NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

Instructions for Making a Twined Cornhusk Bottle

You will need the husks from three or four ears of corn for a small 3" basket. This should take you about 2 hours to make. Soak cornhusks (that have been thoroughly dried beforehand) for 10 minutes in warm water.

1. Use the coarse, stiff outer husks for the spokes (warp); Use the tender, supple inner husks for the weavers (weft) of the basket.

2. For a small basket, use 8 corn husk leaves for the spokes . Place the thin, pointed ends together (four husks on each side), leave about 2 inches of overlap.

3. Use a long, tender inner husk and split it in half lengthwise. Wrap it twice (securely) around the center of the spokes. This forms the bottom center of the basket. You are looking at the exterior of the basket.

4. You're ready to twine! For now, each of the 8 leaves will be a spoke. For right handers, you will spiral in a clockwise direction. The twining consists of twisting the pair of weavers around each spoke. One weaver goes under the spoke as the other weaver goes over under.

5. Because cornhusks are short, you will need to splice in a new weaver very soon. With 2 inches of the short weaver left, lay a new split husk along side the old one and continue weaving both together until the old one runs out.

6. Try not to let both weavers run out at the same time, or it will create a weak spot in your basket. If it look like they will both run short at the same time, splice in a new weaver earlier than you have to, to stagger the splicing.

7. The nice thing about twining is that you can have either an even or an odd number of spokes. As you complete the first 'round' of the basket, continue twisting the weavers around the spokes, creating a spiral, splicing in new leaves as necessary.

8. After three or four rounds, you will need to increase the number of spokes. Split the existing spoke leaves in half. Begin twining around each half-leaf as a new spoke.

9. Shape the basket by either pushing the spokes in, or pulling them out, as you twine the weavers. After 6 or 8 rounds the bottom of the basket is complete. Bend the spokes away from you as you twine to create the 'corner' of the basket. Continue twining up the sides of the basket, occasionally pull (gently) on the spokes to keep the rows of weaving tightly compressed. If you twine too tightly, the sides of your basket may begin to taper into a cone shape.

10. When the sides of the basket are complete you are ready to make the neck of the basket (you should have about 2 inches of spoke left sticking out the top). The sides of the basket need to contract, so begin to twine around two spokes at a time (pairs of spokes). Bend (push) the spokes in to form the shoulder.

11. With the final round of twining around the neck of the basket, lay the weavers parallel to the rim. Bend each spoke (one at a time) around the rim, and then poke it through a gap in the weavers about two rows down from the rim.

12. This shows a detail of finishing off the rim. A small hook works very well to pull the spokes through the weavers. Insert the hook through the weaving from the outside to the inside of the basket. Use the hook to grab a bent-over spoke and pull the spoke through the weaving. [A bent metal coat hanger section makes a wonderful hook]

13. Wrap and tuck all the spokes around the rim and through the weaving. Use scissors (or a flint knife) to trim the excess husk from the spokes that project from the weaving. You may also want to trim off any little bits of husk that stick out of the basket from where you spliced in weavers.

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© 1994 - Tara Prindle
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