Straw hat Weaving at Festival

Rirkl, Toni. "Straw hat Weaving at Festival." Jamestown Sun, 11 August 2006.

Larissa Rott, of Ashley, will be demonstrating the art of straw hat weaving at the Jamestown Culture Festival Sunday.

Larissa Rott of Ashley, N.D., learned the art of straw weaving from her grandfather so future generations will know how it was done.

“My grandpa learned it from a Russian neighbor,” Rott said. “He asked me if I’d be interested in learning it when I was 14. He didn’t want it to be a lost art.”

Now, at 16, she has two years of weaving under her belt, but the work takes time. To date, Rott has completed two hats that she will show at the Jamestown Culture Festival Saturday. She’s also started sewing together pieces of a third hat.

Although he shared, what he knew with her, Rott’s grandfather, who died earlier this summer, never did complete a straw himself. However, Rott said, “he learned about weaving and how it was all done.”

The Russian neighbor who taught her grandfather died many years ago.
Rott, who is in 4-H, won a plaque at the county fair last year with her first straw hat. Her second one achieved a “superior” ribbon this year.

Making a straw hat starts with rye straw, which Rott said she gets from a framer in the area who grows rye.

Just before he’s ready to combine, we go get what straw I need, she said.

The weaving is actually more like braiding, except she works with seven straws that are wet, she said. And to get the 45 feet of “rope” she needs for a hat, Rott splices new straws into the hollow ends of the braided ones.

“I can do about three feet an hour,” she said. And usually weaves while watching TV.

When she has enough, she’s ready to sew it all together to make the straw hat. It all takes a great deal of time so she doesn’t actually make them for people to wear.

“I just have them for decoration and for demonstrations,” she said.

The whole straw hat-making process can be exasperating as well as time consuming. Rot said it’s much harder than doing embroidery, which she also enjoys.

“Sometimes the splices can come undone and that’s so frustrating,” she said.

Still, she’s pleased with what’s she’s learned and likes demonstrating the art of straw hat weaving, which she’s done at similar events at the Jamestown Culture Festival
“I do think it’s neat that I’m preserving the art,: she said. “But I’m not planning to make a career of it.”

Rott will demonstrate the technique of straw hat-making throughout the day at McElroy Park.
Sister Michaeleen Jantzer will demonstrate palm weaving and Meridee Erickson Stowman will make baskets.

Reprinted with permission of the Jamestown Sun.

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