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28 May 2018
How to Make Corn Husk Dolls

Recently I helped host a Cinco De Mayo carnival for a school in Woodside, California.  In an effort to cut down on the use of plastic and other packaged materials, they opted for making traditional corn husk dolls.  

Now, I always honor a client’s request. But, I have to admit my initial reaction to corn husk dolls was less than enthusiastic.  Then I started making samples for the inspiration board and everything changed.  These dolls are actually really fun to make! Although the basic doll is pretty simple, there are literally dozens of ways to embellish and decorate.  They are also a pretty economical craft at about .50 per doll and I found you can accommodate a good number of crafters at once (about 100 per hour, depending on how much space you have).

Here's all you need to set up your own corn husk doll station:

 

shallow bins (I use plastic oil pans.  I found mine at Dollar Tree) and warm water (cold will work, but warm is best)

 

Corn Husks: you can find these in the International Food Section of most supermarkets. I found mine at Smart and Final You’ll need 5 corn husks per doll. We were able to get 20 dolls from our package of corn husks, but this might vary depending on packaging.

Twine: I used 2mm jute twine in assorted colors

Scissors

Rubber bands

Paper Towels (optional)

 

Step 1

Soak the corn husks in warm water for about 10 minutes. The husks can sit in water all day and it won't hurt them.

Step 2:

Peel 4 sheets of husk apart and stack directly on top of each other, all facing in the same direction.  Try to match sizes. If some are shorter than others, place them on the outer sides.

Step 3:

Squeeze the narrow ends of the husks together and secure tightly with a rubber band.

 

Step 4:

If you want to add hair, now is the time.  Take the twine, wrap it around your four fingers about 5 to 10 times.  Cut the end, slip the loops off your fingers.  Secure in the middle with a smaller piece of twine.  Cut the loops on either side to make hair.  Cut a piece of twine 8 inches long.

Step 5:

Flip the cornhusks inside out - 2 on each side.  Slip the 8-inch piece of twine between the flipped pieces.  Pull up and around the husks and tie off.  Add the hair and tie with the twine.

Step 6:

Cut a piece of twine about 6 inches in length. Pinch of as much cornhusk as you want to make the head.  Tie off with twine.  

Step 7:

Take a single cornhusk (this is the perfect way to use up the smaller pieces) and roll into a tube.

Step 8:  

Slip the tube of cornhusk up under the head between the layers.  Pinch off a waist and tie with another piece of twine.  

 

 

Step 9.  

Tie off the ends of the arms and trim to the desired length.

Step 10. 

If you wish to make your doll wearing pants, simply split the skirt part of the doll in half and tie off at the feet with twine.

Once you master these basic steps you can start experimenting with all kinds of tying and rolling techniques.  Cornhusks are very pliable when wet. When dry they hold their shape well. Experiment with bending and shaping your husks.  Let them sit overnight.  Once dry you can draw on faces and add other embellishments.  The dried cornhusks take glue, paint and markers quite well.

Next time you are looking for a fun nature-based craft, I encourage you to give these dolls a try.  I think you, like I, will find them to be highly engaging. They offer up a wonderfully simple alternative to all the plastic bits and slime that we find consuming our craft tables at the moment.  

Sometimes stepping back in time and using nature as our building block is the perfect solution to reconnecting with our creative side.