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Making Brooms the Old-Fashioned Way

A cottage in the woods or a farmhouse kitchen wouldn’t really be complete without a broom in the closet to clear away dust, with another near the hearth for sweeping up ashes from the previous night’s blazing fire. And imagine how satisfying it would be using materials from your own garden to create those brooms? Certainly, these would be brooms that would be pretty enough to display on a wall or tucked into a corner so they will always be close at hand.

Making your own broom is a fairly easy craft, and one that will leave family and friends in awe at your survivalist skills.

And although the term “flying off the handle” was born from the use of handmade brooms, which had – and still do have – a tendency to lose their heads when they’re used too forcefully, it doesn’t mean you yourself will fly off the handle when you attempt to make your own broom.

You’ll just need a little bit of patience, along with the necessary materials, and you’ll soon have your own straw broom, birch-branch broom, or broom-corn broom, the last being the sturdiest of these rustic, hand-crafted tools.

Straw should be easy to find if you live on or near a farm, and you can easily gather twigs and branches from the woods to tackle a birch broom. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can grow your own broom corn, paying tribute as you do to early broom designer Levi Dickenson, a Massachusetts farmer who crafted a broom for his wife using tassels from a variety of sorghum. Dickenson’s resulting broom was so successful (his wife told all her friends, and word around town quickly spread) that the sorghum variety he used is now called broom corn.  The stalks grow like sweet corn and look the same, although it has no cobs, just the tassels on top, and that is the material you’ll use to make your broom. (And remember, if you master the art of broom making and grow enough broom corn, you will have gifts friends and family will love or that you can sell at craft shows, farmer’s markets, or fairs, where people are sure to fall for a hand-crafted broom’s old-time appeal.)

You can also order broom corn online from broom-making suppliers, where other supplies for crafting your own brooms can also be found, along with plans for more challenging broom designs.

The following projects, though, will get you started and can take on even pioneer-level quantities of dirt and debris.

Making a Straw Broom

A straw broom is easy to make, and the project is one that would be fun to do with the kids or a as a great back-to-nature project that would be ideal for a group activity at a craft fair or other special event.

Things you will need:

  • Straw
  • A stick to be used as a broom handle
  • Twine or wire for binding
  • A knife and scissors for finishing touches

Handles can be ordered from a supplies store for a more commercial look, but if you are going for rustic or are taking advantage of the items you have available to you, you can make your own using branches that you have collected. It is a good idea to strip the branches of their bark and allow them to dry for a few months before using them to ensure that no cracking or splitting will occur when you put them to use.

Clean your straw so it is free from dust and debris, shaking bits loose without using water, which can cause your broom to mold.

Divide straw into ten separate, equal bunches.

Gather one bundle of straw together, making sure that ends on one side are even. Hold the bundle together tightly and wrap it securely with twine. The tighter the bundle, the stronger your broom will be, so squeeze it tightly. Repeat the steps with the remaining nine bunches of straw.

Tie together the gathered bundles one at a time using wire or twine, ensuring that the bundles are secured as tightly as possible.  If you want a flat broom for use on floors or hearths, place straw bundles side by side. If you want to use your broom as a whisk broom, connect the bundles in a circular design, still making sure bunches are as tightly linked as possible.

Sharpen the end of your handle so it can be pushed into the center of your bundle of straw, and secure it tightly to prevent your broom head from “flying off the handle.”

Cut the ends of straw so they’re even, and your broom is ready to use.

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Making a Birch Broom

Birch brooms have a more botanical-inspired look than the farm-infused straw or broom-corn brooms.

Things you will need:

  • Birch branches
  • A stick
  • Twine or willow branches
  • Sharp knives

Soak birch branches and willow overnight so they’re more pliable and flexible, a must for the final steps of this project.

Place your stick or broom handle on your work surface and surround it with branches on both sides, making sure that the bottoms of the branches are pointed toward the top of your handle.

Tie the branches securely in place around your broom handle using twine or soaked willow branches.

After branches are secured, fold them down over the twine so tips are pointed downward. Secure them with additional lengths of twine, wrapping the branches either once or twice near the top of the handle.

Let your broom dry a few days before using it.

Making a Broom-Corn Broom

Things you will need:

  • Broom corn tassels
  • Twine or wire
  • A wooden handle or stick
  • Scissors

Shake any dust and debris from your broom corn, then divide it into ten separate, even bunches, layering stalks until they are about one inch thick in each bundle. Use longer stalks for a large, full-length broom; reserve smaller ones for use as a whisk broom or small hearth broom.

Secure bundles together tightly with twine, remembering that the tighter the bundle, the stronger and more secure your broom will be. Repeat the steps with the remaining nine bunches of broom corn.

Tie together two gathered bunches of broom corn using wire or twine, ensuring that the bundles are as tight as possible for a sturdy, durable broom. Add the next bundle of broom corn, placing it flat against the first two bundles for a broom you’ll use on floors or hearths or in a circular design for a smaller whisk broom. Continue the process, attaching new bundles one by one, until all of the broom corn is attached securely.

Sharpen the end of your handle so it can be pushed into the center of your bundle of broom corn, and secure it tightly at the base.

Cut the ends of your broom corn so the base is even and as smooth as possible to capture debris, and trim the top if desired.

For an added decorative element with any of the brooms you make, drill a hole at the top of the handle and knot a loop of twine through it. Your broom can then be hung on a hook near your fireplace hearth or on the wall in your kitchen. Cast iron hooks crafted by a blacksmith would also be a nice, rustic touch.

Good luck and enjoy!

©2012 Off the Grid News

© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News

5 comments

  1. What a wonderful skill to learn. Thank you Esther. I have printed this article out and will add it to my 3-ring binder known in my family as my “Book of Knowledge”. I will also shop for some sorghum seeds:)

  2. When making a broom from broom corn you should divide your straw into an odd number of stacks not an even number.. An even number will not allow you to weave your cord through to secure the straw to the handle.. and flatten out the broom for sweeping. You can use a stick from a popcycle to pull your cord through the straw bundles repeated over and under as you tighten the straws for the best sweeping action..

  3. How can i color my straw and give it great scents….email me please

  4. Where can I buy broom corn on line? It is so expensive from what I have sought after. Can You help me with this search?

  5. You can buy broomcorn seed from Territorial Seed in Cottage Grove, Or. It is fun to grow. And the seed it produces is really pretty.

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