Here's a discussion analyzing/criticizing the article I posted yesterday. Highlights include:
- An equestrian asserting that straw, when wetted and trampled repeatedly, will form into mats
- A tourist discussing that a traditional historic home in (Russia or the Ukraine, I forget which) used loose rushes on the ground
- A sharp-eyed person pointing out the floor displayed in this image from the Duke du Berry's book of days. It shows a straw-colored floor composed of rows of chevrons - exactly what you'd get if you took one long braid of rushes and folded it back on itself to sew a mat.
Turns out that, next to the pampas grass and cattails, there's some common rushes growing near my house, too. I pulled up a handful and took them home to start a 9-strand braid.
- The beginning of the braid is ugly, but then it always is.
- Some of the rushes are cracking and splitting - it is late in the season for harvesting them (they've flowered already, and some were dying back at the tips) and my technique surely leaves much to be desired.
- They are rather stiff; the internal cells can be easily squashed with the fingers to make them more pliable. But should you? (Some of the rushwork I've seen online does show dried rushes that seem... not twisted, but rumpled.)
- My 9-strand braid is maybe half the 3" RushMatters describes, and which also seems about right for the Duke's book's image. Probably because my rushes are very small? (About 3-4' long each, no more than 0.25" diameter.) The bulrushes shown harvested on RushMatters look double that.
- The book of hours and the illustration accompanying the Sherington Historical Society's page (hey's where'd the link go? Here it is.) look more like 3-ply braids than 9-ply. But the Sherington one looks... oddly fluffy, as if they're braiding wool.
- I entirely understand why this sells for 160 Lb-sterling a square foot.
- EDIT: Rereading the Sherington website, I see that I was supposed to let the rushes "weather" and then dry? And then you wet them to make them workable again. Ah.
There's no way that I have the time or interest to braid enough rushes to make a large mat, nor do I have a good place to store said mat once it is complete.
- I could harvest some more rushes, take them to the event and strew them, just to see how it goes. (And then pick them all up and remove them from the site...)
- I could also get some of the cheap grass mats to put down. Pro: Right scent, right color, similar material. Con: Wrong construction, obviously modern, ethical issues involved in buying cheap Chinese goods, possibly made with underpaid or forced labor, just for funsies.
- I can just use the ground cloth that I have.