Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome Fall: Corn Husks I

   Have you ever been in the produce aisle and seen large bags of corn husks? (They are generally near the bin of dried beans) This simple item has so many interesting purposes, aside from making tamales. Many years ago when my children were younger we used our fall afternoons to venture into various uses for this common item. During one of our studies we made corn husk dolls..which led us down a path of discovery with dyes, corn husks, plants..you get the picture. As we welcome the fall season, let's gather corn husks from the drying corn (or purchase some on our next grocery trip) and try a few crafts we have done over the years- starting with dyeing the husks.

various mediums

Four different dyeing methods:

1. Food coloring
2. Powdered drink mix
3. Natural elements
4. Paint

   Any of the methods are great for adding color to your corn husks. For me, on hand supplies and the ages of the children were the deciding factors for which method was used. For example, food color and powdered drink mix are simply mixed with water (your desired concentrate) and left to soak until you achieve the shade you are after. Paints can be watercolor, tempera, or acrylic (again- think on-hand supplies) only need a protected work area, paintbrush and some creative juices. Natural elements may warrant some research, a nature walk to gather items- or simply a tour of your kitchen, boiling-steeping time. Before you choose a method consider your age group, on-hand supplies, and the time you want to put into it.

Methods Detailed:

husks under food coloring mix

  Food coloring is very simple and can be done by most young children. Pour water into a shallow bowl or some pie tins- no measuring necessary, simply consider leaving enough room for adding husks. Add enough food coloring to make the water fairly dark; remember it is the soak time that determines the result. Place your husks in the color and soak until you are satisfied, bearing in mind the colors will be lighter after the husks are dry. To keep your husks in the dye (they float) consider placing a canned good in a bowl on top of the husks to weight them down. Small children may enjoy checking the color occasionally and watching the shades develop. Bear in mind that with this method, the color choices are limited, however, you can try mixing them for different hues.
   I hang my husks on the clothes line to dry- you can lay them outside on the grass, a picnic table, or on newspapers.

red powdered drink mix

   Powdered drink mix stains everything! This is very effective and yields a nice color. (the color choices are also limited with this method) This is another method very easy for small children. Simply use shallow bowls or pie tins filled with enough water to mix your powder yet leave enough room to add the corn husks. Once you add the husks- remember weigh them down to keep them under and soak time determines depth of color. Try mixing powders, checking color hue through out the process- or (like eggs in spring) use multiple colors for various effects. Dry them after you reach a color you like- again it will be light once the husk dries.

painting at the table

   Painting works with any child who likes to get into their task- hands on and slightly messy! Cover your workspace and your clothes; gather the paint media of choice; jump in. Paint directly on dry husks and be creative- you can't do it wrong. Just a personal note: we thinned our paints a bit to allow the husks to soak up the colors. Again, dry them- these colors will be much bolder than the previous methods with very little fading.

using blueberries

   Now the natural elements- this is for older children or children interested in (or studying) nature. Libraries and online media offer a ton of information on natural dye methods and colors. Interesting to learn, many natural elements yield a color nothing like their own. Many green plants lend a yellow or rust color- adding different items (like a nail) to your natural dye alters the outcome. This method is only limited to the depth you are willing to go. Most natural dyes require boiling, steeping, and a long soak period- bear this in mind. A great until study on dying can be found at http://www1.umn.edu/ships/modules/scimath/dyes1.htm.

   I realize this post may be a bit overwhelming- trust me- it's not meant to be. If you choose to try it, this activity can be rewarding and fulfilling- just ease into it. Remember that children love to "help"- they can do more than we think: pour, measure, mix- dip, observe, discuss. Over the years we have used it to aide a lesson in school or just to spend time together. My children loved to see things change- to participate in the changes. Like the colors of fall, there is no limit to the beauty you can display. And, there's more.....

  We're not done with these husks!
corn husk dolls as angels

                           Next we make corn husk dolls to play with, to share, to decorate with. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your information.
I am doing a dessert tamale project and somewhere I saw red corn husks surrounding the tamales. I wanted red ones for Christmas and Valentine's day sweet tamles. I went on a search and found Rit dye and paint being used which of course is not food grade and would come off in the steaming. I saw some natural dyes. I will be experimenting with my food grade color pastes, gels, in super colors and see how they hold up in the steaming process. Also will check out the site you listed. Thanks again. I love all the things that you are doing. God Bless! from the Angells.