I decided over the weekend that I would try out some traditional harvest crafts this week. I remember seeing a display of traditional corn dollies when I was little, at a country fair in Buckinghamshire. I found it fascinating then. The designs are so delicate and intricately made, you can imagine the quick fingers that have crafted them.
But my interest in them now, is learning the weaving techniques and potentially using them with some basketry skills, to create something different. A bit of traditional crafts fusion. Well, we will see how that goes! But in the meantime I have been having a lot of fun with it over the past few days.
First up, was wheat weaving or corn dolly making, depending on where you’re from. In my case, it was technically neither, as I didn’t have any straw, so I have been using other dried plants instead (mostly rush). I began with learning Four Straw Fill The Gap. There is a wonderful rhythm to these weaves, which I picked up quite quickly. It is very satisfying, therapeutic work and I really like the way that it works up in the richer tones of the common rush, which was cut and dried from our land. I had a go at Six Straw Fill the Gap as well, so that I could see the difference. Both of these weaves are commonly used for anything that needs some flexibility – hearts, arms for figures etc.
Next, I had a go at Arrow Weave or Six Straws Around a Core. It was a nice weave to work on, but didn’t seem to work as well with the thin blades of common rush. I think that it needs something a bit bulkier to create a really good finish. Of course, it could just be my lack of experience! I decided to try it with some raffia cordage and see if that worked any better. The result was wonderfully strong, but not the neat finish that I was looking for. I won’t be put off though, I will have a look around the garden and see if I can find anything that might work, or even run the risk of shrinkage problems and use some rush while it is fresh and plump.
I am a bit of an opportunist at times, and happened to see some sweetcorn cobs with the husks still on, when I went to get supplies from Orkney Mainland this week. I couldn’t resist and our kids love corn on the cob anyway, so I bought a bagful! Unfortunately the corn inside was pretty poor, but that didn’t stop me from having some fun with the husks last night.
My sister-in-law sent me some photos of corn husk dolls, earlier in the year and I they had stayed at the back of my mind just waiting for the right occasion. They are incredibly easy to make, this one only took me about five minutes and I was also playing rummy with my ten year old at the time.
She desperately wanted to have a go, but it was getting late, so I have saved her some husks to have a go with today. I think it will make a perfect kids craft, so I might take some extra photos and put up a tutorial in case anyone else wants to try it out.
I am wishing that I had bought more now, even though the corn it self was as tough as old boots! I have a feeling that it will be our only chance to work with this natural fibre this year. Who knows, maybe we can manage to grow some corn ourselves next year.
I still have a lot more that I want to do with these traditional harvest crafts, so this will probably end up having a part two. For the next few days though, I have put some time aside to work on Christmas ideas for my shop, (yes I know it only August, but time just slips away so quickly!).
I am going to be looking at some traditional Christmas decorations and adapting them to what I have to hand and giving them my own little twist (hopefully!).
Do try out some harvest crafts if you get the chance, it is really good fun. Don’t be put off if you don’t have the right materials, you could even try paper or card, but it’s good to have a go and you might come up with something really interesting.