How to make a straw broom

How to make a straw broom

Before you spend a fortune on a handmade besom, check out this tutorial on how to DIY one for practically nothing.

You know those gorgeous, handmade round brooms you see at summer pagan festivals and on Etsy?

Maybe you’ve imagined leaning one against your kitchen wall, or on the porch during Samhain to give your home that authentic, witchy vibe.

But alas! The high quality ones cost anywhere from $30-$50. That’s a lot to spend on a broom, you think.

Good news. They’re super easy to make! I’ll show you how to select materials, make it from scratch and then customize it for your specifications. Let’s get started.

The Lore of the Besom

A number of theories have made their way around the circle about how witchcraft became associated with brooms.

The prevailing one remains that the image of a witch flying on a broomstick originates in the use by early pagans of psychoactive drugs.

Although the evidence to support this is frankly pretty thin, it makes a good campfire story.

You might be asking, what exactly do psychoactive drugs have to do with flying around on a broomstick?

I’m a little squeamish about detailing the specifics in this blog, but if you’re super curious, here’s a pretty detailed explanation.

Nowadays, besoms are mostly used for ritual cleansing and, in some traditions, handfasting ceremonies.

Gathering Materials for Your Besom

How to make a straw broom

(Please note that this portion may contain affiliate links for your convenience. You can read all about this practice on Moody Moon’s disclosure page. Spoiler alert: It’s pretty boring).

To find materials for this project, start in your backyard!

First, find a stick. This will be the handle for your besom.

I just used a random one I found, but if you want to get super intentional, you can choose a stick from a tree with significance in witchcraft (an apple tree, a willow, whatever).

Either way, find one that’s sturdy about the diameter you want.

Obviously, the size of the stick will determine the size of your broom. Remember, you can make this broom any size you want, from a 6-inch besom for your travel altar to a full size broom of several feel for ritual.

Then, decide what you’ll use for the sweep.

I chose pine needles because I wanted my broom fairly small for a travel altar.

But you can use grass, straw or anything material that is thin and pliable.

You’ll also need some natural twine.

Finally, it’s not 100% necessary, but it’s super helpful to have some hot glue and a hot glue gun.

And that’s it! We’ll talk about decorating it further down, but for the basic broom, this really is all you need.

To sum it up, you need:

-pine needles, grass, straw or other thin, pliable material

-hot glue gun/hot glue

Step 1

Gather your pine needles (or whatever) around the base of your stick.

Allow at least a few inches of the stick to go down into the needles, and make sure they cover it completely.

Step 2

Lay the broom on the twine and tie a tight knot.

Do not cut the twine yet! It should look like this:

How to make a straw broom

Step 3

On the back of the broom, press a stripe of hot glue. This will help to secure the twine.

Carefully wind the twine around the broom, pulling it tight as you go.

When you’re finished, it should look something like this.

How to make a straw broom

For larger brooms, tie off the end of the twine with a tight knot.

But for smaller brooms, the glue is generally enough to secure the twine.

Trimming Your Broom.

Clip the ends of the twine.

You can trim the sweep of the broom with scissors if you want.

Personally, I like to leave it pretty uneven, as I think it looks more rustic that way. But you know, trim it to your preference.

Decorating Your Besom.

You can decorate your broom with almost anything. Here are some ideas:

-old costume jewelry

Anointing and Charging Your Broom.

I like to anoint my brooms with essential oils. A few drops of cinnamon oil or frankincense fills the air when you bring it out.

Consider charming your broom by leaving it in the full moon light overnight.

Or, store it with a sachet of herbs and let it soak in the energy of whatever blend you choose.

How to make a straw broom

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The besom is the traditional witch’s broom. It’s associated with all kinds of legend and folklore, including the popular notion that witches fly around in the night on a broomstick. In addition to being good for playing Quidditch, the besom is a great addition to your collection of magical tools.

Magical Uses

How to make a straw broom

In many traditions of witchcraft, the besom is used for sweeping a ceremonial area out before ritual. A light sweeping does more than clean the physical space — it, also, immediately clears out negative energies that may have accumulated in the area since the last cleaning. The broom is a purifier, so it is connected to the element of Water in some magical traditions, but others associate it with Air. It is not uncommon to meet witches who have broom collections, and it is fairly easy to make your own besom if you don’t wish to buy one. The traditional magical formula includes a bundle of birch twigs, a staff of ash or oak, and a binding made from willow wands.

Along with the popularity of handfasting ceremonies, there has been a resurgence in interest among Pagans and Wiccans in the idea of a “besom wedding.” This is a ceremony also referred to as “jumping the broom.” Although typically this is seen as a custom derived from the slave culture of the American south, there is also evidence that besom weddings took place in some parts of the British Isles.

Artemis, over at WonderWorks, says,

“The first official documentation that records a person flying on a broomstick is from 1453, from a confession by witch Guillaume Edelin. There were earlier recordings of witches flying on different sticks – walking sticks, tree limbs, etc. This probably came from agrarian fertility rites when pagans were riding their besoms (hobby horse style) and jumping with them, to show how high the crops would grow. Ancient besoms have been discovered with hidden compartments in the handle, to hold herbs, oils, and feathers (items for rituals/spells). Some people say the handles of the besoms were coated with flying ointment.”

Broom Folklore in Rural Cultures

How to make a straw broom

The broom is one of those tools that most people have in their home–whether they’re a witch or not! In many rural cultures, the broom has become a source of legend and folklore. Here are just a few of the many beliefs people have about brooms and sweeping.

James Kambos says in Llewellyn’s 2011 Magical Almanac,

“When misfortune was thought to have entered a home, one old German custom was to sweep the home, thus sweeping away any negativity. Each family member would grab a broom and begin sweeping. Starting at the center of the home, they’d sweep outward toward all exterior doors. As they swept, they’d open the front and back doors and sweep out the negativity.”

In the Appalachian region of the United States, many folkloric practices were brought over from Scotland, England, and Ireland. It is believed that laying a broom across your doorstep will keep witches out of your house. However, be careful–if a girl steps over a broom by accident, she’ll end up becoming a mother before she gets married; this belief may have originated in Yorkshire, as there are similar warnings in that area.

People in parts of China say that a broom should only be used for household chores like sweeping because it is so strongly tied to the household spirits. It shouldn’t be used for playing or whacking people with, because that is offensive to the household entities.

There’s an old tale in the Ozarks that you should never sweep a house while there’s a dead body in it–although one would assume that if there’s a dead body in the house, you’ve got other things on your mind besides housecleaning.

Some African tribes believe that men should leave the house while women are sweeping. The reason? Because if they are accidentally struck by the broom, it could render them impotent–unless they take the broom and bang it on the wall three times (some legends say seven times).

Make Your Own Besom

How to make a straw broom

While it’s certainly easy to just buy a broom, it’s also pretty simple to make one of your own out of different types of wood. Although the items that follow are for the more traditional style of besom, you can use nearly any types of branches available to you. You’ll need:

  • A four-foot length of ash or oak for the handle
  • Thin branches of birch for the bristle part (you can substitute a woody herb like mugwort or thyme for the bristles if you like)
  • Lengths of willow or heavy cord to bind everything together

You’ll also need heavy-duty scissors and a bucket of warm water.

Whatever you’ll be using for the bristles–whether it’s birch, an herb, or some other wood–should be soaked in the warm water overnight to make them pliable, as should the willow binding, if you’re using it.

Crafting Your Besom

Lay the handle on a table or the floor, and place the bristles alongside it, lined up about four inches from the bottom. Point the bottom of the bristles towards the top of the broom, because you’re going to flip the bristles in a minute.

Use the willow branches or cording to wrap the bristles around the broom. Add as many as you want to make the broom full. Make sure you tie the cording off securely so your bristles don’t come popping out later.

Now, take the bristles and fold them down over the willow binding or cording so that they’re pointing towards the bottom of the broom. Tie them down again at the base of the broomstick to secure them. As you’re wrapping the cord in place, visualize your intent for this besom. Will it be strictly decorative? Are you going to hang it in place over a door? Perhaps you’ll use it ceremonially, or maybe even for physical cleaning. Focus on what you’re going to be doing it, and charge it with energy. Make your broom as fancy or simple as you like – the possibilities are endless!

While you’re probably not going to be flying around on your broom, don’t worry–it’s got a lot of magical possibilities. Use it to sweep around your home in spells related to eliminating negative energies. Use it in ritual to direct energy, much like a wand, or to symbolize the element of Air. Stand it upright by your door, or hang it over your hearth, to keep away those who might do you harm. Tuck it under your bed at night to keep bad dreams away while you sleep.

Let your broom dry for a day or two, and when it’s all done, consecrate it as one of your magical tools.

This article was co-authored by Erik Bakirov. Erik Bakirov is a Cleaning Specialist at Room413 Cleaning in Los Angeles, California. Erik specializes in deep, move-in, and move-out cleaning services. Room413 matches homeowners with reliable and trustworthy cleaning services. They also promote environmentally friendly cleaning products.

This article has been viewed 61,751 times.

Brooms do so much of the cleaning work that we sometimes forget that they need a good cleaning too. Removing debris from your broom before you get it wet, and then soaking the broom head and disinfecting the handle, can help keep your brooms clean.

How to make a straw broom

Erik Bakirov
Cleaning Specialist Expert Interview. 7 January 2021. Because brooms are large, you’ll need to mix the soap and water in a bucket to ensure the broom head can fully soak. Fill a small bucket with warm water and add a few squirts of liquid dish soap. Mix the soap and water together until it’s sudsy. [4] X Research source

A: Utility Shears for trimming broom. B: Various twine (hemp and waxed linen) C: Knife D: Pruner for trimming broom corn stalks. E: Bodkin/Needle for stitching broom. F: Tarred drop-line for binding. G. Clamp for stitching broom flat. H. Sewing cuff J: Handle painted with milk paint

Materials

Broom Corn:

Broom corn is not really corn but a type of sorghum. It can be grown, but the amounts needed to make one broom makes it difficult for an individual to grow, harvest, and prepare enough broom corn to make more than a few brooms. Most craft broom makers procure broom corn from local growers or buy it from companies who specialize in craft broom materials and tools. I purchase ten pound boxes of craft broom corn ( broom corn with a section of stalk for weaving) from Caddy Supply Company of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Caddy Supply Company A ten pound box currently costs 35 dollars. Since most kitchen brooms require a pound of broom corn and other types (whisks, cob-web, turkey-wings, hearth) less, ten pounds will make ten to twenty brooms. Caddy also has a fifty-pound box of craft broom corn.

(B) Twine and/or Wire:

Broom corn is tied to the handle with twine or wire. The Shakers were the first to use wire to bind the broom corn to the handle. They also made the first flat brooms by squeezing the broom in a vise and lacing it with twine. Caddy Supply Company sells hemp twine in varies colors as well as 18.5 ga. tinned wire. I use nylon to bind the broom corn to the handle and waxed linen for stitching.

Basket Reed and Splints:

Many craft broom makers weave the stalks of the broom corn around the handle. Others use dyed reed or splints.

Handles:

Pine handles can be purchased from Caddy Supply Company, but most craft broom makers find discarded limbs or search woodlands for dead wood (before it decays). Some tie brooms to saplings (known as twisty sticks) deformed by vines such as honeysuckle. Others use antlers and wrought iron. Some craft brooms such as whisks, pot scrubbers, cake testers, and turkey-wings have no wooden handle, the handle being formed from the broom corn. I collect fallen limbs from my neighborhood and shape them on a shaving horse with a drawknife and spokeshave (and then dry for up to a year) before using them to make a kitchen, hearth, or cobweb broom.

Tools

Foot winder/ Tying Frame:

Device to hold tension on twine or wire while winding broom corn to handle.

Scissors:

For trimming broom corn and cutting twine.

(C) Knives:

For trimming broom corn stalks, cutting twine, shaping handles, etc.

A shoe/leather knife used in shoe industry (back when there was one). Excellent for trimming brush and stalks around handle and splitting stalks to use in weaves. Hyde and Dexter Cutlery still have shoe knives made in USA.

(E) Bodkin:

A large needle for stitching brooms.

(G) Clamp

To press broom flat while stitching.

(H) Sewing Palm

For pushing broom needle/bodkin through broom straw when stitching.

Water Container:

For soaking broom corn and reed prior to weaving.

Tying Table:

A broom tying table by Shawn Hoefer of Laffing Horse Tying Table

Rip Cord:

A loop of strong twine for tying off end of wrapping.

Here at Haydenville Broomworks we aim not only to make functional and beautiful brooms but also to maintain the American broom making tradition. It is important to us that buying a broom from Haydenville Broomworks is a personalized experience and since everyone can’t visit the Broomshop or see us at craft fairs we’ve explained our process below. If you can make it to a craft fair, you can see some of these steps in action!

Following centuries old traditions, our broom making is a simple craft. From selecting the highest of quality materials to dropping the broom off at our small town post office, each broom is truly made by hand.

How to make a straw broom

Sorting the Broom Corn

The process begins on a sunny day when we take our broom corn outside and sort it by size and quality. Centuries ago broom corn was selectively grown into the product it is today because of its ability to catch and hold dust.

How to make a straw broom

Broom Corn’s Local History

The creation of broom corn as a specific crop is widely credited to a farmer named Levi Dickinson in Hadley MA, down the road from Haydenville! Once the corn is sorted our attention turns to the handles.

How to make a straw broom

Sassafras Handles

Our handles are made from sassafras because it is strong, light-weight, does not shed its bark and will continue to shoot out new saplings from its roots following harvest. We harvest the sassafras from a variety of locations including land owned by Anne’s uncle Lee Sauder.

How to make a straw broom

Preparing the Broom Handle

Once the sassafras is harvested and dried each branch is cut to size and holes are drilled on each end; one for the leather hook to hang the broom and another for wire to attach the broom corn to the handle.

How to make a straw broom

Assembling the Broom

Eight gauge wire is used to secure the corn to the handle and staple nails are use to secure the broom corn to the handle and tighten the wire around the broom corn. Some craftsmen skip using nails – this step in combination with our high quality materials it is one of the reasons why our brooms last so much longer then mass-produced factory brooms.

How to make a straw broom

Working on the Broom Bench

When assembling the brooms we work on a customized bench that allows us to keep the wire taut and provides solid surface for the hammer. Depending on the broom design, several layers of broomcorn are added at this stage.

How to make a straw broom

Weaving the Handle

The outer layer of the broom is made by selecting the longest and highest quality broom corn. The ends are split lengthwise and soaked in hot water to increase pliability. Jute is used with these “weavers” to create the woven portion of the broom.

How to make a straw broom

Different Weaves for Different Brooms

For our larger brooms, the woven section secures a final, outer layer of broomcorn around the head. For the whisks, the handle is made entirely of broomcorn and the woven handle.

How to make a straw broom

Stitching the Broom

The next step is to stitch the broom, holding it in a round or flattened shape depending on the design. We stitch with a waxed string a double pointed needle, working by hand for the round-stitched brooms such as the cobweb or round hearth brooms.

How to make a straw broom

Using the Broom Vice

The Shakers pioneered the flat design of many brooms we see today. To stitch the brooms flat we use a restored 19th century broom vice that holds the shape as we stitch it.

How to make a straw broom

Cutting the Broom

The final step the process is cutting the excess broomcorn from the end of the head using the broomcorn cutter. The cutter is used to give the Turkey Wing Whisks their distinctive shape. Watch those fingers!

How to make a straw broom

Sending Away

We drop off the finished brooms at our local post office, to be shipped to your front door.

How to make a straw broom

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The besom is the traditional witch’s broom. It’s associated with all kinds of legend and folklore, including the popular notion that witches fly around in the night on a broomstick. In addition to being good for playing Quidditch, the besom is a great addition to your collection of magical tools.

Magical Uses

How to make a straw broom

In many traditions of witchcraft, the besom is used for sweeping a ceremonial area out before ritual. A light sweeping does more than clean the physical space — it, also, immediately clears out negative energies that may have accumulated in the area since the last cleaning. The broom is a purifier, so it is connected to the element of Water in some magical traditions, but others associate it with Air. It is not uncommon to meet witches who have broom collections, and it is fairly easy to make your own besom if you don’t wish to buy one. The traditional magical formula includes a bundle of birch twigs, a staff of ash or oak, and a binding made from willow wands.

Along with the popularity of handfasting ceremonies, there has been a resurgence in interest among Pagans and Wiccans in the idea of a “besom wedding.” This is a ceremony also referred to as “jumping the broom.” Although typically this is seen as a custom derived from the slave culture of the American south, there is also evidence that besom weddings took place in some parts of the British Isles.

Artemis, over at WonderWorks, says,

“The first official documentation that records a person flying on a broomstick is from 1453, from a confession by witch Guillaume Edelin. There were earlier recordings of witches flying on different sticks – walking sticks, tree limbs, etc. This probably came from agrarian fertility rites when pagans were riding their besoms (hobby horse style) and jumping with them, to show how high the crops would grow. Ancient besoms have been discovered with hidden compartments in the handle, to hold herbs, oils, and feathers (items for rituals/spells). Some people say the handles of the besoms were coated with flying ointment.”

Broom Folklore in Rural Cultures

How to make a straw broom

The broom is one of those tools that most people have in their home–whether they’re a witch or not! In many rural cultures, the broom has become a source of legend and folklore. Here are just a few of the many beliefs people have about brooms and sweeping.

James Kambos says in Llewellyn’s 2011 Magical Almanac,

“When misfortune was thought to have entered a home, one old German custom was to sweep the home, thus sweeping away any negativity. Each family member would grab a broom and begin sweeping. Starting at the center of the home, they’d sweep outward toward all exterior doors. As they swept, they’d open the front and back doors and sweep out the negativity.”

In the Appalachian region of the United States, many folkloric practices were brought over from Scotland, England, and Ireland. It is believed that laying a broom across your doorstep will keep witches out of your house. However, be careful–if a girl steps over a broom by accident, she’ll end up becoming a mother before she gets married; this belief may have originated in Yorkshire, as there are similar warnings in that area.

People in parts of China say that a broom should only be used for household chores like sweeping because it is so strongly tied to the household spirits. It shouldn’t be used for playing or whacking people with, because that is offensive to the household entities.

There’s an old tale in the Ozarks that you should never sweep a house while there’s a dead body in it–although one would assume that if there’s a dead body in the house, you’ve got other things on your mind besides housecleaning.

Some African tribes believe that men should leave the house while women are sweeping. The reason? Because if they are accidentally struck by the broom, it could render them impotent–unless they take the broom and bang it on the wall three times (some legends say seven times).

Make Your Own Besom

How to make a straw broom

While it’s certainly easy to just buy a broom, it’s also pretty simple to make one of your own out of different types of wood. Although the items that follow are for the more traditional style of besom, you can use nearly any types of branches available to you. You’ll need:

  • A four-foot length of ash or oak for the handle
  • Thin branches of birch for the bristle part (you can substitute a woody herb like mugwort or thyme for the bristles if you like)
  • Lengths of willow or heavy cord to bind everything together

You’ll also need heavy-duty scissors and a bucket of warm water.

Whatever you’ll be using for the bristles–whether it’s birch, an herb, or some other wood–should be soaked in the warm water overnight to make them pliable, as should the willow binding, if you’re using it.

Crafting Your Besom

Lay the handle on a table or the floor, and place the bristles alongside it, lined up about four inches from the bottom. Point the bottom of the bristles towards the top of the broom, because you’re going to flip the bristles in a minute.

Use the willow branches or cording to wrap the bristles around the broom. Add as many as you want to make the broom full. Make sure you tie the cording off securely so your bristles don’t come popping out later.

Now, take the bristles and fold them down over the willow binding or cording so that they’re pointing towards the bottom of the broom. Tie them down again at the base of the broomstick to secure them. As you’re wrapping the cord in place, visualize your intent for this besom. Will it be strictly decorative? Are you going to hang it in place over a door? Perhaps you’ll use it ceremonially, or maybe even for physical cleaning. Focus on what you’re going to be doing it, and charge it with energy. Make your broom as fancy or simple as you like – the possibilities are endless!

While you’re probably not going to be flying around on your broom, don’t worry–it’s got a lot of magical possibilities. Use it to sweep around your home in spells related to eliminating negative energies. Use it in ritual to direct energy, much like a wand, or to symbolize the element of Air. Stand it upright by your door, or hang it over your hearth, to keep away those who might do you harm. Tuck it under your bed at night to keep bad dreams away while you sleep.

Let your broom dry for a day or two, and when it’s all done, consecrate it as one of your magical tools.

Homemade brooms were made for both inside and outside use.

Farm life taught me that items could be made instead of being bought.

Store bought items were considered a luxury in some families.

How to make a straw broom

Brooms to be used outside to sweep the yard close to the house were called yard brooms.

Brooms used inside the house were called straw brooms if homemade and stick brooms if store bought with a wooden handle.

Yard Brooms

Gallberry bush branches were gathered to make yard brooms. A double handful was the desired amount to be cut usually in approximately 48″ lengths. The branches were run back and forth over a wire fence to remove the leaves. They were left in the sun to dry for 2 to 3 days. Next they were bundled tightly together and tied. This was repeated several times about 2″ apart to make sure the branches would not come apart.

Another method to secure the branches:

Sometimes the branches were first tied together and then the twine was tightly wound around the branches for 10 inches and tied again before cutting the twine.

House Brooms

When the house broom started to wear out, a trip to the fields was needed to collect broom sage to make a new broom. Broom sage is a long thick light brown colored type of straw.

Broom sage that was 36″ in length or longer was collected. A double handful was a good amount to make a broom. The fodder or weaker parts had to be removed by shaving with a sharp knife. Hold the broom sage at the cut end and shave down removing the fodder. Then, one person would hold the broom sage tightly bunched together. Another person would wrap a strong twine around the bundle several times, usually about 2 inches from the top end, and tie it as tightly as possible. If it was not tight enough then the individual pieces would fall out and it would fall apart when it was being used. Twine was tied around the bundle about 2 inches apart two or three more times to help stabilize the straw. The top was trimmed evenly across so no pieces stuck up higher than the others. The bottom was trimmed only enough to remove any weak or long pieces so they would not break off while sweeping.

Another method to secure the straw:

Sometimes the straw was first tied together and then the twine was tightly wound around the straw for 10 inches and tied again before cutting the twine.

I was never personally involved in the making of the homemade brooms, but got to use them often.

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How to make a straw broom

At this time, many people grew flax and retted the very strong fibers, spinning them into thread for fabric used in making clothes, tablecloths and napkins. (Today we call tablecloths and napkins, linens for the fiber used in their making.) Coarser fibers were spun into cordage used around the home and farm, including the making of brooms for the family’s hearth.

Cooking at this time was much different than it is today. Stoves did not exist. They had not yet been invented. Cooking was done outside, over an open fire, or in a huge fireplace in the kitchen. Reflector ovens, and pots hanging from chains, were used to prepare the meals. Wood had to be carried in for the fire, and the ashes had to be carried out. In between, the fire had to be tended to provide just the right flame, coals and heat. A big and messy job. So, a broom was an important tool in keeping the hearth area clean. Unfortunately, good brooms did not exist, and dust and ashes were a part of life.

Could you imagine the frustration of having a kitchen full of young, playing children, while trying to cook a meal in the fireplace? Dust is flying as they run around the table, playing tag. It is nearly time for your husband and the field hands to come in, hungry after a long day of plowing, planting or harvesting, and dinner is not ready. If you could get the youngsters out of the kitchen, maybe all would be ready on time, but they do not heed the oft repeated words, “Please go outside and play.” Time for stronger measures–take that old, poorly made broom, and give them a swat with a stern warning to “GO OUTSIDE!” Swish goes the broom and the straw portion of the broom sails across the room. And so the phrase for anger, “Flying Off The Handle.”

The sweeping quality of brooms changed in 1797 when Levi Dickenson, a farmer in Hadley, Massachusetts, made a broom for his wife, using the tassels of a variety of sorghum (Sorghum vulgere), a grain he was growing for the seeds. She thought Levi’s broom was exceptionally good and told friends and neighbors about it.

Plants are divided into families based upon their seeds, how and where they grow. Sorghum is a large family of plants (containing more than 200 varieties) some of which are high in sugar content, others low. Sugar cane and another variety (from which sorghum molasses is made) are examples of high sugar content sorghums. Millet, milo and broom corn are examples of low sugar content sorghums. In all cases, sorghums are annual plants with a single stem, ribbon-type leaves and tassels with seeds produced on them. Individual varieties grow to differing heights ranging from two to ten feet.. Tassel lengths vary from less than 6 inches in length up to over two feet. Sorghum vulgere, the variety we call broom corn, has the longest tassels. It is this variety which is used in the making of brooms.

Word of Levi’s broom spread quickly throughout the community and people asked him to make one for them. As the demand for these brooms grew, Levi grew more and more of the sorghum. Each sorghum broom he made swept well, but ultimately fell apart as all brooms of that time did . Apparently people were not disturbed by the brooms falling apart, for that was the nature of brooms.

Levi was not satisfied with having his “very” fine brooms fall apart, and envisioned a machine which would help him make better brooms, and make them faster. In 1810 the foot-treadle broom machine was invented. This clever machine played an integral part in the Industrial Revolution.

While developing the broom machine, its inventors also examined the broom handle, looking for a better way to secure the sorghum tassels to it. These inventors drilled two holes in the handle and inserted split pegs into the round holes. The broom corn was lashed onto the handle and pegs, using linen twine.

Starting in 1810, Early American Brooms had pegged handles. Broom makers had brace and bit and could drill round holes in the handles, but did not have round pegs. So they split square pegs, trying to make them just the right size to fit snugly into the drilled holes. If the pegs “came out” too small, they would not stay in the hole so the broom could be made. If the pegs were too big, they could split the handle when driven into the hole. Only the correct size would “fit in.” So developed the saying, “Square peg in a round hole” for those not fitting in.

By about 1810, the sorghum used in brooms, had acquired a new name, Broom Corn, as the British called all seed bearing plants, “corn.” The sorghum also looks similar to the sweet corn plant, and its tassel had become the broom material still used in quality brooms today.

Many copies of the 1810 broom machine were made, and soon many one or two man broom shops were making thousands of round brooms each year. Short handled versions were used in and around the large fireplaces used for cooking and heating homes. Long handled brooms were used to sweep the wood or dirt floors throughout the rest of the homes and in shops.

In the mid-1820’s the Shakers, an industrious religious order, started making brooms, changing the design of the round broom: they eliminated the woven stems up the handle, the holes and the pegs, and used wire to bind their broom to the handle. They then put their broom in a vise, sewing it into the flat brooms we use today. While their flat broom sweeps a rough surface very well, it does not do as quick and thorough a job as the earlier round broom, on a smooth surface.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the birch or besom broom industry, as it was called, had prospered since Saxon times in the sandy heath areas of south-east England, where the birch grows profusely. Known as Besom Squires, the craftsmen were numerous along the Surrey-Sussex border, and they employed assistants who worked individually in the coppices. The brooms were made of birch twigs attached to a handle of ash, hazel or chestnut.

By about 1830, there were enough one- or two-man broom shops in the U.S. that 60,000 brooms were being produced annually. This provided enough brooms for domestic needs and put this nation into the broom export business. Brooms were exported to Canada, South America and Europe, but not England, as their Broom Squires obtained an embargo against Yankee brooms. Ultimately these brooms were permitted into England, bring an end to the twig broom business there.

As people moved west, it was found that broomcorn grew exceptionally well in the mid-west. Small broom shops appeared in some of the “western” towns, growing broomcorn and making brooms for the settlers. The broom industry grew as tens of thousands of acres of broomcorn was grown annually. Some of these shops became factories, making hundreds of brooms a day, for a growing nation.