DIY

Make a Corn Cob Doll

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PHOTOS: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Turn a corn cob into an adorable, country doll.

Click on the Image Gallery for Step-by-Step Illustrated Directions.

In “Cornhusk Dolls for Fun and Profit”, Nancy Bubel told us how to
make and market two kinds of dolls
traditional and contemporary from nothing
but the paper like shucks taken from ears
of corn. And they’re dandy little dolls too. “But wait a
minute,” says Charlene Berryman. “Down here in Texas, where
I live, my family makes another kind of doll … from the
whole ear of corn. And here’s how we do it.”

Here’s What You’ll Need

To make our country dolls you’ll need
first of all some well-formed and filled
out ears of corn complete with shucks. The best time to
gather them from the field usually runs from late August,
through September and October, and into early November.
After that, the husks (on any corn that still hasn’t been
picked) sometimes starts to get a little ragged looking. If
your ears have any evidence of weevils, wrap them in
plastic and store them in a freezer for two or three days.

In the meantime, you can round up the other materials and
tools you’ll need: a paring knife, an old towel, scissors,
soft lead pencil, heavy twine, white thread, clear varnish,
tempera or acrylic paints, a small jar, large paper cup,
old toothbrush, and a pan (large enough to soak an ear of
corn in).

Step One: Soak the Corn

When you’re ready to begin the construction of a doll,
start by soaking an ear of corn in warm water for ten
minutes. Then once they’ve softened
gently pull its shucks back (one at a
time), and thoroughly clean them. Tear off and discard any
of the outer husks that are tattered or discolored and
scrub the kernels underneath with the old toothbrush. The
ear can then be laid aside (six hours outside or 24 hours
indoors) until it has completely dried.

Step Two: Remove a Band of Kernels

Remove a band of kernels (approximately one inch wide) from
both the “neck” and “waist” of the ear of corn. (Use the
paring knife, if you have to, to pick the grains away from
the cob … but be careful!) Then spray or brush clear
varnish over the remaining kernels to preserve them and
protect them from insects. Do not paint the
shucks.
When you’ve finished, hang the ear up by its
husks and let it dry. (If possible, all of Step Two is best
done outside or in a workshop.)

Step Three: Soak the Shucks

Soak the shucks (and shucks only) of your ear of corn in
water until they become soft and pliable. Then spread an
old towel on a work surface and keeping
everything over it cut two pieces of twine
(each approximately nine inches long) and six lengths
(again, nine inches each) of thread.

While holding the ear of corn in one hand, use the other to
pull its shucks down one at a time
until the kernels of corn are covered all
the way around. Don’t pull all the sections of husk
down. Leave some loose for the braids and bangs you ‘ll
make later.

Tie one piece of twine around the pulled-down shucks at
your ear’s “neck”. Then, leaving enough shucks on each side
of the developing doll to tie into “arms”, smooth the rest
of the pulled-down husks past the doll’s “waist” . . . and
tie them there with the second piece of twine.

Step Four: Tie the Arms

Tie the finished arms off at the elbows and wrists so that
they’re each about four inches long (this will take a total
of four lengths of thread).

Step Five: Make the Hair

Temporarily stand your doll in a small jar and
using the smoothest side of the shuck
covered ear for the face
start to form the toy’s bangs and braids. A single section
of shuck is usually just right for the bangs … but you
can always split one if it’s too wide, or combine two
narrow ones.

Pull another layer of the husk around to the back of the
doll’s head for braids. Then gently tear off the remaining
shucks and lay them aside (you may want to use them later
for a broom). Split the shucks that you intend to braid
into 12 (six for each side) one-half-inch strips. Then
combine the 12 strips into six doubles and
using three of the doubled strips for each one
braid the two pigtails and tie them off
with your two remaining lengths of thread.

Turn the doll around at this point, trim its bangs (just
above where the eyes will be painted on the face) with
scissors and then fringe the bangs by cutting them
vertically at intervals of one-quarter inch. Finally, set
the doll outside about three hours or out of the way
indoors for 12 hours to allow the husk pigtails, face,
etc., to completely dry.

Step Six: Paint the Face

A simple mouth, nose, eyes, and lashes can be painted on
the dried doll with. either tempera or acrylics. Once the
paint has set, invert a large paper cup, cut an “X” across
its bottom, and push the doll down into the upside-down
container to within about one inch of “her” waist. The
finished toy or display should stand approximately 10
inches tall.

EDITOR’S NOTE. Once you’ve constructed Charlene’s basic
doll, you can let your imagination run wild. Dress her up
as a little girl … as a granny. . . even as a “doll”.