Cornhusk Dolls for Fun and Profit

Nancy Bubel provides an introduction to the craft of homemade cornhusk doll making, including materials, making the head, body, arms, sleeves, assembly, and hair.

| September/October 1975

  • Cornhusk doll
    First, gather your husks . . . ideally on a bright, blue and gold autumn day soon after the dogwoods have turned red. We grow a small plot of field corn to feed our pigs, and put our dollmaking materials by during October as we handpick the crop.

  • Cornhusk doll

The cornhusk doll is a piquant example of how much can be done with practically nothing. When you look at one of the creations — a demure little lady in full-skirted costume, perhaps, with a household tool in her hand — it's sometimes hard to believe she was entirely hand-shaped, with the help of a bit of string and wire, from the crackly shucks which harvest leaves behind to rustle in the autumn wind.

This kind of dollmaking is an absorbing pastime right from the start. The raw materials are fun to gather and a pleasure to work with (wet cornhusks drape just like fabric). And, since most of the makings cost nothing, you can feel free to use them generously in all kinds of experiments. You'll discover that creativity comes easily when you don't have to worry about wasting a lot of expensive findings.

For this reason, the making of cornhusk dolls is a good craft for children. The young'uns can create their own versions — and be assured of pleasing results from their efforts — while you work on yours. A lot of scrapcraft for kids is schlock . . . but this project is the real thing, an age-old folk art that's fun to play around with today.

We've found making cornhusk dolls a good way to bypass the stores and create gifts from our own land . . . but we've kept some of the masterpieces we've made, too. In fact, our doll population grows each year as one or another of us creates a character we simply must make room for. If only we could put them all to work sweeping out the kitchen!

On the other hand, even though the cornhusk people don't help us with the chores, they do make themselves useful in another way: as a source of extra cash. We've found a ready market for our dolls and could sell more if we had the time to make them. If you enjoy the craft as much as we do, I dare say that a month of winter evenings devoted to playing with shucks may net you enough to feed your animals for weeks on end, buy a grain mill, or even invest in a milk goat. All that from what the picker leaves behind!

Would you like to try your hand at a doll or two? I'll gladly tell you how we make ours . . . not the way to construct them, mind, but a way, the one we're using now. Next year our technique may change if we discover new possibilities in the medium. In fact, who knows what new wrinkles you yourself may create, once you get started!

1/6/2008 12:28:31 PM

What is the best way to preserve/protect and store corn husk dolls?

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