Make a Scarecrow Doll From Cornhusks

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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.

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!