CORNSHUCK MOPS, DOLLS AND HATS - Household Crafts and Tips: The Foxfire Americana Library - Foxfire Students

Household Crafts and Tips: The Foxfire Americana Library - Foxfire Students (2011)


We heard from a number of people that Mrs. Kate Hopper, who works in the Rabun Gap Craft Shop, knew how to make scrub mops from cornshucks. As we were interested in this subject, we went to investigate. Luckily, she agreed to make one for us, and as she made it, we took a set of photographs so you could see how it is done.

Photographs and interview done by Jan Brown and Mary Garth.

ILLUSTRATION 59 L. D. Hopper (Kate’s husband) works on the board for the mop. The board should be 5½″ wide, 13¾″ long, and 1½″ thick. Eighteen holes (one inch in diameter) should be placed in three rows of six holes each, as pictured.

ILLUSTRATION 60 Kate soaks the cornshucks in a tub for several minutes to make them pliable. Then she and Jan Brown (right) fit the dampened cornshucks through the holes (top). The loose ends of the shucks are put through first. Note that the whole shuck is used; the shank is not cut off until after the mop is completed. When all the loose ends are through, they should be pulled firmly until they are tight (bottom left). Then Kate trims the shanks and ends to make them even (bottom right).

ILLUSTRATION 61 Mary Garth demonstrates the effectiveness of the new mop on Kate’s porch.


The cornshuck dolls we have photographed were made by Daisy Justice and Lassie Bradshaw. Not many of our contacts remember making or playing with cornshuck dolls as children. They remember more about homemade rag dolls, although they did make little horses and dogs from shucks. The cornshuck dolls now are usually made for doll collectors more than for toys.

The materials needed are a ball of twine or crocheting thread (not nylon as it stretches); scissors; a bowl of water to dampen the shucks; clean shucks—white, or any available colors (mildewed or dark shucks may be used for the bottom layers of the skirt and the inside parts of dolls); and corn silks—blonde, red, and brown—for hair.

Different people have told us varied lengths of time to wet the shucks before using. It seems the best formula to follow for dolls is to trim a few shucks, dip them in water for three to five minutes, then drain and use.

ILLUSTRATION 62 Daisy Justice works on a cornshuck doll.

ILLUSTRATION 63 To make the head, cut a cornshuck two inches wide and six inches long. Fold it over lengthwise, making it one inch wide (top). Begin folding shuck down several times to make the filling for the head (middle right). When finished, the filling for the head should appear as shown (middle left). Cover the filling with another shuck as illustrated (bottom left). This shuck will extend below the neck to form the upper body of the doll. Tie the shuck at the neck (bottom right) to secure it tightly.

The shucks seem easier to use when dampened a short time rather than soaked. As the shucks dry on the newlymade doll, they will fluff out. The sashes will tighten so that they don’t come untied when dry.

There are many variations of the cornshuck dolls ranging in sizes from three to twelve inches high. Some wear dyed dresses (the shucks are dyed just like fabric before making the dolls); some are boy dolls with pants on.

We believe that the pattern shown is a basic style, and once you get the gist of making a cornshuck doll, you will develop your own techniques and try out various ideas.

Interviews by Shanon Jackson, Julia Justice, and Annette Reems. Photographs by Phil Hamilton. Text by Annette Reems.

ILLUSTRATION 64 For the arms, pick two shucks about the same size (one will be used for each arm). Twist each shuck as pictured (left). Bend each twisted shuck in half (right) and tie one on either side of the body of the neck with string. Attached arms should appear as shown (bottom).

ILLUSTRATION 65 Take another shuck and wrap it around one arm—forming a sleeve beginning about ¼ inch from the folded end (hand) of the arm, and wrap back toward the head (top). Bring the end of the wrapped shuck across the back of the doll diagonally to the waist. Go through the same process with the other arm. Sleeved arms should appear as pictured (middle). The sleeve strips crisscross in back. Tie them at the waist with a piece of string (bottom).

ILLUSTRATION 66 Now cover the body with two shucks. One goes diagonally across each shoulder (top). These shucks crisscross in back and front. Tie them at waist with string (bottom).

ILLUSTRATION 67 Place several shucks lengthwise (one at a time) around the waist. The shucks will overlap to form a full, long skirt (top). Use as many shucks as needed for desired fullness, and tie at waist with string (left). Trim the skirt to make it even, so the doll will stand straight (right).

ILLUSTRATION 68 Next crisscross two shucks over the shoulders (left) and bring them down below the waist in front and back. Fold another shuck into a long, narrow strip. Put it around the waist and tie as a sash in back to hold the bodice secure (right). (An apron may be added before the sash is tied by cutting a shuck into a heart shape and placing it around the waist.)

ILLUSTRATION 69 Dampen corn silks and put them over the doll’s face. Tie the silks around the forehead with string (top). Flip the silks to the back, exposing the face (bottom). The string will be completely covered by the “hair.”

ILLUSTRATION 70 Take a 1½-inch-wide strip of shuck about six inches long and place it over the head, leaving the hair exposed just above the face (left). Fold the hat down onto the back of the head. Then fold in the hat to the middle, bunching in back (right). Tie with string and cover with a narrow shuck for the hat tie. Finish the doll by drawing a face with pen and ink.

ILLUSTRATION 71 Other accessories may be added, such as a bucket (top). Use any small, deep container, such as a plastic bottle cap. Punch holes in each side of the “bucket” and run a twisted shuck through the doll’s hand (loop formed by folded arm shuck), and then through the holes of the bucket to form a handle. Small dried flowers stuck through the doll’s hand are another option (bottom left). Touch a little glue to the stems and hand to secure the flowers. For a broom (bottom right), take several shucks about three inches long and tie with a string about a third of the way down. Take a straight pin and shred the lower two thirds. Stick a toothpick, or other small stick, in the top for handle. Put glue on the end of the stick to make it stay on the shucks. Then slide the “broom” handle through the doll’s hand.


Many people have inquired about the cornshuck hats that were sometimes worn to church. We heard that Mrs. Ada Kelly made these cornshuck hats. We went to see her and she was willing to make one for us. As she made it, we took a set of photographs and have made a list of instructions to show how one can be made. The hat Mrs. Kelly made for us was a miniature, but there is a drawing of the pattern including the dimensions for an average-sized head.

Shuck several ears of corn; discard the outer shucks and any shucks with blemishes. Put the shucks in water until they are wet and pliable (about fifteen minutes). To make a pattern for the hat, you need to cut the pattern out of a newspaper or piece of brown paper. Materials needed are stiff buckram, muslin for the lining, cornshucks dried in the fall, thread, a needle, and a pan of water to keep the cornshucks wet.


Photographs by Barbara Taylor and Stan Echols.

ILLUSTRATION 72 This diagram is a pattern for an average-sized cornshuck hat.

ILLUSTRATION 73 Mrs. Ada Kelly cuts the shucks into 1 ½″ squares.

ILLUSTRATION 74 Take each square and fold it in half and then in half again, causing the folded shuck to have a point like the one Mrs. Kelly is holding.

ILLUSTRATION 75 Sew the shucks on buckram, starting at the outer edge and going toward the center.

ILLUSTRATION 76 Sew the shucks on the crown with the points of the shucks downward; then sew the ends of the crown together.

ILLUSTRATION 77 When the crown is finished, place it down on the brim and sew the crown onto the brim.

ILLUSTRATION 78 Sew the cornshucks on the top, starting at the outer edge and moving toward the center.

ILLUSTRATION 79 The shank of a cornshuck can be used at the center of the top, making it look like a flower (left). Place the top of the hat on the crown and sew it on (right). Take muslin or other soft material and sew it onto the underside of the buckram for a pretty lining.