is the "wheat state" and visitors often
purchase products made from Kansas wheat including
flour, pancake mix or Butter Braids. But most don't
consider taking the raw product home as a souvenir.
However, members of the National Association of
Wheat Weavers (NAWW) encourage visitors and residents
to do just that.
weaving is any work done with straw in an artistic
manner. Wheat weaving encompasses many diverse categories,
and the techniques used are as varied as the products
grains were cultivated for food, straw has been
used to fashion useful items and beautiful decorations.
Before modern-style cultivation, wild grasses and
grains were used for weaving. The art has been crafted
for over 8,000 years.
ancient methods, today's wheat weavers create harvest
decorations, country accessories, traditional good
luck tokens and contemporary works of straw art.
The NAWW was organized in 1987 with the purpose
to preserve the heritage and history of the craft.
It has since grown and accepts memberships from
Canada, Great Britain and Australia, in addition
to the United States.
NAWW is divided into three regions: Central, East
and West. Each year a national convention is hosted
by a region where new skills are shared. Members
attend classes ranging from beginner to advanced
levels. Many weavers involve their families in the
convention. Tours of the city's attractions are
planned for visitors not interested in the education
get to know families, not just weavers. We share
many family traditions as well," Diane Gardner,
Formoso, Kansas, NAWW member, says.
The Plait Directory is published to support the
NAWW. It is the official handbook containing the
plaits, or techniques, used to create corn dollies,
or straw artwork. Weavers design and submit patterns
to the Project Committee. The committee then selects
which designs will be taught at convention and added
to the directory.
beginner classes are instructed at convention, it
is best to learn hands-on from a fellow weaver,
special tools are needed. All you need is the skill
and water," Garnder says. "However, knowledge
is a necessity."
wheat must be shocked at the perfect time with just
a little green color in it. Next, it is cleaned
and soaked in water.
the time I'm ready to weave or work the wheat, I've
already got up to four hours in a piece," Gardner
The time-honored process is passed on through the
generations. Gardner has taught her daughter-in-law
the craft and plans to instruct her granddaughters
love to do it, but finding the time is difficult,"
Kelly Gardner, Belleville, Kansas says.
with the techniques, the folklore is also passed
on. Certain pieces are traditionally placed by the
door used most in the home to keep evil spirits
from entering. Some believe the spirit of the wheat
can protect the spirit of life, Gardner says.
weavers offer memories of an ancient craft.
"It is a lot of hard work by some people who
love the art that keeps us all going," Gardner