Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Remember When . . . We Made Corn Husk Dolls

So after spending much of my birthday on Monday studying and getting the swing of making corn husk dolls, I figured I'd share my research and methods. =) I watched several tutorials on YouTube after first just looking at drawings on websites (so didn't help me, LOL), and just kinda picked my favorite methods from a bunch of them.

You can use fresh or dried husks for these, store bought or straight from the cob. I husked 5 ears yesterday and was using those. I just cut the stalk ends off the cobs and then peeled the layers of husk away, and the silk. Most of them I used on Monday, but then I put the remainder under a bookend overnight to keep them from curling up. If you're using dried husks, either steam-iron them flat (my mother-in-law's favorite method) or soak them in water for 10-15 minutes to make them pliable again (drying them off before use, of course).

So begin by assembling your supplies. You'll need the husks from 1 ear of corn (I didn't use all of it, but that gives you a good selection of thicknesses and widths), some twine or thread (Native Americans traditionally used sinew), whatever you want to use for hair (the silk from the corn or yarn), and a pair of scissors.

I personally think the hair is an important part of a doll, so I chose the method that incorporated it directly into the construction of the head and didn't require gluing it on separately. LOVE this! You can use the silk of the corn, and I did on one of the dolls, but I opted for yarn on this one--the plus of yarn being, of course, that you can choose whatever color you'd like. I've done blonde, brown, red, and black at this point. =) In this one, I chose black.

So you start by cutting your yarn. Keeping in mind that about two inches of it will be inside the doll, just measure it out as long as you'd like it to be, and as thick. I did this totally by sight. Once you've cut your yarn, tuck it inside 4 or 6 husks, with the ends up toward the pointy ends. Make sure you have an even number of husks. 

Once you've got them hugging your hair, cut off a length of twine (I usually cut about 6 inches) and wrap it about an inch from the pointed ends of the husks. 

Wrap it around and around until you've used most of the thread, pulling it as tight as you can. This will ensure your hair stays put!

Once you've done that, then start folding the husks down over the knot you just tied. This is creating the head, so shape it as desired--in this one I even balled up some bits of husks to round out the head a little more.

Then tie this off with another length of twine--good and tight again. This is forming the neck.

You now have a head and body. The next step is arms. Choose a husk and fold the tip inside it until it's the length you want, and then roll up the husk into a slender cylinder.

Tie each end with twine to form hands. Once you have that cylinder tied at both ends, it's time to insert it into the doll.

Divide the husks of the body evenly and just slide those arms right between them, positing it under the head, centered. Try to get it as far up the body as you can, as close to the head. Once you've got it where you want it, tie it into place.

So now you have a basic body, and if you like how it looks, you could pretty much stop there.

The next step, though, is to add shoulders and a bit of a bodice. For this, I chose thin, supple husks and split them to the width I wanted--about the width of my thumb. Position the square end at the waist (you can just trim off any hard pieces) and wrap it diagonally up the doll, over the opposite shoulder. Bring it around and take it over the end to hold it down. Make sure you leave enough of the wispy end to tie. Do the same thing on the opposite side, creating an X over the bodice of the doll. Tie this down with twine.

I very nearly stopped there, because I really liked how she looked. =) But since this was for instruction... Next step is the legs. If you're making a male doll or just want your girl to have legs, you can either divide or cut the husks below the waist into two groups.

I really liked the way that top husk was sitting, so I opted to fold it out of the way and preserve it for the skirt and just cut the husks into equal parts to form the legs. You could also just gather them into two sections. Tie at the ends for the ankles, and you can tie another spot halfway up for the knees if you want (which I meant to do but forgot). And voila! Legs!

If you want a nice full skirt, select some wider husks. I was running out of wide ones at this point (these were my leftover husks from Monday, remember), so mine aren't all that wide. You are working this step upside down and inside out, so it will look a bit strange.

But position the husks around her waist so that the side you want to show is against her body and the tip is pointing toward her feet. You might have to push her arms up out of the way, but layer them all the way around her. Once she's surrounded, tie the tips tightly around her waist. Then fold them down to form the skirt.

There you go! She's pretty much finished. Just trim the bottom of the dress to make it even.

Now, if you don't want the arms standing straight out, just get a bit of twine or yarn or ribbon and tie them down at the sides. Once the doll is dried out, the arms will retrain that shape.

To get fuller hair, I separated the strands of yarn, which makes it nice and curly and full.

Decorate however you wish! You can leave them natural or use fabric to dress them. On this one, I just added a ribbon to her hair thus far.

On Monday, Xoe and I had a blast playing fashion designer. We just used scraps and bits from our craft basket, some fabric glue, and a few dabs of hot glue here and there. I personally love how a simple circle skirt looks on them. I measured it with one of my small plates, cut a small hole in the center, and then tied it in place with another strip of cloth. A simple triangle of cloth can serve as a shawl, and voila! You have a simply dressed but lovely doll! (Or get fancy and make a bride. You know. Whatever.)

I think I'm ready to teach my homeschool class the art now! And have a new past time for evenings after we've had some fresh corn from my family's farm. =)

*Special thanks to the awesome Xoë, who not only manned the camera for me, but who donned my new super-high-heel shoes to give herself a better perspective. ;-)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Corn Husk Dolls

Not exactly a word of the week, I know. ;-) I'm giving myself permission to be lazy, since it's my birthday. But my "lazy" just means working on projects that are just fun, not technically work. Which today means corn husk dolls.

I just looked up how to make them yesterday, in preparation for a Little House in the Big Woods class that I'll be helping teach with our homeschool group this fall. Xoë and I had fun putting one together, but it doesn't seem exactly sturdy. (The image above is NOT ours, LOL. Ours looks more like this....)

Attempt #1. Falling apart, LOL.
Attempt #2, after watching YouTube videos. Muuuuuuch better!

I suspect that some of my readers have made their fair share of these fun little dolls, so I wanted to ask you guys if you have any tips or tricks for making them (using fresh [or dried] husks from corn on the cob, not store-bought husks). Is there a good way to keep them together? Any tricks for putting on hair? I'd love to have the kids make some to sell at our family farm's Fall Festival, so any tips are appreciated!

[Update: I found some awesome YouTube videos on this, and discovered a couple different styles to try out! Great fun! The second photo above uses this technique. I also want to try out the "sleeves" from this one.]

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fridays from the Archives ~ The Fly

Today we're glancing back in time a mere four years...and yet far more. Four years ago, you see, I was reminiscing about a day when I was maybe 10 or 11. One of those golden summer afternoons in the sanctuary of my church...where I had a run in with faith. And a fly.

I was a kid. I don’t even remember how old, probably about ten. My parents were in charge of the youth at our church, which meant I spent a lot of time there. My favorite thing to do? Slip into the quiet sanctuary and just be there. With no milling congregation, no dozens of conversations, no laughter, no music, no mothers calling for the little ones to come to their pew.

Just me. And that certain feeling that this was holy ground.

I grew up in church, I said my prayer for salvation along with the other kids in a children’s church service was I was, oh, five or six. And I meant it. Sure, it took me a lot of years to figure out what it was I had meant, ha ha, but there was never doubt. There was never turning away. There was never backsliding.

There were, instead, these quiet little moments when I brushed up against the divine and realized how much He loved me, in all the wackiest little things.

On this day, I’d meandered to the front of the sanctuary, where the much-disputed red velvet curtain hung on the back wall, a subject of heated debate among the board. My parents were also on the board, so I was aware of this debate. I found it so trivial that I just laughed over it. Take the curtain down, leave it up, what did it matter? Adults, I thought, got hung up on the weirdest things.

Me, I thought about more important things, ahem. Like the next story I would write, whether my mom would let me have Brittney over that weekend, and if my teacher would rearrange our desks soon because I was so tired of sitting beside those stupid boys who thought it was funny to mock everything everyone said. I made it a point never to laugh at them. Eventually they noticed and asked why. My answer? “Because you’re not funny.” Oh yes, brutal honesty from the tweener Roseanna, LOL.

The church was washed with the golden light of a summer evening. Kinda stuffy, as the air was turned off, but not too bad. It was only Sunday night, after all, it hadn’t had a chance to get really hot yet. I meandered to the front of the sanctuary, past the alter railings. Maybe I’d intended to go to the piano, who knew—I was known to trill out Für Elise any time I could.

But a buzzing of a fly disturbed my quiet. Have you ever noticed how loud one little fly sounds in a room with no other noise? So annoying. So there. And my first instinct, when it comes to a fly, is to swat at it.

That afternoon, though, I had a thought of, “No, I’m not going to kill a fly in church.” (Let it be noted I’ve never felt that particular conviction since, LOL.) Instead, I watched it buzz around the vaulted ceilings and land, eventually, on the alter table

I remember creeping closer, wondering how close I could get before it saw my movement and took off. One step nearer, two. At some point, I recall a strange series of thoughts running through my head. Something that mixed wonder with prayer. Something that made me stretch out in faith. Something that wasn’t exactly Peter walking on water, but which was stepping out nonetheless. I determined that God would hold the fly still, and I could touch it. Pet it. Stroke its wing.

And so I walked up to the table. I reached out. And I stroked its wing.

It’s a small thing. A simple thing. A silly thing. And yet as greater struggles of faith arise in my life, I sometimes think back on that fly. On a child who acted on faith, and who proved that her God heard the smallest, silliest thoughts in her head. And who didn’t mind touching His finger to a pesky little fly so that she could touch hers to it too.

Life is full of flies as well as hurricanes. Bumps as well as canyons. And oh, how nice it is to know that the God who cares about the one also cares about the other. That no matter my words, He listens.

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Booksters Cast Their Votes on Covers...

Are you a member of the Band of Booksters yet?

If so, you get to vote today on new cover choices. If not . . . sign up here, request to be added to our Facebook group so you can chat with this amazing team of book lovers. THEN cast your vote. ;-)

Today's survey is deciding between two new styles for WhiteFire's first series. When Shadowed in Silk first released, thumbnail images weren't quite the King of Sales they are now (or at least, we didn't realize they were). Now that we know how important it is for title and author to be legible in that small size, we're giving the books in the series a facelift.

Remember these award-winning books?

We've come up with two new options for them. The first keeps the same models, but fades their face only into an Indian background.

The second version doesn't use photographs at all, but rather goes with a graphic style that focuses on the title and the color--choosing colors to correlate with the originals.

I won't be posting much more from the Band of Booksters on my blog, but as it's still so new, I want to give you a peek at what sort of thing you can expect, if you haven't signed up already. ;-) And if you have but didn't receive our newsletters last week, then check your spam folders and add us to your approved list! We'd love to have you join us on Facebook, where the discussions are already great.

Already a member, or have just requested to join? Then cast your vote for the covers!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Word of the Week - Galumph

Yesterday, my family and I went hiking at Seneca Rocks. On our way there, we passed a sign that said Watch for West Virginia Wild Life. "I've already seen it," I said. "I saw that groundhog galumphing along."

Later last night, my husband was finishing up the first draft of An Hour Unspent (Shadows Over England, Book 3) and started laughing. I looked over at him from the pages of The Sign of The Four (Sherlock Holmes--I'm finally reading some!) and asked what was funny. "Galumph," he said. "You just had an elephant galumphing in here. That's twice in a day. It needs to be your word of the week."

And so, here we are!

If you consult Merriam-Webster on the meaning of galumph, it reports "to move with a clumsy or heavy tread." Which is certainly how I was using it. But did you know that it originally meant something far different?

Lewis Caroll coined the word in 1872, in "The Jabberwocky." In his version, the word is a combination of gallop and triumph, describing how the vanquisher of the dread Jabberwocky returned home. His contemporary writers apparently quite liked the word and immediately began borrowing it...but in a different way. Etymologists assume that the shift in meaning from "triumphant" to "clumsy or heavy" is simply a reflection of the way the word sounds. Say it a few times. Galumph conjures up an image, doesn't it? And it isn't one of triumph. ;-)

Here's hoping there's minimal galumphing through your day in the new sense, but plenty of it in its original! Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fridays from the Archives - Abandon

This week's Fridays from the Archives post takes us all the way back to October of 2011. I enjoyed rereading my musing from when my kids were 3 and 5, and the lesson I'd observed then still rings true. When I saw the title of the old post, I thought I was going to have been talking about being abandoned. But no. Not at all. Hope you enjoy the musings of a young mom!

We love to torture our kids. And by torture I mean tickle them, "eat" them up, chase them around, pretend our hand is a monster . . . you know. Torture. The sweet kind. I imagine that's a fairly universal love of parents the world over, and it's no great secret why. We do it because we love to hear that belly laugh, hear those delighted shrieks of "No, no! Hey, why'd you stop? Do it again, do it again!" We love to see those huge smiles on their faces.

We love their abandon.

My hubby will tickle me, too, but we often get a good laugh out of how he does the same "gobble" to me he does with the kids, and I just look at him. And usually say, "Um . . . sorry. I'm not as much fun as the kids, am I?" Which yeah, makes us chuckle. But it's not a belly laugh. Those same simple things don't result in such instant joy once we grow up.

Man . . . I sure wish they did!

The abandon of a small child has its ups and downs. It results in those moments of unbridled bliss, and it results in equally unbridled fits. Laughter and tears in equal measures, joy and frustration, love and rage. I'm sometimes amazed at how my kids can go from total contentment in their game with each other to hitting each other and screaming at the top of their lungs, then straight back to fun.

It's something we learn to control as we grow up, something we teach those kids to do. Self control is important, especially when it comes to those negatives. And those who never learn it . . . end up with reality shows on TV??? ;-) Seriously, that control is a must, yes.

But what are some of your best moments from adulthood? Are they when you're sitting there, perfectly controlled? Are they when you don't react to something? No--our favorite moments are the ones where we regain a moment of childhood abandon and embrace the joy of life. When we scream our heads off on a roller coaster. When we laugh until we cry. When we let it all go and just live.

Sometimes it's hard to do that, especially in this stage of my life where I have to keep the Mommy turned on. Oh, I can laugh with my kids. But I'm also trying to make sure knees don't collide with heads as we wrestle, that things tossed up in joy come down in one piece. I'm trying to protect and nurture and so can't give my full attention to the game. I have to do this. I love to do this.

But sometimes I just wish I could let loose a belly laugh and not care.

And that goes for my prayer life too. That should be the one place I can let go completely, but even there I'm usually trying to protect--myself. I find myself praying, "Lord, you know I hope . . . you know I fear . . . I'm trying not to hope too much because then I fear I'll be disappointed . . . I'm trying not to expect disappointment though because that would be faithless . . . I don't want to assume your will . . . I don't want to miss your will . . ."

But there I need to let go of the control. With the Lord, I need to be unafraid of the extremes. I need to show him the highs and the lows. I need to be unafraid of letting that kid inside me out before my Father.

I need to embrace the abandon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Call for Submissions (WhiteFire Publishing)

I'm coming at you today in my role as editor for WhiteFire Publishing with a fun announcement! WFP is planning to launch its young reader line, and we need submissions! We're currently seeking:

  • Children's Picture Books (text or with illustrations)
  • Illustrators
  • Middle grade fiction (both lower and upper)
  • Young Adult novels (all genres)

WhiteFire is a small, traditional Christian publisher whose motto is "Where Spirit Meets the Page." We love books with a strong hook, engaging characters, and where the light of the Lord comes shining through. Faith themes don't necessarily have to be overt, but all our books must uphold our beliefs.

If you have a story you'd like to submit, please send the following to

A cover letter that includes your contact info, book title, genre, and word count. PLUS a proposal (Word doc attachment) that includes:

  • A 1-sentence hook
  • A 1-3 paragraph blurb
  • Status of manuscript (completed? completed by?)
  • Series info, if applicable
  • Full bio, including sales history if any
  • Marketing/promotional overview (to whom the book is targeted and how you’ll appeal to them)
  • Comparable titles
  • A 2-3 page synopsis (for full length books. Shorter for shorter stories is fine!)
  • Sample. For a full length novel, this should be the first three chapters. For a shorter book, 1-2 chapters. For a picture book, send the complete text. 

If you're an artist and would like to be on our roster of illustrators, please send the following to
  • a sample of your work (however many you feel gives a good sampling of your range)
  • your rates, flexibility, and whether or not you'd consider working for royalties or only on a paid-upfront basis.
  • contact info

We're creating a file of illustrators right now that we can reference as needed.
Check out our current titles at If you have any questions, feel free to email me with them at or leave them in the comments below!