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Make Your Own Corn Dolly - The Harvest Heart

Updated on September 27, 2015
Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna writes about folklore, magic, history and legends, focussing on British, Irish, Germanic, and Celtic cultures.

Make your own beautiful corn dolly.
Make your own beautiful corn dolly. | Source

Corn dollies are a traditional craft of the British Isles, often appearing at harvest festivals up and down the country in the autumn months. There are many different designs, with each town or village often having it's own version of a certain pattern to make it theirs.

In times of old, the spirit of the crop was captured in the last bunch of wheat, and was brought into the house over winter to keep it safe. This bunch of wheat would usually be decorated or plaited into a dolly, to make it into a decorative piece. Then with ceremony, it was returned to the field in February to help ensure a successful crop the next year.

Over the years, corn dollies have become a wider craft with traditions and stories associated with many of the patterns. This one I know as a "Harvest Heart", and is said to be a love token.

Easy to make, and pleasing on the eye, they make wonderful gifts, and will last for years, if kept dry. Now you can learn how to make your own!

Materials required for your corn dolly.
Materials required for your corn dolly. | Source

How to Make a Harvest Heart

You Will Need:

  1. 6 stalks of wheat.
  2. A reel of cotton, preferably light-coloured.
  3. Scissors.
  4. Ribbon of your choice.

Make sure that your wheat stalks are of similar length and have no knobbles in the stalk. These would cause the stalk to snap when you are working with them.

When choosing your ribbon, make sure that the pattern shows on both sides, or else it will look strange when you tie it into a bow. Tartans work well and look lovely if you are making this as a gift for Yuletide.

Taking three stalks, tie together beneath the heads.
Taking three stalks, tie together beneath the heads. | Source

Step 1.

The wheat must be left to soak before you work with it. When damp, the wheat is supple, but if you try to work with it when it is dry it will snap and break. I soak mine in a sink, then leave in a wet tea-towel to keep it damp. Storing it in a bucket of water also works well.

Take three stalks of wheat and bunch them together. Cut off a length of cotton, and wrap it around the stalks to hold them together, before tying to secure them. You want the cotton to be just beneath the heads, a few millimeters down the stalk.

Plait the three stalks together, then tie.
Plait the three stalks together, then tie. | Source
The plait is long enough when it is sufficient for half a heart.
The plait is long enough when it is sufficient for half a heart. | Source

Step 2.

Work a plait down the stalks. Don't worry if it is a bit messy when you begin. It will even out as the rest of the plait is completed as the tension moves up the stalks up the top. You will find that the straw will start to bend and fold and a neat plait will form.

To test that the plait is long is long enough, pick up the bunch and let your plait flop over. If it is long enough to make half of a heart shape, you are done. If not, keep plaiting until it is long enough.

Wrap cotton around the end of your plait and tie.

Repeat with the other three stalks, using your first bunch as a length guide for the plait.

Repeat with the other three stalks, and make sure both plaits are of equal length.
Repeat with the other three stalks, and make sure both plaits are of equal length. | Source

Step 3.

Hold the bunches together by the long straight stalks. Allow the plaits to fall to either side, and tie the bunches with a section of cotton so they are all secured together.

Ideally, the plaits need to have the narrow edge up, with the wide plait sections facing each other. You will find that the natural tension in the wheat will cause this to happen anyway.

Tie both plaits together, where the straight stalks meet the plaited section.
Tie both plaits together, where the straight stalks meet the plaited section. | Source

Step 4.

Fold one of the plaits over the long straight stalks, so that it forms half a heart shape.

The heads of wheat need to have crossed over the straight stalks.

Wrap with cotton and tie to secure in place.

Bend the one plait across the straight stalks to make a half heart, then tie to secure in place.
Bend the one plait across the straight stalks to make a half heart, then tie to secure in place. | Source

Repeat with the other plait, so that both now cross over to make a heart shape.

Trim away any excess cotton to tidy it all up, and tease the corn with your fingers to position the heads and stalks how you like them. You can fold the stalks at the bottom of the corn dolly to give them a bit of a flourish if you like.

Fold the other plait across the straight stalks, and tie to secure.
Fold the other plait across the straight stalks, and tie to secure. | Source

Step 5.

Trim the ends of the stalks if you want them to be even.

Tie your ribbon around the heart to finish it off. You can use as much ribbon as you like; even wrapping it around the corn dolly if you prefer.

Tidy up with scissors, and finish it off with a pretty bow.
Tidy up with scissors, and finish it off with a pretty bow. | Source

Your Harvest Heart is complete!

I'm sure you'll agree, it is a beautiful and novel country craft to enjoy all year round.

© 2015 Pollyanna Jones

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    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 23 months ago

      what patterned dollies!

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 23 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, I hope she enjoys trying this out!

    • RJ Schwartz profile image

      Ralph Schwartz 23 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

      Thanks for sharing, my wife and her friends were making Brigid's crosses a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time doing so, this story caught my eye and I'll be sharing it with her !

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 23 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks so much Glimmer Twin Fan, and Patricia! x

      It's such a fun craft to enjoy, and a lot easier than it looks! Blessings to you both, have a wonderful day. x

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 23 months ago from sunny Florida

      How lovely...I will show my daughter..she is much better at such endeavors than I am

      Shared pinned g+ tweeted ps

      Angels are once again on the way ps

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 23 months ago

      This is so pretty! I would love to try this! Well done hub.