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straw-crafts-msg - 5/4/98


Medieval straw crafts. Plaiting straw. Sources of info.


NOTE: See also the files: basketweaving-msg, headgear-msg, bees-msg, Beekeeping-AS-art, drinkng-strws-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Subject: Re: BG - knitting

Date: Thu, 30 Apr 98 07:42:55 MST

From: clward at mmm.com

To: bryn-gwlad at Ansteorra.ORG


Annette asked:

>Another [class] is on straw plaiting, is this appropriate for SCA time periods?


I have a wonderful book on medieval straw-plaiting in Sweden, "Skapa med

Halm" (of course, the text is Swedish).  Folks made shoes, hats, children's

toys, rugs and mats, Jul-bucks (and other holiday ornaments), courting

gifts, and many other items out of straw in period.  In many later period

paintings you can see straw items in rural scenes showing peasant life, and

I'd guess that even the upper classes used certain straw items as well.





Subject: Re: BG -straw weaving

Date: Thu, 30 Apr 98 12:02:25 MST

From: Aceia <Aceia at aol.com>

To: bryn-gwlad at Ansteorra.ORG


I have a whole bunch of plain colored Raffia that I was using to make baskets

and hats following the instructions in a book I have.  It is very easy but

time consuming and hard on the hands.  I would be interested in any new

material you learn as well as teaching what I know. (Conner would be very

pleased if the raffia found its way to somewhere other than our garage)

According the the book, when you make hats, you have to coil the braid in a

careful manner and then iron it with a wet cloth on it (steam it) in order to

flatten and set it as you go.  You can also dye the material for various

effects.  She says the dyes come out different than on cloth, but that natural

dyes as well as Rit work well.  Raffia is available pre-dyed though...



Subject: BG - Straw and Wheat Weaving

Date: Thu, 30 Apr 98 10:08:01 MST

From: clward at mmm.com

To: bryn-gwlad at Ansteorra.ORG


Stefan li Rous asked:

>What is straw plaiting? What is it used for?

>Is this the braided strands that you often

>see wrapped in spirals to make a straw hat?


Gunnora replies:


Straw plaiting is exactly what it sounds like.  You take hay, straw, wheat

stalks, rye stalks -- any type of grass stalks.  These are soaked and

usually cut to uniform lengths.  Then you braid them in any of a number of

ways, from a two strand twist, to the familiar three-strand braid all the

way to a sixteen strand complex flat plait.  Usually the strand of braid is

then sewed or laced to other braids to form flat or even three dimensional

items.  This is a hand-craft, as far as I am aware no one ever used any

type of loom with straw weaving.


Today you can see any number of straw plaited items just by going to Pier

One, including place mats, sun hats and the like.  Near Christmas time Pier

One imports Swedish Jule ornaments, tiny straw buck-goats (Julbucks) and

pigs and swans and gnome-like straw men and women (Tompte).  The Ojos de

Dios that you often see in bright-colored yarns can also be done in straw

plaiting.  I once saw a gorgeous wheat-weaving of the Virgin de Guadalupe

where the heads of the wheat were used to make the full-body corona-halo

around the Virgin, and the entire figure was done in the wheat stalks.

I've also seen examples from both Mexico and from Ireland of elaborate

crosses done in wheat or straw weaving.


There are many items that can be made using these simple materials and

techniques.  In the medieval period in some places summer shoes were made

this way - they resembled the Dutch wooden shoe in shape, and were used to

walk in boggy areas -- the water runs in when you step in the bog, and the

water runs out when you get out of the water and you still have padding and

a protective wrapping around your foot.


At times plaited straw "boots" were placed on horses' hooves to muffle

them, especially when you were attacking by night.


People used straw weaving to make mats and rugs - different types of

grass/stalks have different characteristics - those wiht lots of pith are

softer and make a softer mat that's more comfortable to stand or sit on,

while sedge or other tough stems will make a tough, rough mat that can be

used to wipe mud off your feet on.


Straw hats of many shapes can be made in this technique - the type of braid

determines the "texture" of the surface, and the shape is determined by how

the loops of braid are coiled and sewn. I have a tall, peaked "Witch Hat"

of straw, and I've seen Phrygian caps done in straw as well.  The easiest

way to control the shape of a hat or basket etc. is to use a rigid form to

help guide the construction.


The Norse used staw and wheat weaving to create the Bridal Crown in many

places, especially rural areas (for more info on bridal crowns, see my

article on Viking Weddings at http://www.realtime.com/~gunnora/ -- I have a

picture of a bride wearing one of these crowns, made of wheat and

interlaced with summer flowers).


In pagan societies, rituals were sometimes performed sacrificing straw men

or straw animals rather than using the real thing -- the intent was shown

to the gods, supposedly, and you still had Grandma and your herds when it

was done.  I am uncertain of the exact reference, but I believe that I've

seen accounts of the Celts doing this, and I strongly suspect that the

Norse customs of using straw pigs, goats, Tompte-figures etc. probably

originated as a sacrifical substitute.


I know that in the orient rice stalks were used to make everything from

shoes to hats to tatami mats to simple insulated coats for peasants.


The technique is simple, versatile, and best of all, cheap. The materials

can be gathered in any field, though you will get better results if you get

better materials.  I especially like weaving with wheat or rye which has

the grain heads present, as the grain can be worked into the design (for

instance, the beard on a Jul-buck, the mane on a straw horse).




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org