Corn husk dolls make festive gifts and decorations
Leaf carpets of brown with smatterings of red, yellow and bronze cover our lawns now and the open fields along the country roadsides have changed to the colors of cinnamon and buff.
Just a few months ago, these fallen leaves were providing backyard shade and green canopies where the birds could hide and the squirrels played. Just a few weeks ago, those same leaves robed the trees in each yard, roadside and woodlot in russet and gold. The leaves have come full circle now – from fresh spring buds to colorful fall carpets and we can know that the beautiful cycle will begin again after the coming winter’s rest.
On a recent visit to a local farm market, I noticed an autumn display that included small pumpkins, gourds, mums, and an adorable trio of corn husk dolls dressed in colorful calico aprons and bonnets. I immediately decided that these little beauties would make a wonderful addition to my decorations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. After doing some checking, I also found out that corn husk dolls are very easy to make and the supplies are available at craft centers. I plan to make some extras to give as gifts to our younger Thanksgiving guests.
Corn husk dolls date back to the early Native American tribes of North America. The dolls were a favored plaything of both girls and boys of various tribes and they were a toy that the children could help their parent craft. When the colonists began to settle in America, their children quickly learned to make and enjoy these simple dolls as well.
Colonial children enjoyed painting faces or sewing buttons, small pebbles and bits of yard or thread for eyes and mouths on their dolls, but traditionally, Native American dolls had no faces. This practice was based on the tribal legend of the “three sisters” and a desire of Indian parents to teach their children the danger of vanity.
The “three sisters” – corn, beans, and squash – were the staple crops of many Indian tribes. Husks of the corn were used to make many useful items such as mats, containers, slippers, hats, etc.
According to lore, the Corn Spirit wanted to give something enjoyable to the people, so he gave them a corn husk doll, who went from village to village providing entertainment. The doll had a beautiful face and wherever she went, the people told her so. She became vain and selfish and began to make the children unhappy. One day as she was admiring her reflected beauty in a pool, a great owl swooped down and snatched her reflection away. When she looked again, she had no reflection and her beautiful face was gone. When Indian mothers made the dolls for their children, they put no face on the doll and told the legend to their children.
To make corn husk dolls for decorations or gifts, you will need the following supplies:
• 10- 12 corn husks per doll
• A container of warm water for soaking the husks
1. Soak the husks for about 10 minutes in warm water until pliable.
2. Bundle thin end of six husks together (slick side inward). Tie tightly about one-quarter inch from the end. Trim the tied end close to the string.
3. Turn the bundle upside down (tied end down) and pull the long ends down. Tie the bundle at 1-1/2 inches down to form a ball at the top which will be the head.
4. Take a single husk, flatten it and roll it into a cylinder. Tie each end about one-half inch in to form a long roll with a hand on each end.
5. Lift one husk under the head and insert the arm piece just below the tie under the head.
6 Tie the bundle just below the arm to form a waist.
7. Wrap a husk around the upper body in a crisscross pattern to form shoulders. Secure this with a string at the waist.
8. Tie five husks (narrow side up) around the waist of the doll to form a skirt.
You may use yarn to create hair for the doll and dress her in fabric pieces as desired. You can add a face with paint or attach adhesive features (self-made or from a craft store). For more information on making a corn husk doll, try http://spoonful.com/crafts or
November garden tip:
Prepare your rose bushes for winter. Cut the canes back and cover the bush base with dirt or mulch. Protect the entire plant with a Styrofoam cover or place a cardboard box over the plant. Open the top of the box and fill it with leaves, straw or mulch.
If you have garden questions or tips for other gardeners, send them in to