Native American Technology and Art
Instructions for
Split Willow Dolls

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You need to split about 100 inches of willow branches to make this doll (that is 50 inches 'of branch' split in half.) Fortunately, many of the pieces needed are between 5 and 10 inches long.
1. The doll's head is actually a little basket, inverted over a bundle of grass.
For the 'basket' head, cut 10 pieces of split willow to 5 inch lengths. Weave them into an under-over, checker-weave pattern. There should be a square of woven branches with the ends projecting in four directions
2. Carefully bring the four ends of the woven branches together, so they form a little dome. They will try to come unraveled].
3. Bend a bundle of grass or cornhusk in half so it forms a rounded knob to place the woven branches over.
Once the woven branches are in place, squeeze at the neck of the doll and push the branches into an even head-form.
Tie the ends of the woven branches tightly at the neck.
5. Pull some of the grass bundle out on either side of the doll to help form the arms.
Tuck one end of a foot long piece of split willow into the tie at the doll's neck, so that the good-side of the willow is against the doll.
6a. Start to wrap the neck. When you start, bend the willow at a right angle so the good-side shows. Wrap around the back of the neck
6b. Wrap around the front, around the back again, and then cross over the chest and under the opposite arm.
6c. Wrap around the waist in the back coming under the arm and around the waist in the front.
6d. Wrap around the back at the waist, coming under the arm, and then cross the chest in the front, producing an 'X'.
Wrap the chest in a similar manner so the 'X' is also produced in the back.
7a. Begin wrapping on arm with the same piece used to wrap the chest.
Wrap about 2 inches down the arm. Wrapping and bending the willow tightly so it will not untwist as it dries.
7b. Trim and tuck the end of the willow back up into the wrappings of the arm.
8a. To wrap the other arm, insert a 6 or 7 inch piece of willow into the wrappings of the chest.
Wrap down the arm, noting the direction of the wrapping so it mirrors that of the other arm. Trim and tuck the end of the willow back up into the arm wrapping.
Trim the excess grass leaving a ¼ inch for the doll's hand.
8b. Tuck the end of an 8 or 9 inch piece of split willow into the wrappings of the chest, so that it points downward in the direction of the body.
9. Wrap down about 2 inches of the body.
Separate the bundled grass into two halves, one bunch for each leg.
10a. Wrap around one leg, and then around the body to help form the hips.
10b. To finish the hips wrap around the other leg. Then wrap the split willow around the body again.
11. Wrap around the first leg again, and continue wrapping the split willow down the leg for about 3 inches.
12. Bend the bundled grass at a right angle to form the ankle.
Tightly wrap the split willow in a figure-8 around the foot to hold it at a right angle. Tuck the trimmed end under the wrappings of the leg.
13. To wrap the other leg, insert a new piece of split willow into the hips at the front. Wrap down the leg , trim the end and insert the end back up under the leg wrapping.
Trim the excess bundled grass to ¼ inch to form the foot.

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© 1994-1999 Tara Prindle.