A Closer look at Straw Plait

One of the most common mistakes in making a straw bonnet for living history or reenactment, is choosing a plait that is to wide and coarse. I will admit, I too made that mistake in the begining. We are often tempted and occasionally encouraged to use the straw from a craft bonnet for making a straw bonnet. Again, yes in the begining I did this. But, I’ve since learned and would like to advise you learn from my mistakes rather than wasting your time.

So, what is wrong with the straw from a craft hat from the craft shop? Most of them are to wide and to coarse. Occasionally, you can find narrower craft straw. But, not always. Take a look at the image below. A is a craft straw. It is 3/4″ wide. Some comes as wide as 1″. While there were wide straw strips used during the era for bonnets, these were much more delicate, often woven or crochet. You can see the difference in the quality of the straw itself compared to the other plaits. Plait A is made from whole straw. Whole straw is not bad. It is a method used for making plait throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. You can see how the whole straw E is the width of the straw used in plait A.plait-sample-labled

Plait B is approx 1/2″ made from whole straw. This straw has a nice even color. The straw is in nice shape and is pliable. This is a good straw to begin. This straw comes from Frank’s Cane and Rush Supply.

Plaits C and D are narrower plaits from Judith M’s Millinery, 8mm and 6mm each. These are split plaits. Split plait is made by splitting a single straw into narrow widths before braiding them. To acheive an all matte or all shiny plait two split plaits are layered together. Notice how plait D is the almost the same width as the straw E.

If the straw plait has been dyed, it may require more sizing and wire to hold shape. Some how some dyes weaken the body of the straw.

The below image shows a straw plait along side a hemp plait. You can see the difference between them easily at this magnification. The hemp is a stringier fiber than straw. The hemp needs more sizing and wiring to hold its shape compared to whole or split straw plait.


This page from The Millinery Department, 1918, by Aiken, shows straw plaits from the early 20th century.


Just for fun check out….


Published in: on March 20, 2009 at 11:04 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Invaluable, Thanks Anna.

  2. […] In the Millinery/Bonnets/Ribbon category, you will find posts related to straw bonnets including “A Closer Look at Straw Plait”, “Straw Bonnet Fashion Descriptions” and additional bonnet related information. You may also […]

  3. Reblogged this on If I Had My Own Blue Box: and commented:

    I’m trying really hard to take a tech/internet vacation. But, I got a message that there is a plait discussion going on. This is an older blog post. I am in the midst of something far more indepth. (That’s all I can say right now.)

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