Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Hats of rushes

Laurence Smith asks:
Does anyone know how the rush hats, mentioned under soft rush (Juncus effusus) on the Material Collected page of this website, were made? Were they woven or plaited?
Similar hats can be seen in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Children’s Games, painted in the mid sixteenth century, and, of course, there is the folktale Cap (or Cape) o’ Rushes.

Response
Plant-lore Archive holds two records from Co. Antrim of rushes being used to make ‘butterfly cages’ or ‘butterfly nets’.
A Ballycastle correspondent, writing in January 1991 and probably referring to her childhood in North Antrim in 1910-20, describes how butterfly nets were made from rushes. The accompanying sketch shows an object which resembles an inverted witch’s hat.
A note from Larne, received in November 1991, records: ‘I was a child during the 1920s, and my home was in the country … both boys and girls made articles using fresh green rushes – one was called a butterfly cage, another was like a long narrow box; I have forgotten the rest.’
Drawings of a butterfly cage and a Hallowe’en cap, both made from rushes, can be found in E. Estyn Evans, Irish Folk Ways, 1957 [RV, 21 December 2011].

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