Countryman's Favour, Harvest Knot, Lover's Token

In days gone by it was the custom for a country lad to take an evening walk with his lass in the fields at harvest time. He would weave for her a buttonhole of plaited straw, and if they were courting, she would wear it over her heart as a token of her love. At the annual hiring fairs at Martinmas, men and women might have worn a simple plait decorated with a wisp of sheep's wool or horse hair, as a badge of their trade, ie shepherd, waggoner, etc.

four plaits made with two, three and four straw plaits. photograph: © Gillian Nott

The Countryman's Favour is a simple but delightful corn dolly and can be made with various plaits such as a 2-straw Plait, a 3-straw Catfoot Plait, a simple 3-straw Hair Braid, a 4-straw Compass plait or a 5-straw Spiral Plait.

A four straw plait loop. photograph: © Gillian Nott

For a simple single loop favour, the 4-straw Compass Plait gives an attractive chunky weave. Tie four straws together with a clove hitch just under the heads. Plait until you have about 8 cms of straw left. Bring the four straws up to meet each other, and tie firmly at the end of the plaited section with another clove hitch. Bring this tie down to meet the other tie just under the heads, to form a loop of plaited straw, and tie the two together. Spread the wheat ears out between the wheat stalks and allow to dry flat, preferably under a weight. When dry, you can clip the stalk ends decoratively, and add a ribbon bow or a small sprig of dried flowers.

To make a 4-straw Compass Plait

This is an easy and very effective 4-straw plait.

Step 1

Tie 4 straws tightly together under the heads with a clove hitch. Spread out into NESW.

Straws spread out

Step 2

Bring N down to lie by S. Take S up to where N was.

Step 2

Step 3

In a similar move, bring E across to lie by W. Take W across to where E was.

Step 3
It is important to keep the straws parallel as they cross over. Looking down on your plait it should look like this:
View from above
When you have completed the required length of plait, bring all four straws up together and tie securely with a clove hitch.

With a slightly longer length of plait, you can make a simple looped favour. A 2-straw plait, a 3-straw hair braid, or even a Rope Plait is ideal for this. When you have completed and tied off your length of plait, again leaving about 8 cms of straw, you can intertwine the plait into a double knot following this diagram. Then take the end straws round to the back and tie to the wheat ears. Decorate with a ribbon, if you wish.

A four straw plait loop

Colours of ribbons have symbolic meanings:

first point WHITE is for purity
second point BROWN is for the earth
third point GREEN is for the germinating corn
fourth point GOLD is the ripened wheat
first point ORANGE is for the glowing sun
second point RED is for warmth, and also for the poppy in the corn field
third point BLUE is the colour of truth, and also the colour of the cornflower

closeups of the four plaits made with two, three and four straw plaits

You can make your favour more elaborate by adding extra loops, mixing plaits – use your imagination and see what you can come up with! These favours also look great on a rush hat.

For more favours, have a look at Guild member Elaine Lindsay's website: Her favours, including Celtic knots and the double knot favour can be seen on her Wedding Collection page.

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Elaine Lindsay
Something Corny, Rowan Cottage, Inveramsay, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, AB51 5DQ. Tel. 01467 681330

Something Corny supply Dyed Straws, Bleached Straws and Natural Straws. These items are available by post from Elaine Lindsay.
Elaine is a member of the Guild and is experienced in many aspects of straw craft.

Rosemary Sault
85 Lightwood Road, Yoxall, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire DE13 8QE. Tel. 01543 472629

As well as sheaves that you have to prepare yourself Rosemary sells prepared straws in multiples of 100 (400, 800 and 1,000 are the most popular multiples). Buying prepared straws takes away the drudgery of preparing your own straw and having to clean up afterwards.

Rosemary is a Guild member and has her own web site - Simply Straw.

Your Local Florist
Your local florist may have suitable straw. Remember that the straw has to be hollow and, if possible, thin walled.

Further Reading

Decorative Straw Work and Corn Dollies
Lettice Sandford and Philla Davis

published by B. T. Batsford, Ltd. (1964) no ISBN

The Craft of Straw Decoration
Alec Coker

Hardback / First Published 1971 by The Dryad Press / ISBN 0 85219 078 6

The Art of Weaving Corn Dollies
Stephen J. Reid

Paperback / Published 1976 as part of the Leisure Series by Lutterworth Press /
ISBN 0 7188 7004 2

A Golden Dolly: The Art, Mystery and History of Corn Dollies
M. Lambeth

Hardback / First Published 1969 by John Baker (Publishers) Ltd / ISBN 0 212 98365 2

Straw Work and Corn Dollies
Lettice Sandford

Hardback / First Published 1974 by Batsford Books / ISBN 0 7134 2874 0