- Arts and Design
How to make a corn husk doll
How to make a corn husk doll
This page includes Instructions, diagrams and pictures showing you how to make a corn husk doll, or corn shuck doll as some call them. . Corn husk dolls are a traditional American craft from Appalachia. There are also links to purchase supplies at Amazon.
Don't forget to listen to the Appalachian music at the bottom of the page. These are some Bluegrass musicians who play at my church sometimes.
Not so crafty? Want to buy a corn husk doll? Don't forget to look at the Ebay auction where you can buy one of my traditional corn husk (corn shuck) dolls.
Appalachian Crafts: Corn Shuck Dolls
Growing up in Southwest Virginia, Appalachian crafts were part of my life. My parents were antique dealers, and every year we participated in the Virginia Highlands Festival where Appalachian culture was displayed in its purest form. This festival in Abingdon, Virginia, did so much to present all the unknown beauty and uniqueness about our area and our people, and it is still takes place each summer.
Hanging around the festival each year for a couple of weeks, I enjoyed perusing the different booths and displays. This is where I saw my first corn shuck dolls, and I was enchanted with them. They reminded me of the Little Dutch Girls on the quilt that my father's late mother had left him.
A crafty young mother
When I became interested in crafts as a young wife, corn shuck dolls are one of the first things that I learned to make. I sold many of these during the "country" decorating trend of the 1990s, and they are still popular today. Sometimes I put angel wings on them and let them be Christmas angels. We place a few of these deep in the branches of the tree or on top as a tree topper.
You can make these dolls out of the paper ribbon that used to be very popular, but it is quite hard to find anymore. They are not as authentic as corn shuck dolls. I purchase corn shucks very inexpensively in the produce department at Walmart. They are packaged for people making tamales, and they are just fine. You actually get more in the package than you do at the craft store. They must be soaked in a little water to make them pliable to work with.
You can dye the corn shucks to make blue bonnets and aprons, if you desire. I have seen corn shuck dolls decorated with pieces of the paper ribbon, but the two mediums mixed together are somewhat disingenuous to me.
I have also made hair for these when I was making angels. (Angels don't have bonnets!) I curled embroidery floss around a nail and stiffened it with glue. I have also used the strands of corn silk in the corn for hair, letting little tufts stick out of the bonnet.
Corn shuck dolls are not the easiest craft that I ever attempted, but once you learn to do these, you truly will have mastered an authentic Appalachian Craft.
How to make a corn shuck doll
Corn Shucks: One package will make several dolls
1" Styrofoam ball
Sewing thread: beige
thin wire 5 1/2 Inches long
The corn husks will need to soak in water for a few minutes before use.
1. Make the head
Cut two pieces of corn shuck 1" wide by 7" long. Place the styrofoam ball in the middle of the two pieces, bringing the ends down to form a neck. This should cover the ball for the head. Wrap the "neck" all the way down tightly with thread. There will be one side of the head that looks better than the other and should be the face. The bonnet covers up the rest of the head.
2. Make arms
Cut a soft piece of corn shuck to measure 2 1/2" by 6 1/2". Cut a piece of wire around 5 1/2 inches long. Tightly wrap the wire in the piece of corn shuck for arms. Wrap tightly with string approximately 1/8 " from the ends and in the center.
3. Form upper body: Connecting arms and head
Lay the head piece perpendicular to the arms. Wrap with thread in a crossing motion. Take two 1" wide pieces of corn shuck and cross chest of doll diagonally. Do this again. Secure at the waist tightly with thread.
4. Apply skirts
Carefully bend arms up straight, and begin to apply 6 full shucks for skirts. Apply them upside down, gathering at the waist. Secure them at the waist with thread. You will apply one at the front, one at the back, and one at each side, Place remaining shucks by seeking to cover bare spots.
5. Turn doll's skirts "right side to"
Turn the doll's skirts right side to. Smooth them to avoid openings. If there are glaring inequalities in the length of the skirt pieces so that it appears the doll will not stand level, trim off a few pieces carefully. It is easiest to trim when it is wet.
Tie thread around the doll to hold it down while it dries.
6. Make the apron
Cut out an apron piece 3 1/2" by 5". Scallop the bottom and top, two scallops on the top for the bib of the apron.
7. Tie on the apron
Place the apron on the corn husk doll and secure with wrapped thread. Tie a thin piece of a corn shuck around as a tie.
8. Make the bonnet.
Cut a piece of corn shuck 6" by 3", turning up 1/8" on one 6" side for a brim. Place on doll, gathering in at neck. Wrap with thread. Tie a thin piece of corn shuck around the neck as a tie, leaving ends in the back
9. Wrapping to dry
Wrap the doll a little more with string to dry, being sure that the ties are held down to dry so that they will not stick out
10. Finishing touches
After the corn husk doll has dried, remove the thread and arrange the corn shucks to be an attractive skirt. You might need to trim the bottom a little for it to stand well. Sometimes people place a cardboard cone under the corn shuck doll.
Buy one of my corn husk dolls - Straight from Tennessee!
You can purchase this corn husk doll on Ebay.
Bluegrass gospel from the Appalachians - Some talented folks from my church
Here are some talented folks from my church singing bluegrass gospel music. There is a guitar, electric bass and banjo.