No one needs to explain the irony of leaving a squalorous house on a Saturday morning to go make a broom. What can I say? I am a complicated person. Anyhoo... I participated in a wonderful broom making class at Raveloe Fibers this morning. The instructor was Karen Koch. She's been making brooms for a number of years and she's extremely good at instructing a group of broom-making neophytes.
The first thing one needs is broom corn. This was grown in Mexico. Karen mentioed that broom corn can be grown here in Western New York, but a 90-day growing period is better achieved south of the border. The plant does not, in actuality yield ears of corn, but the tassel-ly top is the part which is harvested for this purpose.
Each member of the class chose sprigs of the broom corn from the box. It has a pleasant scent which reminded me of sweet grass.
Using a knife, the stem of each piece is trimmed in half. The stalks are then soaked in water. While they soak, we chose handles made of alder wood. Karen had pre-drilled holes through which we threaded a bucksking thong that would be the hanger for the finished broom. We also pounded a tack on the opposite end of the handle. Then we wound a braided nylon string on a foot-long dowel to use for the actual binding.
Tie the twine onto the aforementioned tack. Place an odd number of the trimmed stalks of corn around the handle. The nylon string which was placed on the dowel is tensioned by placing it on the floor and stepping on each end, which is a pretty neat trick. The nylon string is wrapped around the corn very tightly. Then you can begin to plait, that is, go under and over the stalks of corn until you get tho the spot where you want to wrap again and cut the thread. Doing this and maintaining the proper tension is a little tricky.
About eight inches down, the broom is bound by wrapping and then sewing. We then used our new brooms (actually billed as "cobweb catchers") to clean up the floor of the shop. There is a class being offered on whisk broom making in mid-January that I plan to take.