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Things to make with corn husks: make your own shoes and sandals!

In Vol. 76, No. 6 issue (Nov/Dec '92) on page 15, Kathleen Roberts wonders about uses for corn husks. Oh yes, there are numerous uses for corn by-products, so you can indeed use everything "but the squeal!"

For starters, you need to save husks that are in good condition (not dirty or tom). It is okay if they are dried, and they store better that way. Before using, sort according to what colors you want. Soak them to make them supple again. (Then you can braid them more neatly.)

Uses for braids

1. Small fine braids can be used to make "straw" hats and handbags (purses). Make a basic form out of cardboard. Sew on lining material (muslin, old sheeting, etc.). Then sew braids to each other and tack to the lining. One of the Foxfire books gives directions for making a summer hat using folded-over husks instead of braided ones.

2. Larger braids can be sewn together into mats for floors or tables, baskets, or even shoes and sandals. I met one elderly couple who braided large braids out of husks and made them into bushel-basket sized laundry baskets, which they then sold at craft fairs. The more "elegant" (expensive) ones were lined with fabric for a non-snag lining.

3. Husks can also be twisted into ropes for craft work. One source listed some things made in the highland Appalachian areas out of corn husks:

a. Mattress stuffing (dried husks)

b. Lampshades (braids or folded husks sewn onto muslin forms)

c. Trays (split stalks used like bamboo to fine a board tray)

d. Picture frames (split stalks nailed to wood frames or whole stalks lashed together)

e. Napkin rings (stalks cut crossways)

f. Corncob pipes

g. Corncobs used to smoke foods or burn as fuel

h. Husks braided and sewn into shoes or sandals

i. Husks knotted into shoe soles or strong, thick matting

j. Chair seats (ropes twisted from husks, used like caning) Making shoes from corn husks

Shoes from corn husks are reportedly cool, supple, and hard wearing. Sew on replacement soles as they wear down. Supplies needed:

cornhusks, braided

lining material (used fabric)

strong thread

wooden lasts of foot (sometimes wooden shoe trees can substitute)

wooden heels (if desired, adhesive to stick on heels)

curved cobbler's needle Steps to make shoes:

1. Make a long plait of husks; use a 3-plait braid, using each husk split into thirds. Make 6-1/2 to 8-1/2 yds. of braid per shoe.

2. Put the last on the material to be used for lining. Put the warp of the fabric diagonal to the foot. Sew edges together tightly to avoid wrinkling. Reinforce heel with cardboard if desired (diagrams a, b, c).

3. Sew on the plait, sewing braids to each other and to the lining at the same time. The stitches, if regular and yarn is natural-colored, do not need to be invisible (diagram d).

4. At instep, turn braids to form loops for laces. Usually 4 loops per side is enough (diagram e).

5. Bring braid across heel horizontally (diagram f). When starting heel, turn lining inside at top to create a neat edge at top of shoe, right from the start.

6. Sew a braid around edge of sole to make a welt (fig. g). Sew walking sole on to welt (walking sole can be leather, knotted husks, or rope coiled to shape). Put sole on while shoes are still on last.

For sandals (simpler): Coil a sole and sew as shown. Then fasten on braid for tying, by inserting through coils at instep and heel.

I certainly hope that I never have to make shoes out of cornhusks (too cold in my part of the country; I'd try to use leather or hides instead) but I too looked around and started wondering what uses could be made of the resources of corn husks, generally left as trash in the fields. As you can see, it got to be quite interesting.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Dayton, Kathleen
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:665
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