Corn Husk Weaving

Corn is one of the Three Sisters—the name for the companion plants corn, beans, and squash. It is a staple food grown in Native gardens for centuries.

Corn husks are the protective leaf the plant forms to cover growing corn. They have a distinctive texture. Widely available every fall harvest season, it is a favorite material for Northeastern Native art. Corn husk is used by tribal artists for baskets, mats, braided rugs, and even braided shoes and sandals. The husks take a dye beautifully, but you can also try applying color from markers or perhaps paints. Simply peel off, rinse, and dry the layers of corn from your garden on a tray or purchase already dried husks in the grocery store.

These instructions were created in collaboration with artist and culture bearer Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) and were inspired by her installation Raven Reshapes Boston in the exhibition “Garden for Boston.”

Photos and instructions courtesy of Elizabeth James-Perry.


textile woven from corn husks


You will need:

  • scissors
  • a small bowl of water
  • a cloth or paper towels
  • dried corn husks, approximately 12 needed per weaving
  • wide-notch cardboard loom or a piece of cardboard cut to 3.25 x 13 inches with notches cut into the top and bottom
  • approximately 28 feet of cotton warp or string

Step 1

string wrapped around notches on cardboard loom
Wrap the string around the loom as shown to create a warp: Start at the top left, tying the string to itself on the back with a tight knot. Pull the string down, wrap it around the first bottom notch, and then go back up to the top. Wrap it around the top notch. Repeat the steps until you get to the last notch on the right and then work your way back to the left, wrapping around the top and bottom notches until you get to the second to last notch on the bottom left. Tie the string to itself on the back with another tight knot.

Step 2

corn husk soaking in bowl of water
Soak the corn husks in water for about one minute. Move the husk around so that the whole piece gets wet and flexible.

Step 3

corn husk split into pieces lengthwise
Split each corn husk into three or four pieces lengthwise by carefully tearing it.

Step 4

weaving corn husk strips above and below cotton warp on loom
Working right to left, weave the corn husk strip on the cardboard loom, alternating over and under the cotton warp. When you get to the end of the row, turn the corner with the same piece of corn husk and weave the second row opposite of the first. Continue alternating over and under.

Step 5

overlapping corn husk at end of corn husk strip in loom
When you run out of corn husk to weave, overlap a couple inches of a new piece onto the end of the first one. Continue weaving. Each row should be the opposite of the one before.

Step 6

pressing corn husk rows down with fingers
Press the corn husk rows down to compact the weaving a bit.

Step 7

Continuing to weave with corn husk to the top of loom
Continue weaving to the end.

Step 8

on opposite side of loom, using scissors to cut strings
When you’ve reached the top, turn the loom over and cut the cotton string in the middle.

Step 9

tying fringes of weaving to adjacent fringes
Take your weaving off the cardboard loom. Finish by securely knotting each fringe to the one next to it. Don’t forget to tie knots on both ends!

Step 10

using scissors to trim ends of corn husks that are sticking out
Use scissors to carefully trim any ends that are sticking out. Allow your weaving to dry. You have woven corn husk!

About the Artist

Artist Elizabeth James Perry in native dress
Elizabeth James-Perry. Photo courtesy of Patricia James-Perry.

The work of Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) highlights the link between Wampanoag sovereignty, land, and art. A recording she made about King Philips Sash, connecting the rare textile to the colonization of eastern tribal territory, was played to the Massachusetts State Legislature as part of the initiative to replace the state seal. She designs authentic materials for exhibitions and the stage, most recently for Tashtego in Moby Dick at A.R.T., and for Manahatta at Yale Repertory Theatre. She shared the unique beauty of Wampanoag homelands in producing the background scenery for As Nutayunean, the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Program documentary film.

Elizabeth holds a degree in Marine Science from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and a certificate for Digital Tribal Stewardship from Washington State University. She spent over a decade engaged in Historic Preservation for her tribal nation and was a member of USET’s Culture and Heritage Committee, and was the Federal Tribal Co-Lead of the Northeast Ocean Planning Body.


Ameriprise Financial logo

Lead sponsor

Additional programming support is provided by the Vance Wall Foundation.