Make Your Own Corn Dolly - The Harvest Heart
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!
How to Make a Harvest Heart
You Will Need:
- 6 stalks of wheat.
- A reel of cotton, preferably light-coloured.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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