Dawn is a Canadian crafter skilled in textile work, weaving and toy making, among other arts.
As you'll see, attractive corn husk dolls can be made with just dried husks and 'silk' from corn on the cob. The art of making corn dolls is an ancient craft that has survived for centuries. It was believed that the spirit living in the harvest field would die as soon as the last wheat was cut and would be reborn in the woven doll.
These particular dolls are traditional in Czechoslovakia, and they usually represent women and children in country situations.
What You Will Need
- Dried husks and 'silk' of corn on the cob
- Natural raffia
- Stranded embroidery thread in natural and red
- Non-hardening modeling clay in white or stone
- Pipe cleaners
- Cotton wool
- Scraps of wool and straw for accessories
- Black ink or felt pen
- Fabric adhesive
- Piece of twig
Remember: First, strip the husks from the cobs, and then allow them to dry until papery and crisp. You can also buy pounds of corn husks from Amazon.
How to Make a Female Corn Husk Doll
Cut a piece of corn husk for the body about 10 inches by 4 inches, with the grain along the length, and flatten it as much as you can.
Step 1: Gather and Tie the Body
With your fingertips, gather this corn husk piece across the center (Figure 1) and tie tightly with cotton thread. Fold over.
Step 2: Roll Some Clay for the Head
- Roll some modeling clay to form a ball about the size of a small marble.
- Push this up close to the gathered fold.
- Tie tightly underneath the ball and flatten one side for the face (Figure 2).
Step 3: Begin Creating the Arms
- Cut a piece of husk for the arms, about 4 inches wide by 6 inches long.
- Cut a 3½ inch-long piece of pipe cleaner and wrap cotton yarn around the center.
- Place it near one edge of the husk (Figure 3) and roll it round.
Step 4: Finish the Arms and Attach Them to the Body
- Tie the arm husk tightly with thread 3/8" from each end, for the hands.
- Trim the ends neatly and bind raffia over the cotton.
- Puff the sleeves to make full, and tie with thread again, about ½ inch above the wrist.
- Push the arms through the body, just below the neck, and tie tightly underneath (Figure 4).
Step 5: Create the Clothing
- Cut a piece of husk about 6 inches by 8 inches for the skirt.
- Fold in half-length ways across the grain, then open out flat again.
- Gather with double cotton thread along the fold.
- Fold again.
- Draw up the gathers tightly and secure.
- Fit the skirt round waist and join at back.
- Trim the lower edge of the skirt evenly.
- For the bib, apron and bundle for the figure on the right of the photograph, cut a piece of husk 7 inches by 1¾ inch, along the length of the grain.
- Split the husk length ways for 4 inches (Figure 5).
Step 6: Attach to the Body
- Pass the two strips over the shoulders and cross them at the back (Figure 6).
- Tie round the waist with thread and tie a bow with the free ends of husk.
- Gather up the other ends at the front and tie it to the left wrist (Figure 7).
- Fill with bits of straw.
Step 8: Add Finishing Touches
You can make the hair with strands of the corn 'silk' or with stranded embroidery thread.
- Cut 2 inch lengths of 'silk' or thread and stick to the doll's head with fabric adhesive.
- Indicate a center part in the hair with white cotton thread.
For the scarf:
- Cut a piece of husk about 4 inches by 3 inches. Be sure to cut along the grain.
- Fold in half (length-wise) and place round the doll's head.
- Gather the ends into the neck and tie with raffia.
- With black ink or a felt pen, paint in 2 dots for the eyes.
You can make the central figure in the image the same way, except with a double thickness apron. Just cut a piece of husk the same size as before, fold under 1½ inches from the end and stick. Attach to the doll as previously described.
For the scarf, cut a triangle with sides 3 inches long. Put on the doll's head, tie the 2 side corners at the back, and tie to the neck with string.
The young mother's apron reaches to the hem of her skirt and is not folded back. Otherwise, the instructions are the same.
How to Make the Baby and the Butter Churn
The child figure is made to half the scale of the adults—i.e., the main piece cut for the body is 5 inches by 2 inches.
- Gather the main piece of husk at the center and tie as before.
- Insert a small ball of modeling clay and tie beneath the ball to make the head.
- Stick on a few ¼ inch strands of corn 'silk' for the hair, and stick a strip of husk 1½ inches by ¾ inch across the head.
- Fold over at the back and tie round the neck with thread.
- Make the baby's shawl from a piece of husk 2½ inches by 1½ inches.
- Fold under ½ inch at the top (Figure 9) to frame the face.
- Tie round with red thread.
- Indicate the eyes with 2 black dots.
- Tie the baby in the mother's arms with thread attached to her wrists.
The Butter Churn
- Cut a circle of husk with a 2½ inch diameter.
- Snip round the sides about ½ inch in (Figure 10).
- Bend back the tabs and stick up to create a dish with a diameter of 1½ inches.
- Cut a strip 5/8 inches wide by 5 inches long and stick round the edge.
- If you have a darker color of husk, stick a narrow, ½ inch strip in the center to represent a copper band.
- For the handles, cut a strip 3/8 inches wide by 3½ inches long.
- Stick underneath the churn and up both sides.
- Cut the ends in points.
- For the paddle, cut a scrap of thin wood 2 inches by 5/8 inch and snip away at both sides of the top for the handle.
Bonus: Child Doll and Milk Pail
- For the child, you'll follow the general instructions given for the other dolls, but you'll make pigtails. Cut strands of silk 1½ inches long and stick across the head from side to side. Mark a center part with white thread and then tie the hair in 'bunches' with red cotton.
- For the milk pail, cut a piece of twig about 1¼ inch long, trim away the front portion and drill a hole through the middle (Figure 8).
How to Make a Corn Husk Farmer
The picture (Figure 11) shows a handsome straw farmer. For this doll, you'll need the following materials:
- A used cork
- Pipe cleaner
- Thin dowel or old knitting pin
- Piece of hardboard or cardboard (about 2½ inches by 2 inches)
Step 1: Create the Head and Body
- Roll a marble-sized ball of modeling clay.
- Cut 1 inch on the cork for the body.
- Heat the skewer and bore one hole into the top of the cork and two at the bottom.
- Cut the stick into one 1 inch and two 2½ inch lengths.
- For the arms, bend the pipe cleaner in half, twist together and bind with raffia.
- Pull it in tightly for the wrists.
- Push the sticks into the clay ball and the cork (Figure 12).
Step 2: Create the Clothes
- Cut two strips of dried husk 11 inches long by 1½ inches deep.
- Using them double, fold over the top of the head.
- Stick the sides together round the clay ball and tie firmly round the neck.
- Tie the arm piece to the stick. Bring the husk over and tie above the cork.
- Now separate the two thicknesses and twist each one over a stick for the legs.
- Bind below knee level, tightening at the ankles.
Step 3: Create and Attach the Accessories
- Make the hat from a strip of husk 3 inches by 1 inch and stick on the head.
- Stick in a length of thread for the hatband.
- Mark in the eyes and mouth with a felt pen.
- Cut a spade shape about 3½ inches deep from the doubled husk.
- Paste the two thicknesses together and spread clear adhesive over them for extra firmness.
- Stick the feet to the board or card and support until adhesive has set.
- Curl snippets of husk for leaves and stick them in place.
- Tie the spade to one wrist.
Now you have an entire family of corn husk dolls. I hope you have enjoyed this craft and found it useful and informative. Thanks for stopping by, and happy crafting!
© 2012 Dawn
William E Krill Jr from Hollidaysburg, PA on November 21, 2012:
Thanks, this how-to was great!