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Farm Woman Spins Straw Into Gold
Like Rumplestiltskin, the fairy-tale character who could spin straw into gold, Pa Burnell of Varna, Ill., also spins straw and ends up with something valuable - jewelry hats, and other decorative items.
Burnell uses a tabletop spinner made it England. There are no straw spinners on the market in the U.S., she says.
First, she soaks straw in water to make it flexible. "You can use any kind of hollow-stemmed grain. I find wheat to be the best.'
Using a tool called a splitter, she splits the straw into 2 to 9 pieces lengthwise, depending on what size splitter she's using. Then she uses a pair of scissors to scrape away the inner fiber.
Next, she attaches two lengths of straw to the spinner and turns a hand crank that twists the two straws together. "It's like making rope," she says. "It's really strong."
Spinning straw takes time and lots of patience, she notes. In 2 hrs., she can spin 100 lengths of spun straw, each about 8 to 10 in. long. Finally, she ties a knot in both ends of the spun straw and lets the straw dry. When she's ready to make something from the straw, she cuts away the knots and uses a weaver's knot to connect the plaits, or lengths of spun straw, to one another.

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1994 - Volume #18, Issue #4