A selection of brooms from Hearth Craft Brooms. Proprietor Alyssa Blackwell says that, like using your favorite mug for your daily coffee, a good broom can turn a routine or a chore into a ritual.
Broom-making, an age-old craft steeped in history and tradition, has seen a remarkable resurgence in recent years. Using broom corn (sorghum tassels), crafters are dyeing and weaving designs into brooms for a final product that combines beauty and function. Broom-making dates back centuries, but it underwent a transformation in 1797 when Levi Dickenson, a Hadley, Massachusetts farmer, fashioned a broom for his wife using the very tassels of sorghum he was cultivating for its seeds. The current revival uses the same materials and techniques that were popular during the early to mid-1800s before industrialization caused a downturn for the industry in the 20th century.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite contemporary broom-making resources in this installment of our trends series, What’s New in Craft.
Nestled in Berea, Kentucky, Berea College hosts the nation’s longest-standing broomcraft workshop, where students handcraft brooms. Founded in 1855 by abolitionists Reverend John G. Fee and Cassius M. Clay, the college broke ground as the first coeducational and integrated institution in the South, championing equality and education for all races. Since its inception, Berea College has linked labor with education to support students financially and dignify manual work. This ethos persists today, with every student dedicating ten weekly hours to labor, earning a modest wage. Around 5,000 meticulously handcrafted brooms emerge annually from the workshop, finding homes via the programs online store and specialty craft stores.
Alyssa Blackwell is a master at crafting handmade brooms, perfect for both the hearth and the altar. You can join her workshops and shop from her handmade brooms at Hearth Craft Brooms. Check out this time-lapse video that beautifully condenses the intricate broom-making process, resulting in a stunning color combination.
Step into the world of Broom Making with Dan from Bad Dogs Studio in this immersive 3-hour workshop. Discover the art of crafting a “turkey-wing” style hand broom, from its inception to completion. Delve into a brief broom-making history and leave the workshop with your very own exquisitely designed broom – a perfect addition to elevate your cleaning space.
Rosa Harradine, based in the UK, crafts stunning brush-style brooms and offers workshops. Check out her collection, featuring a unique brush tailored for cleaning letterpress printing metal type. As it wears down, simply remove part of the binding to reveal more fiber. Rosa’s brushes are a blend of functionality and artistry – you might even consider displaying them as wall decor rather than just for use.
Tabling Broom Corn
The proprietor of Sorghum & Leather grows a small batch of heirloom broomcorn each year and harvests broomsticks locally in Colorado. They use basic tools to be as close to the making process as possible and to ensure a high-quality handmade broom every step of the way. Production and workshop waste is composted and returned to the next broomcorn crop. Broomcorn has a coarse, fibrous seed head that has been used to make various types of brooms and brushes for several hundred years. Tabling allows the tassels to stay straight as they continue to lengthen and help prevent birds from eating the seeds in the tassels. Find beautiful, functional handcrafted brooms at the Sorghum & Leather online store.
This detailed tutorial includes many photos and descriptions for making your own broom with basic materials like broom corn, wood for broomstick, twine, waxed hemp and leather strips. Instructions include how to carve your own broomstick before moving on to creating the brush from broom corn. Once complete you will have a fully functional broom to use in your home or workshop.
Do you have examples of broom-making you’d like to share? Share them in the comments below!