You will need
- A handful of rushes
- Sharp scissors
- High-quality garden string
- Heavy-duty long needle
- Metal skewers (or long nails)
- A sail maker’s hand palm (available from chandlers or online, where they cost from £5).
1. Soften your rushes
Collect a small handful of rushes. If they are freshly cut, allow them to dry for a few hours. Gently splash a little water on to the rushes to make them slightly more supple. Rubber gloves will protect your hands from wear and staining.
2. Tie them down
Hold three fairly equal-sized rushes together, knitting with garden twine to hold them in place. Using a nail – or a door handle if you’re at home – attach the rushes “so there is tension as you pull them towards you”, says Millie.
“This is the simple three-ply method,” says Millie. “Much like you braid girls’ hair. Anyone can do it.” It is important to keep the same tension as you work – pull the rush taut, bring one over the other and repeat until finished.
4. Add more rushes
Keeping the braid width even is crucial. “As you move along the rush, it will begin to thin. At this point, add another in,” says Millie. Choose a rush of the same width, lay it on top and continue to braid.
5. Tie and dry
Tie the ends in a knot to stop the braid unravelling. With the rushes slightly damp, they must now be left to dry out for a few hours, before any needlework can take place.
Using sharp scissors, cut the rushes back to the tied braid ends. Any rushes fed in during the braiding process will need trimming back.
7. Roll into a spiral
Carefully turn the rushes, with the feeding-in ends on the inside. Pack them tightly to make a spiral. Push in metal skewers to keep the spiral tight.
8. Stitch together
You now have the central part. Using a long, thick needle, thread garden twine from the centre out, piercing the rush and pulling the twine through. Continue the stitch from the outside back to the centre. Repeat.
9. Remove skewers
Keeping the stitches tight, continue around, removing the skewers one by one. Finish the stitch on the outside with a knot. Add three more layers of braided rushes, using the skewers to keep the spiral tight.
10. Finishing the spiral
Stitch in the new layers, threading the needle through the middle of each braid. Thin the overlaying rushes, cut any excess and thread through a piece of rush; stitch this over the end string and feed to the centre.
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