As a child, Martha Stewart Living stylist Tamara Bodor used cornhusks to make dolls, employing similar techniques to those of Native Americans and early colonists. She says that the key to working with dried cornhusks is to soak them first so that they're pliable enough to assume a variety of shapes.
Tools and Materials
12 dried cornhusks
Cornhusk Dolls How-To
1. Soak the dried cornhusks in a bowl of water for about 5 minutes. Blot off excess water from husks with a paper towel, and lay them on a tray covered in a damp towel. If some cornhusks are larger than others, tear them to them to achieve a uniform size.
2. To make a head with corn-silk hair, take 5 cornhusks, and arrange them, pointed ends down, on top of each other, alternating 2 and then 1. Lay a bunch of dried corn silk in between the husks. The length of the silks should equal the lengths of the husks. Tie the straight ends together, about 1 1/2 inches in from the ends, using a piece of waxed twine. Trim around the straight edges to make them curved. Turn the husks upside down, and pull the long ends of the husks down over the tied ends. Leave the hair sticking straight up until the rest of doll is finished. Tie with waxed twine around the neck, creating the head.
3. To make tube arms, start with a 6 inch-long piece of husk. Flatten the husk, then roll it lengthwise to form a tight coil. Tie at both ends, about 1/2 inch in on each end. To make bendable arms, insert a piece of wire that’s 1/4 inch shorter. To make braided arms instead, tear a husk lengthwise into three pieces. Alternate the pieces so that there is one pointed end up and two flat ends up. Tie the three pieces together about 1/2 inch in from one end. Braid the pieces, and tie at the opposite end.
4. To attach the arms, insert them under the inside of the long husk, just below the neck. Tie 1 to 1 1/2 inches below the arms to form the waist.
5. To make a shoulder sash, tear a husk in half (you may need to cut it in half again to fit accordingly). Start with the flat end of one piece at the waist on the back of the doll, and drape it diagonally across the front. Repeat with another piece on the other side. Tie in place around the waist with waxed twine.
6. To make a skirt, arrange 4 to 5 husks around the waist of the doll. The husks can be flat side down or pointed side down, depending on whether you want the skirt to be straight on the bottom or not. If you want a shorter skirt, cut the husks at the flat end. Tie at the waist with waxed twine. Tie a piece of a husk around the waist to cover the waxed twine and to make a wide belt around the waist.
7. After the body of the doll is assembled, pull the hair gently around the head, and tie in place around the neck with a cornhusk tie. Add a headband by tying a narrow piece of husk about 6 inches long around the doll’s head.
8. To make a basic bonnet, cut a piece of husk to 3 by 5 inches. Fold back 1/4 inch on the shorter edge. Lay the folded edge across the head from side to side ("ear" to "ear."). Hold firmly against the head. Pin to hold in place until dry, if necessary. Fold the sides of the bonnet toward the back of the head. Pull the back of the bonnet down against the back of the head. Tie in place around the neck with a cornhusk tie.
9. Cover the waxed-twine ties with thin strips of cornhusk. Allow dolls to try for 24 hours in a well-ventilated area. Prop dolls on empty bottles to hold their shape.