hook, cut a hook shape out of construction paper, making sure it had a long handle.   Then wrap the yarn around the pirate's arm and down the hook handle to fasten it. I added a rivet to the top of the hook to give it character.
I also threaded some of these rivets onto his hair to make pirate beads.  
A small knot in the yarn holds these in place.  
For his eye patch, cut a length of fabric into an eye patch shape with long straps.  Then tie it around the apple doll's head, securing it at the back.
For his clothes, cut a square of fabric and make two arm holes in it.  Push his arms through the holes then wrap the fabric around his body again and again until it forms a jacket shape.  Take some yarn and wrap it around his middle, knotting it to secure it. 

The parrot was made by twisting 3 pipe cleaners together to form a bird body shape.  Then another pipe cleaner, of a different color,  was used to create feet and attach the bird to the pirates arm.  I cut eyes and a beak out of a piece of the construction card and glued these onto the bird.

For the shipmate's clothes and belt, I wrapped him (the same way as the first pirate) in the square of fabric with the arm holes but instead of using yarn, I had a button attached to a strip of fabric that I was able to stitch around his middle to hold it in place.
And that's it!  

These pirates have already been on many a courageous, salty sea dog adventure with my son.

I hope you enjoyed reading about them, and if you try making your own apple dolls, pirates or otherwise, please let me know.  Would love to see them!

Happy crafting!

My Submarine To The Future

P.S. Be sure to check out Elisa Kleven's other titles too.  I'm NOT getting any kickbacks from the author for recommending her work, but I've become such a fan of her books that I want to spread the joy.  Enjoy!


  1. WOW. That is SO COOL! A little intimidating, but you do make it look pretty simple. They look amazing. You should do a puppet theater & put on a show! :) Do they rot? Or are they preserved because of the shrinking process? Very, very creative....

  2. Thanks Twin Coach!
    I like that there wasn't any sewing involved (only the belt of one pirate, but you could easily make one without doing that).

    The amazing part is that they really do not rot because of the lemon, salt and drying process.
    Keep them away from moist and damp places and they should last for a long time.

  3. Wow! These are the coolest dolls. Great idea.

  4. Thanks Christina. I really appreciate your comment. My son wants to turn all our fruit into dolls now! Yikes :)

  5. I'm so excited that you turned them into pirates. I love pirates!

  6. Hi Heather. It was fun to make all their little pirate accessories too, especially the parrot. Thanks so much for your comment.

  7. Jackie,

    Absolutely loved the apple pirates. Wow! My 6 year old fell in love with them and liked the hook and the parrot pirates. Became a favorite with a creative niece who put "mysub" on her list of favorites. Hope to be able to do this craft with my boys sometime soon.


  8. How fun are those! I am thinking these would be great for Halloween! And I love a good boy friendly craft!


  9. These are so fun! Never would have come up with the pirates. These rock!

  10. love, love LOVE these! went out yesterday and got this book from the library. hoping to make our own pirates soon!

  11. Hi Emily. I love to hear that you're trying these out yourself! Would love to see them when you're finished.

    Elisa Kleven's books are so imaginative and creative. If you like "The Apple Doll" also try "Sun Bread", "The Paper Princess" and "Puddle Pail". My son loved them all. Worth checking out.

    Good luck with the crafting.

  12. I'm actually going to make one of these for hubby's desk ;) At least NOW I have something to do with my sleepless nights! Great post x

  13. I LOVE I LOVE I LOVE this idea! We are going to start our apples today! What a great idea. Thanks for sharing. New follower/fan here!

  14. Im going to make 14 of them with the kids in my class... Ive been squeezing 56 lemons today!!!

  15. 56 lemons!!!! That's a lot of squeezing :) Good luck with the dolls today Elke. Let me know how they turn out. Would love to see them when they are done.

    1. The kids were quite excited about the apple thing. The apples have been drying for one day and a half now and they're looking quite good, not rottened yey! Leaving them there for a week though won't be that easy. The kids can't wait to transform them into pirates! ;)
      I'll take some pictures when they start transforming ;)
      Thanks for the great idea!

    2. That's awesome Elke!
      Your e-mail really made my day... just thinking about a whole room filled with apple faced pirates makes me chuckle :)

      I remember when we made our pirates, the drying time felt like forever! It's worth the wait though to get them properly dried out. You could pop them in the oven on low for a bit to speed it up, but I'm guessing you have quite a few of them so that may be tricky :).

      I'm so glad you guys are trying them out. My son still plays with our pirates and I'm amazed at how well they hold up (no mold or bug infestations even after a whole year!).

      Looking forward to seeing the pics at the end. Good luck!

    3. ive posted some pictures on fb!
      Its going great ;)

    4. Hi Elke. That's awesome. Unfortunately I couldn't see them though. Let me know where you posted them. Would love to check them out. Also, please contact me directly by clicking on my contact page (top of the header). I was going to e-mail you but realized I couldn't because it's set up with "no-reply". Would love to chat about posting some of your photos here, if you're interested :) Let me know!


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