Friday, December 23, 2011

A bit of straw for your tree

Wow, who'd have thought that trying to prepare for Christmas and write about it at the same time would require bending time and space?

But amidst all the madness, I managed to find a very special treat for you. My neighbour and friend, Mariza, whose family has a long-standing romance with folklore and art, agreed to help me film a quick  little tutorial on how to make two traditional straw decorations.

You all probably have your Christmas trees already set up. I noticed that my American friends, for instance, put them up as early as December 1st...and get rid of them just before New Year!

This is a bit backwards, and not even according to Polish tradition- after all, those famed twelve days of Christmas start on December 25th. So there is no shame in still having your tree up in January! In Poland, that's normal, and what's more, the trees aren't usually brought into the house until a day or two before Christmas Eve.

355/365: Thank goodness for snow
This is why I like snow- it makes bringing the tree home easier.

But if you have a little time left over before the celebrations (I know I don't!) and maybe a bare patch on your tree, why not try this.

Straw and paper sculptures are a typical decoration across Polish folklore. One of the best-known forms is the elaborate 'pająk' (pronounced pah-yonk) or, literally, spider, an intricate construction meant to resemble the crystal chandeliers of upper-class houses.

Folk Museum in Łęczyca
A traditional 'pająk' on display at the folk museum in Łęczyca

They were made using straw, dried peas, beans, feathers, clay, and from the 19th century onwards, coloured paper and wrappers.

Don't panic- we won't be making anything as crazy as what you see in that picture. But what Mariza demonstrates in the videos below are actually basic elements which can be put together to make a larger construction. 

You'll see how to make a simple chain for your tree:


And then a single 'spider', with crepe paper flowers:


You will need:

some straw, which you should soak for a few minutes, so that it doesn't snap and break when you cut it.
Mariza often uses sheep shears, but your household scissors will do just fine. ;) You can keep the straw in the water as you work.


Don't bother with a ruler, for each individual decoration, use the first straw you cut as a guide.


These are all the straws you need to make one element of the pająk.


You will use crepe paper to make the flowers...


...and you'll put the whole thing together using a needle, some yarn or thick thread, and a long, thin wire with a flat hook at the end with which you will pull the yarn through the straw.


You can easily make that yourself.


Ready? Here are the videos.

Meta information:

Music in videos are CC-licensed instrumental versions of Polish Christmas carols by Paio

Thanks to Mariza Nawrocka-Teodorczyk for her help :)

1 comment:

  1. It is very interesting to describe the christmas craft of poland. (France)