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Corn Husk Dolls

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On October 19, 1774

Colonel Samuel Pierce of Dorchester, Massachusetts, noted in his journal that they had "gatherd and huskt the corn of one acre of ground and there was 54 Bushells of corn etc." Husking a crop of corn was such a big task that New England farm families would hold husking frolics and invite neighbors to assist in the work, offering refreshments and even dancing.

Eighteenth-century toys were often made from materials found around the home. Early settlers may have learned to make corn husk dolls from Native Americans, who introduced them to corn, a crop unknown in Europe at the time. Over the next century, corn husk dolls became popular across North America and in Europe.

Materials:

  • Dried corn husks and corn silk

  • A large bowl of water

  • Scissors

  • Yarn or string

  • Glue

  • Small bits of fabric, ribbon, or paper

You may dry fresh husks for several weeks, or buy them from a store that sells ingredients for Mexican tamales.

Directions:

  1. Soak the husks in water for 5 minutes until pliable. Set the corn silk aside. Leave the husks in the water as you work, removing each piece as you need it.

     

  2. Gather 4 to 5 large husks into a bunch. Tie a piece of string about one inch from the end. Trim and round the edges with scissors.

     

  3. Flip the long ends of the husks over the string, around the trimmed edges. Tie a string around the gathered husks, creating the head and neck of your doll.

     

  4. Braid three husks together for the arms and tie at each end. Insert the arms between the husks just below the doll's neck. Tie a string below the arms for the waist.

     

  5. Wrap thin strips of husk over the doll's shoulders in a criss-cross pattern for a vest and hold the ends snugly at the waist.

     

  6. Use two full, smooth pieces of corn husk for the skirt, attaching them at the waist with string. For a male doll, cut the skirt into two parts and tie with string to make legs.

     

  7. Tie thin strips of husk around the doll's waist and neck to cover string.

     

  8. Set your doll aside to dry for several days. For hair, glue a bunch of corn silk to the doll's head. Add features with a pen and use scraps of fabric or ribbon for a kerchief, apron, or hat.

-Amy L. Peters
School and Youth Program Coordinator

 

Corn Husk Dolls