Rushes

Scirpus Lacustris, the bulrush, can grow to over 4m (13ft)! It is harvested in summer and then hung up to dry in bundles. When completely dried, it can be stored for several years before use. Uses: chair seating, baskets, matting etc.

Before using rushes, they must be softened by damping (rather than soaking). Lay what you need for a project on the lawn and water with a watering can or a hose, turn and water again?. Or do the same with the shower attachment in the bath! Finally wrap them in a damp cloth and leave for at least 3 hours to "mellow". The rushes must be used within 2-3 days or they will go mouldy, so only damp what you need.

Sources:

I bought these from rush grower, Felicity Irons near Bedford (Tel: 01234 771980). A bolt (good armful) costs 15 but collection is recommended since postage is expensive (13 for up to 10 kilos, 6 bolts). There don?t seem to be any rush sellers nearby, perhaps you could cut your own for small projects.

Books:

  • Hilary Burns. Cane, Rush & Willow. Apple Press 1998
  • Olivia Elton Barratt. Rushwork. Dryad
  • Olivia Elton Barratt. Basket Making. Letts. ISBN 1-85238-109-4
  • Pat Dale. Basketry & Weaving with Natural Materials. Kangaroo Press.

Tools:

  • The Cane Workshop, The Gospel Hall, Westport, Langport, Somerset. Ta10 0BH. Tel : 01460 281636
  • Fred Aldous, 37 Lever St. Manchester, M1 1LW. Tel:0161 236 2477

Projects


Little Rush boxes in Diagonal Plain weave

Pictures of rush box You'll need:
  • A 3" x 3" square block, 2" to 3" high.
  • A lacing tool for threading the ends away - a locker hook works well.
  • A pair of sharp scissors.
  • 20 pieces of rush about 20" long, cut from the thick end of the bolt. (You may be able to get 2 pieces out of some of the rushes). (For a cube, you need to cut pieces 5 times the diagonal).
On the base of your block, and with the help of as many pins as you need, lay down a 10 x 10 checkweave. Start by laying 2 pieces of rush diagonally across the block so that one piece lies on either side of the two opposite corners. Take a 3rd rush and place it over rush 1 and under rush 2, jammed up to the corner, and pin. Add another 9 rushes alongside 3, weaving each under/over in pattern, slipping the last one in and pinning it at the opposite corner. CheckWeave starting the base
CheckWeave finishing the base Weave in the last 8 rushes alongside 1 & 2, making sure that there is a pair of rushes along each diagonal, with one of the pair on either side of the corners. Tighten the weave and pin the corners.

Left handers may find it easier to reverse right and left for the next bit - the sides. and border!

Starting at a corner, cross pieces 1 and 2 in pattern. The right hand piece is now pointing diagonally up and left, weave it towards the top edge. Take the next piece on the right of the corner, and weave it up to the left alongside the first. At first you weave only a few steps, but as you progress along the side of the mould, you'll be able to build up higher. starting the sides at a corner
Continue weaving pieces from the right across to the left. Pull the rushes tight to keep the corner square. When you reach each corner, pull the corner pieces across in the same way as before.

When you've woven most of one side, you should find that your weaving has reached the required height. At this point you need to start turning down the border.

weaving the border

When a piece from the right finishes on top of one coming from the left, bring this left hand piece out in front of the right hand one and fold it down to lie on top of it. It must lie under at least 3 of the right pointing pieces to be secure. Weave the next piece up from the right and fold the next left one down as before. Keep the weaving tight (rushes shrink when they dry!).

Keep on weaving from the right to the left, folding down the border as you go. For the last few pieces, you'll need to thread border through the weave - be gentle, you've nearly finished.

If you did it right there should be one piece folded down to the right for every piece sticking up to the left. If possible, dry the box on the mould and trim all the ends when It?s dry. (You can make a lid to fit by using the box on the mould as the new mould.)


Rush Place Mats in Checkweave and Twining

Picture of rush mat You'll need:
  • A smooth surface to work on.
  • A lacing tool for threading the ends away - a locker hook works well.
  • A pair of sharp scissors.
  • 20 to 25 or so whole rushes for an 8" diameter mat.
Cut 10, 15" pieces from the base of the rushes, and make a 5 x 5 checkweave, as follows:

Arrange 5 of the pieces horizontally, put your left hand across them to hold them down. With your R hand, raise 1,3 &5 and slip the next piece in at right angles. Next raise 2 & 4 and slip in another piece. Continue until all 5 pieces are woven in. Tighten the weave

Starting the checkweave
Twining - Mats do it, baskets do it, rugs do it, all sorts of weavers do it!
Remember that children?s trick, to pull the string THROUGH your fingers?
Fold the string in half, and put the loop round your left thumb with each finger in turn, pick up the furthest half of the string - that's twining.

twining

starting the twining Now take two long thin rushes the same length, hold them together thick end to thin. You will be weaving the rest of the mat with these pairs of rushes. Fold the pair in not quit in half and put the fold round the centre stake of a group of 5. Start twining round to the right, making sure you put a twist between every stake, especially those at the corners! Every few stakes, pull the weave tight, so that it starts to take on a circular shape.
When you get near to the end of a pair of rushes, take another pair and join these in by weaving with 3 or 4 until the ends are caught.
Continue round in circles, joining in new rushes as you go until the mat is a little smaller than you need. Tuck the last ends into the weaving to hold them. Look at you mat on both sides to decide which looks best - often it?s the underside, smoothed by the work surface, (Ignore the ends, they can be pulled through to the back later.
With the back of the mat facing you, take the top stake and bend it down to the left, behind the LH stake. With a lacing tool, or the eyed end of a locker hook thread the end down alongside this stake (don?t pull this first one too tight).
Move one stake to the left and repeat until you get back to the start. The last stake has to be threaded under the first that you tucked away. Tighten everything, and leave to dry under a weight. Finally trim all the ends. Tuck end of stake away down the back
Tuck end of stake away down the back Finishing the
	      border
Turning down the border, front view.

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Last modified: Mon Jan 22 2001