Make a Scarecrow Doll From Cornhusks

Nancy Bubel continues her introduction to crafting homemade cornhusk dolls using the same basic methods to craft a scarecrow doll.
By Nancy Bubel
September/October 1975
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In fact, although scarecrow people are easily made by children, the fun of clothing them in scraps makes this an addictive adult craft too.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/FOTOGAL


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Just as I was about to wrap up my other article on cornhusk dolls, we stumbled on another way to create little figures from the same raw materials. These variations on the theme — "scarecrow people", we call them — are closer to the original folk version that was made as children's playthings. They're cruder than the type I've described in the accompanying article, but sturdy and full of personality . . . and, since they're dressed in odds and ends of cloth, you can achieve subtle variations in character by means of costume.

In fact, although scarecrow people are easily made by children, the fun of clothing them in scraps makes this an addictive adult craft too. I've been constructing one doll every evening after milking and now have a basketful of assorted characters . . . most of whom I can't bear to sell. Since I've promised a dozen to a gift shop and another dozen to a craft fair, I'll have to keep myself from getting too attached to the next batch.

How to Make a Scarecrow Doll From Corn Husks

The following materials are all you'll need to people your house, barn, or cabin with lively scarecrows:

[1] Cornhusks and silk

[2] White glue

[3] String and thread

[4] Fabric scraps, used jeans, sweaters, dresses, etc.

The doll's body is made of a whole cornhusk with part of the stem still attached at the top. The arms — made as a separate piece — are simply four strips of the more flexible inner husk tied together in the center and at the wrists. You can fold the ends under to make neat hands, or leave them fringed for a more definite scarecrow effect.

Hold a whole corn shuck with the stem pointing up, divide the husk in half front to back, and place the armpiece between the halves . . . pushed up as close to the stalk end as it will go. Tie the doll tightly under the arms.

Next, form the head by wrapping several inner husks around the stem (which should be shortened if it's too long, or the doll's head will be weirdly elevated above the shoulders). If you wish, you can tuck cotton batting, Kleenex, or scrap fabric under the strips to round the face. When the shaping is complete, stretch one last piece of unstained shuck over the ball of husk from front to back, and wrap string tightly around the neck to attach the face and define the head. If the fastening seems unstable you can cross the string over the doll's chest and tie it in back under the arms.

Make a hank of hair from corn silk, yarn, cotton batting, fringed wool, or whatever and pin it to the head while you decide on a style. Then attach the wig with white glue. Any hat or scarf you add later will help to keep the scarecrow's hair on.

That's it . . . the basic doll. The addition of clothes and bits of felt glued on for facial features will make its character as zany, dignified, or folksy as you please.

There are no rules for dressing scarecrow people. Anything goes. Stitchery needn't be fine, edges are left raw, and garments are sewn on to avoid fastenings. You'll soon find plenty of marvelous possibilities in fabric scraps, odd collars, pockets, and bits of braid.

To get you started, here are a few of the costumes I've made for my dolls:

Scarecrow Doll Hats

[1] Stocking caps made of sweater or mitten ribbing

[2] Peasant kerchiefs (fabric triangles tied under chin)

[3] Pioneer bonnets (straight lengths of fabric wrapped over head ear to ear and gathered in back

[4] Colonial dust caps (40-inch circles of fabric stitched all the way around, 1/2 inch in from the edge, and gathered to form a puffed cap)

No hat is needed if you cover the doll's whole head with hair of some kind.

Scarecrow Doll Skirts

[1] Straight lengths of fabric, gathered. Sometimes I sew on a contrasting patch with big stitches.

[2] Jumpers or aprons of jeans scraps, corduroy, or suede cloth

[3] Circle skirts (circles of fabric, with small center cutouts and slits along one radius, sewn around the dolls)

Scarecrow Doll Tops

[1] Capes

[2] Crossed surplice top

[3] Big collars

[4] Neckerchiefs

[5] Peasant vests

[6] Sweaters (formed from scraps of sweater ribbing, turned over at top for turtlenecks)

[7] Shawls

Other Scarecrow Doll Clothing

[1] Overalls (made of old jeans scraps)

[2] Ponchos (squares of fabric, fringed and put on diagonally)

[3] Tool aprons (jeans scraps)

[4] Raincoats (made from an old yellow slicker)

I don't want to wither the vitality of this folk craft by giving you specific directions for dressing your dolls. Let the clothes take their form from the shape of the scarecrow person and the varied contents of your scrap box. This dashing approach is especially good for children. Freed from the necessity of neat edges and finishing touches, they can more easily achieve whatever effects their imaginations dream up.

If your scrap bag is lean, you can find all sorts of creative possibilities at rummage sales or in the 5 cent barrels at thrift shops. Look for existing formations that can become something else under the influence of scissors and thread. (I once got a perfect bonnet brim out of the corded quilting of a discarded blouse cuff.)

It's the use of discards that makes scarecrow people so much fun. In this craft cornhusks are transformed, worn clothes live on, and almost any odd scrap has its own potential. Old becomes new . . . and that's what makes the world go round!


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