A fun bushcraft project to try in the winter is to make a grass mat using a weaving loom made from hazel. Here’s how you do it…
The first step is to make the loom. Look for a hazel tree and collect several long straight branches of dead standing wood about a thumb thickness in diameter. Cut these branches up so that you have the following:
4 hazel sticks about 50cm long (sharpen one end of each stick so you can stick them in the ground)
2 hazel sticks about 50cm long with a Y shaped end (sharpen the ends of these as well); and
Three lengths of hazel about 1m long (two to from the ends of the loom and one bit to batten the grass)
Next collect some soft rushes, let them dry for a week or more, then weave them into rope (see the Making a Kishie blog for more information on how to do this). You’ll need 4 rope lengths each 4m long.
Now make the loom. Attach the four bits of rope to one of the 1m lengths of hazel. Find the middle of each rope and tie it on to the Hazel with a clove hitch or larches foot knot. From each knot you will have two 2m bits of rope coming out. These bits of rope become your warp threads. The knots should be evenly spaced out along the 1m bit of hazel (maybe 15cm apart).
Now stick the two bits of hazel with the Y-shaped ends into the ground about 80cm apart and lay the 1m hazel stick (with the ropes attached) horizontally across, laying on the Y-shaped ends.
Next stick the 4 other 50cm bits of hazel into the ground about 2m away, evenly spaced out about 15cm apart. Tie a rope end onto the top of each of these vertical sticks. You want the rope – your warp threads – to be quite taught. Tie the other rope end, from each of the four ropes, onto a second 1m bit of hazel – placed horizontally across the warp threads. This second horizontal bit of hazel allows you to raise and lower four of your warp threads. Your loom should look like this…
Next collect lots and lots of dry grass. Any kind will do but the longer the grass the better. The grass forms the weft threads or filling yarn.
Weaving the mat is best done with two people, one person doing the job of raising and lowering the warp threads and the second person inserting and battening the grass or filling yarn. Start by raising the warp threads, this creates a space called a shed (the vertical space created between the raised and unraised warp threads). Insert a bundle of grass into the shed then batten it using the last bit of 1m long hazel. Next lower the warp threads to create another shed and insert and batten a second bundle of grass. Keep repeating this process until you get to the end of the warp threads.
Next get scissors and trim the edges. Lastly untie the warp threads from the hazel loom and tie them securely against the grass bundles.
The mat makes a really warm sleeping mat for a bushcraft camp.