Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Corn dolliess are a recent obsession of mine, I saw a photograph of the most beautiful corn doll on Instagram and had to have a go at this most ancient of crafts myself.
A little background on corn dollies.
Corn dollies are a pagan custom dating back thousands of years. Corn dollies were traditionally made from the last sheath of corn cut at harvest, and would hold a place of honour on the harvest banquet table.
Legend says that the corn dollie was born from the destruction of the 'Corn Idol'. In paganism the corn idol was the winter home of the Corn Spirit - the spirit of the harvest. Year after year the spirit lived in the growing crops, but when crops are cut at harvest the spirit became homeless, so corn dollies are created to allow the spirit a refuge and home in the winter months in the hope that with its sanctuary it will help provide a good crop the following spring.
Corn dollies vary in their design and crop they are made from, some are simple crosses, some resemble hollow baby rattles, the corn doll I have made and am going to show you how to make today originate from america and have their roots in native american culture for they use dried corn husks - the results are so beautiful. You could use fresh corn husks which would be absolutely beautiful especially as the colour will change as time goes on and it dries out , I only had to hand here dried corn husks, which I bought from a food supplier. They will need soaking first in warm water to soften them.
What you will need to make a corn doll
A bowl of warm water
A towel to cover worktop whilst working
Around 15 Dried or fresh Corn husks
Strong string, twine, or florist wire, dental floss works great!
A craft pipe cleaner
Soak and gently squeeze your corn husks, so they are soft and easy to work with, they should feel like damp fabric.
Tear some husks, you want a couple of 2 inch strips and a three inch strip.
To make the head, fold your three inch strip into three length ways and then roll from the widest end to the narrowest,
Place your rolled up husk 1/3 of the way from the widest end of a two inch strip. Roll the strip around the roll (it might not go all the way) twist it and then fold it over, smoothing it down to create the head, secure tightly at the neck with string.
To make arms, take a pipe cleaner, around 7 inches long (check against your head for proportion) Using a two inch wide strip leave around an inch free of one end of the pipe cleaner the narrowest end of the strip should be toward the centre of the pipe cleaner.
Roll the pipe cleaner in the strip tightly, then fold over the empty end so the end of the pipe cleaner is sitting in the fold and secure with string to make wrists.
To make a full sleeve, take a three inch wide strip securing the fullest end at the wrist with the string with the rest of the strip in the direction of the new hand you have made,
When secure, fold the strip back on itself, gently pushing the husk out to give a billowed look once you are happy with the look of the sleeve, secure with string at the centre of the pipe cleaner.
Repeat the above on the opposite side of the pipe cleaner to complete the arms.
To make the body, hold the head and arms together, the arms should be sitting under the neck
Take around ten narrow strips of husk and begin wrapping over and around the shoulders in an x pattern, making sure that when a strip is finished you are able to hold its end in your hands at the 'waist'. When all the strips are wrapped around, you should have what looks like a finished torso, head and arms. Secure the wrapped strips tightly at the 'waistline', as tightly as you can.
Now for the underskirt, take around ten full husks and gather them around the waist, paying attention to the shape of the skirt and its fullness, leave around one inch overlapping the waistline you have made, to securing tightly with string. Once secure trim the excess husk above the waistline down to about 0.5cm.
You can end here and add a sash and bonnet as described at the end or add a full skirt using the same technique as the sleeve. To make the full skirt gather full husks, around 4, upside down leaving around an inch of the narrow end below the waistline, pay attention to nay gaps and allow the husks to overlap, secure as tight as you can then fold back down, gently billowing the husks to form a full skirt.
You now have the doll finished, you can tear a thin strip of husk to form a sash to hide the waist line, and around an inch wide strip to wrap over the head as a bonnet, secure at the neck with string and then trim any excess (see image above for how they look)
Until your doll is dry loosely tie string around the skirt to hold the husk in shape, otherwise it has a tendency to curl. You can dye corn husks and make bright colourful dolls for a range of occasions, but I love the natural look of these.