Summer Series – Isn’t Straw Delicate?

“Isn’t straw delicate” is one of my favorite questions. It shows a visitor is thinking through what I am working with, imagining the fiber itself, and questioning either what they see or what they think.

Straw as a straw is delicate. It can be snapped or shredded with little effort.

Yet, straw once paired together with other straw can be quite strong.

Straw braided and sewn together can hold its shape well. It can be relatively strong. It can also withstand elements better than other contemporary materials.

One of the great things about straw is it can be forgiving, allowing it to be retrimmed or redecorated a number of times.

One of my favorite straw bonnet stories from the nineteenth century tells of a young woman who has the same bonnet for ten years. She redecorates it yearly…… Cite

Advertisements for millineries and straw goods stores often include bleaching and reblocking of straws in their lists of goods and services. Straw bonnets and hats can be reblocked into their original shape with new sizing (stiffening) or, within reason, be reblocked into a newer shape for a more updated style.

Straw can also be repaired. This can be seen in original bonnets and hats with patches of straw plait.

Clients have shared with me a few survival stories over the years. Most recently, is this hat who had a rough journey to its owner. The box suffered significant damage including the dented in side seen here and the opposite side ripped into. The hat within survived with only some mis-shaping from the trauma.

Another hat took an impromptu flight and dip into the ocean while its wearer was on a leisurely excursion. The boat was able circle around while the hat floated in the water. When it was fished out, the hat needed only to dry before it could be worn again.

Now, this isn’t to say straw millinery is invincible. A straw hat or bonnet is unlikely to survive being sat on or trampled. Straw can also be susceptible to mold or mildew if not properly dried after getting wet or damp. Straw can also become brittle if stored too long in a dry area.



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Published in: on July 18, 2022 at 6:05 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. One of my favorite 19th century straw hat stories is from Josephine Clay of Lexington, KY, who wore a broad brimmed straw sunhat out riding on her daily check of her broodmares, the favorite one of whom loved to munch on the brim! Mrs. Clay said she didn’t mind sacrificing for her darlings and merely bought her straws in quantity as the hats were neither costly nor scarce but certainly tasty;)


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