Chances are a broom is a staple in your cleaning supplies, but have you ever thought of making your own? Broomcorn, a variety of sorghum, was first used by a farmer in Massachusetts to make a broom for his wife in the late 1700s, and this model eventually developed into our modern broom. If you’re looking for areas in your home to incorporate more farm-grown products, this project is for you.
Broomcorn is easy to grow, much like sweet corn. Amend the bed where you plan to grow broomcorn with compost or manure prior to planting. Plant the seeds 6 to 12 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart after the last frost. Broomcorn likes full sun and well-drained soil and needs 1 inch of water per week. The seeds will germinate in seven to 14 days. Harvest when the stem that supports the flowers and seeds turn from yellow to pale green.
To prepare your broomcorn for use in craft projects, lay it out to cure on a drying rack for two to three weeks. It takes about 60 stalks to make a full-sized broom and nine to 11 stalks to make the whisk broom detailed below.
What You’ll Need:
- tall vessel to soak broomcorn
- drill with a 1/8-inch bit
- whittling knife
- 16-inch 1×4 board (or one of a similar size)
- upholstery or broom needle
- match or lighter
- brick or other heavy object
- 6½-inch stick or dowel rod
- 9 to 11 broomcorn stalks, depending on the diameter of handle and stalks
- 5 yards heavy nylon crochet thread size #18
- 2 yards heavy linen thread
Step 1: Make a Tensioning Board
Drill a hole 6-inches from one end of your 1×4 board. Burn the end of the nylon thread so it won’t fray. Thread this end through the hole in the board and tie it securely. Wrap several yards around the board, leaving space on both sides to hold the board on the floor with your feet.
Step 2: Prepare the Broom Handle
Drill a hole in your stick or dowel rod 1½ inches from the end. Taper the end by whittling it, so the neck of the broom doesn’t bulge out (this is optional). Sand the edges of the cut end.
Step 3: Prepare the Broomcorn
Cut down the stalk right below the last knuckle and removing the sheath. Strip the seeds with a wide-tooth comb. Soak the thick round ends of the stalk in warm water for 30 minutes, keeping the water level below where it splits off into the broom.
Step 4: Begin the Broom
Sit in a comfortable chair and place the tensioning board on the floor in front of you, holding it down with your feet. Unwrap enough string to work comfortably on your lap. Burn the end of the thread so it won’t fray, and thread it through the hole you drilled in the broom handle. Tie it securely with a double knot.
Select an uneven number of broomcorn stalks to weave the neck of the broom. Lay the stalks closely side by side on the handle and under the string. Wrap the string around the broomcorn and handle three or four times, pulling it very tightly. (Pulling on the handle and holding the tensioning board with your feet will help keep it taut).
Now, start weaving the neck. From where you start, bend up the second stalk and wrap the string, always keeping tension between the board on the floor and your broom. Lift every other stalk and wrap at the same time, spacing the wraps about 1/2 inch apart as you wind your way down the neck. This will create a woven appearance and also secure the broomcorn to the handle.
When you have woven as far are you like, about 3 to 4 inches for this size of broom, wrap the string around the entire bundle, very tightly, about four or five times. Tie off the string with a secure knot, and make a loop for hanging if you like. Trim the string and melt the end with a flame. With the whittling knife, trim the broomcorn shafts at an angle to the handle.
Step 5: Stitch the Broom
Lay the broom on a table or edge of the porch. Lay a brick or other heavy object on the broom to fan it out
Fold your heavy linen thread in half, and lay it over the flattened part of the broom. Pull the double ends through the loop. Ease the thread so it comfortably encloses the broom. Thread the two ends onto the needle, and insert through the broom 1/2 inch from the end on handle side of the threads. Stitch down over the threads and then up 1/2 inch on the broom. Continue until you have stitched the width of the broom. Tie off with a double knot and run the needle back into the broom to hide the end. Trim closely to the broom.
Trim the ends of the broomcorn to your desire length with a scissors. Sweep up the workbench with your new broom!