Your broom is hand-tied by Penny or Tom at a tying table or with the help of an antique (c. 1890) broom kick-winder. A broom press-another antique tool, holds the brooms for hand sewing.
Every broom is lovingly designed and created to be a lasting, beautiful and functional tool in your life. We hope you enjoy using your broom as much as we enjoy making them!
Broom Corn (Sorghum vulgare)
Broomcorn is a sorghum-a relative to corn. The plant produces seed heads with long fibrous branches. Broomcorn plants can be 4 to 12 feet tall, requiring back-breaking hand- harvesting, drying and sorting. Broom corn was a huge crop in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado until about 1960. In Colorado, more than 124,000 acres of broomcorn was harvested in 1944. Now almost all broomcorn is grown in Mexico.
It takes forty to fifty plants to make one broom. Every time I grab a handful of broomcorn hurl, I imagine the labor-intensive harvesting and sorting required and think about my Great-Grandfather Morris and his family and how hard their subsistence life must have been.
Our beautiful dyed broom corn is crafted by our dear friend Leesa Thompson of Thompson Brooms. Her stunning colors really get the creative juices flowing and help us make our brooms real works of art!
The tools we use:
Broomcorn hurl (the bristle portion of the broom corn plant) or sometimes the entire broom corn stalk is tied by hand onto wood handles or wrapped together with twine or wire to make our sweepers, whisks and cobweb brooms. We use two different machines to help us do this winding.
The Tying Table-brooms tied on this table use Tom and Penny muscles to tension twine or wire. The wire or twine is on a spool under the working surface of the table and is operated with our feet. Penny works barefoot, but Tom keeps his shoes on!
Twine or wire is pulled just short of breaking to ensure the broom is tightly made and will last a long time.
We use the tying table to do the decorative braiding or weaving (called plaiting) at the top of our whisk brooms and at the top of the hurl on our sweepers too.
The Antique Broom Kick-Winder Manufactured c.1890, this broom winder tensions wire for us. Many hands have used this winder to make brooms over its 125-year life. This machine is used to tension and wrap the wire we use for sweepers and whisks with handles. The broom corn hurl must be soaked in water before attaching, or the wire cuts through the hurl as it is tightened.
Tom’s Hand-Made Broom Press We use this press to flatten and sew whisk brooms.
Most of our brooms feature some sort of hand sewing. Sewing keeps the sweeper brooms flat so they can sweep a larger area more quickly. Before brooms were sewn (a relatively recent addition to broom-craft said to be introduced by the Shakers) besom-style brooms were round like our besom hearth brooms.
Our Antique Cast-Iron Broom Press We use this old machine to flatten and sew sweeper brooms. It was rescued from a yard in Alabama where it was waiting for me to come along.
It presses the broom corn tightly and we use long needles and sewing cuffs to push the needles and twine through the compressed broom.
My favorite part of this old rusty machine was this pile of nails, screws and wire wedged into this joint.
Here’s Wayne Thompson of Thompson Brooms loading the press for me. Thanks Wayne!