Straw handicraft is easy, fun and has a long cultural history in Sweden. Straw has been used for utility goods such as baskets, trays and bee-hives, as well as festival ornaments and symbolic figures. A few tools and some simple extras are all that is needed to do handicraft in straw, on your own or with others.
Folklore and areas of use
Historically, straw has been associated with symbolism and faith in magic powers. In the pre-industrial farming culture it was thought that the last sheaf that a field provided contained a grain spirit which gave fertility to animals and soil. This life-force should be cared for and was transferred to various objects. These objects came to be associated with Christmas games or at festivities such as weddings and parties. For example, a straw cross was put under the Christmas table to bless the house and the food, and a "Together crown" made of blown eggs was hung over newly-weds as a wish for good fertility. During the Christmas days it was important that the last sheaf was lit by the Christmas candlelight to ensure a good harvest next year.
Soaked, bent and twisted
The useful properties of straw are due to its tough, hollow structure. It can be soaked, bent and twisted. Straw, like many other handicraft materials, is also renewable and biodegradable, which means that your worn out straw candlestick, decorative ram or whatever may be composted when it has served its purpose. The greatest disadvantage of straw is its flammability, which must be remembered when using and placing straw objects.
Rye, wheat and oat straw can be used for handicrafts. Rye is the best thanks to its straw length and strength, especially if it has been grown on sandy soil. Wheat straw is fragile, but can be used. Other materials, in some cases more modern, that can be used instead of straw to make similar articles include coppice shoots, reeds or drinking straws. Craft articles of straw can be freshened up by quickly showering with water.
General advice for straw handicraft:
- § Always use equal diameter straws for making an article, whether they are thin or thick.
- § Always wrap thread around the object twice when tying it.
- § Pull the thread very tight when tying an object. The straws must splay out. This is because straw shrinks when it dries.
- § Straw is a natural material, so use accessories in natural materials, such as linen thread 20/3 and cotton braid.