Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How To Make A Cornhusk Doll

We're eating delicious, sweet, fresh corn all over New England now, and it is a wonderful time to make a corn husk doll.

After you shuck your corn cobs, save the tender inner husks and cornsilk. Set them aside on a piece of newspaper, and let them dry for a few weeks.

It is necessary to dry the husks before making the doll, or the bindings will loosen as they dry, and the the husks may mildew.

Once they are dry, let the husks soak for about an hour in warm water. You can moisten the silks right before you use them.

A wonderful young ten-year-old artist did this craft. She started by selecting about 6 husks. She trimmed off the thick butts and thin tips.

She gathered the husks together and knotted them with a piece of yarn about three quarters of an inch from the end.

She bent the husks back over the knotted yarn to form the head. Try to spread one of the leaves out for a smooth looking face. Tie yarn around the neck.

She took more tender husks and pulled them apart into six strips which were about a quarter of an inch wide. She bunched three together, tied them, and braided them. She tied the other end with more yarn. It might be prettier to use strips of corn cob as ties, instead of yarn.

Here is a picture of one of the braids. One braid will be the arms, the other the legs.

She slid the arms between the husks under the head.

She took another husk and folded it into a little packet to pad the chest.

She put it under the arms, flopped the husks down, and tied yarn around the waist.

She then flipped the husks up again and slid in the leg braid.

Here's a tricky bit. We lifted a front and back panel of husks up out of the way, and trimmed the rest of the husks to form hips.

We flipped the husks down again, and tied yarn firmly right below the crotch.

It looked like this.

She trimmed off the extra husks hanging down to right below the knot, and then wrapped a husk around the hips. She tucked the end in to hold the hip wrap in place.

To make the skirt, she collected some husks and covered the body all the way around. I am holding the husks at the waist, while she ties a piece of yarn. Double check to make sure you are putting the yarn in the right place before knotting it.

Here is the doll after she tied the skirt string at the waist. There are the doll's poor skinny legs, shivering in the breezes.

She flipped the skirt down and had a look at her doll.

It still needed a few details: a neck scarf,

a shawl,

and a waist band to hold the shawl in place. Now the doll is ready for a twirl.

She also had the brilliant idea of adding an apron, which you will see in the finished doll. In the picture below she is sorting through a tangle of damp corn silk.

We lay the corn silk over the doll's head, and I sewed a part to hold it on.

She then arranged the doll's hair by twisting it and looping it on the back. It looked like this from behind. I sewed it in place. It seemed very delicate. I hope the hair doesn't fall off when it dries.

Here she is holding the corn husk doll. We made the apron by folding a piece of husk over a piece of yarn, which I tied around the waist, putting a bow in the back. The skirt needed some trimming. We hope it wills stand up by itself once it is dry.

We discussed how to pose the doll for a picture, and she decided the doll should have a broom. She created it by tying some husks onto a stick, shredding the pieces into strips, and trimming.

Here is the doll sweeping up dry grass clippings.

To help the skirt to dry in a good position, we fastened it together loosely with some yarn. (Not pictured.)

American Indian parents made dolls this way for their children for centuries. If your child is too small to make one, you can continue the tradition and make one for her.

We got these directions from C. Keith Wilbur, M.D.'s book, "Indian Handcrafts".


Lisa said...

Beth, this is just what Goose and I have been looking for!!! We have been wanting to make corn husk dolls for some time. We've found some books at the library, but your photos are great!!! Very easy for Goose to understand. She is so lovely! And I love her broom! Thanks for sharing this!

Beth said...

Hi, Lisa! I'm happy you can use these instructions. I think it would be fun to make tiny ones for Christmas ornaments. I wanted to try to figure out how to make a superhero cornhusk doll (with a cape) with my boy, but he was totally uninterested! Send me a picture of Goose's doll, I'd love to see it, and maybe post it with your permission.

renee ~ heirloom seasons said...

Very nice, she looks like she is dancing!

Beth said...

Thanks, Renee!

Unknown said...

i am so happy i found your blog! what great photos and detail. i put this on believing nature, i hope you don't mind

p.s. i love your name to, acorn pies, so darling!

Playing by the book said...

We found this tutorial so helpful and have linked to it here:
Thanks for the inspiration!

Ella Funty said...

Do you need 6 cornhusks for the entire project (including the legs, arms, neck scarf, etc.) or 6 cornhusks for just the first part (the head and torso)?