Making a Cornhusk Doll

If you don’t know that my upcoming release, SCATTERED SEEDS, is set in 18th century Pennsylvania, you’ve been hiding under a rock. For about the past two years, I’ve driven friends and family crazy with my hands-on research. My tomahawk collection has grown, a longrifle is taking shape in my basement, and I even wear a shift to bed. I’ve sailed on an 18th century brig, made fire with a striker, and harvested pine knots for light.

Two weeks ago, I made cornhusk dolls. Why? I don’t know, except I’m weird. And maybe because in SCATTERED SEEDS, this happens:

         The man’s name was Lemuel Tanner, and he was a proud second-generation American whose grandsire had been sent to the Colonies aboard a prison ship. His house was tidy, though sparsely furnished, and his barn had a loft bursting with fodder and bushels of corn. He distilled spirits in a shed beside the corral, and it was this enterprise, he said, that bought him peace with the Indians.

        “They can’t get enough of it.” Lemuel lit two pipes and handed one to Edward, who’d been offered the only chair. It was lopsided, made of twigs, and placed next to the hearth. On the floor beside Edward, a naked boy played with cornhusk dolls and eyed him doubtfully.

Cornhusk dolls have their roots in all cultures where corn is grown. In America, they were first popular among Native Americans, and later, Colonial children.

Like Amish dolls, cornhusk dolls have no facial features. Evidence suggests this stems from a Native American legend that says that when the Corn Spirit created the doll, everyone kept telling the doll how beautiful she was. When the doll refused to stop admiring her beauty in pools of water, the Great Spirit punished her by taking away her face.

Cornhusk dolls are not difficult to make, and even if you don’t live in a corn-producing state, odds are good you can find free cornhusks in the trash bin next to the corn for sale in your local grocery store. They won’t charge you for it, but they might raise an eyebrow when they see you dumpster diving.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use green husks or dried ones. The answer is: dried ones. If you use green ones like I did, they will shrink when dried, and the doll will fall apart. So, ignore the fact that mine are green. You should be using dried ones. And you should totally plan to attend the online launch party for Scattered Seeds because I’ll be giving away two cornhusk doll kits! Details will be posted on Ye Olde Facebook author page, so if you haven’t already liked me (and I’m totally likable), now is a good time to do it: Julie’s Freakin’ Facebook Page

On to the cornhusk dolls!

This is a fun project for kids.

Soak a few husks in warm water to soften them.

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Take a husk, roll it up tightly, secure and snip the ends. This will be the “arms” of your doll.

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Take a few of the soaked husks and tie their ends together (You can slip some dried corn silk between them, which will become the “hair” of the doll.).

Flip the husks down one by one and tie to form a “head.” Shove the “arms” all the way up to the head and secure with twine. This forms the “waist” of the doll. If you want to get creative, you can cut one of the outer husks to make an apron overlay.

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Use a strip of husk for the shawl.

And that’s it! You’ll get ideas for improvements as you go. These are the dolls I made. They got better as I made more.

Cornhusk Dolls

 

Fiction That's Plaid to the Bone

Posted in Hands-On Research, Scattered Seeds Tagged with: ,
One comment on “Making a Cornhusk Doll
  1. Rosemary fried says:

    Loved it. It all came back to me, after many years. Once , in AZ, on an Elderhostel (now called Road Scholar) I learned how to make a Hopi doll. Same principles! I was a star of the Hopi doll class. They (the dolls) have a name but I can’t remember it.

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