THE cattails and common rushes that grow in marshy places are also fine weaving, braiding, and basketry materials. The long flat cattail leaves retain a soft green color if gathered early in the summer and allowed to dry indoors. The rush resembles giant winter onion tops. It bleaches and can be dyed if color is desired.
These materials must be gathered before the end of the summer, or they will grow brittle and brown. Both can be cut with scissors or a knife. They should be cut near the ground. Spread them out to dry in a shaded place for several days. Turn them over from time to time. Clip the tips.
The length of cattail leaves makes splicing unnecessary. Wider mats can be woven. There is little shrinkage after the initial drying. Cut the leaves to the desired length and soak them in water a short time. For weaving place mats, follow the same directions as for weaving straw or slough grass. The cattail mat in Plate XIX was woven on a cardboard loom. The carpet warp was a soft yellow and a rust brown. Unusual effects may be obtained by combining the cattails with wheat straw, rushes, or slough grass. Also see Plates XXXVIII and XXXIX.
PLATE XIX. A cattail mat.
The common rush seems to be like the material the Mexicans use for braiding the horse and rider. See Plate XX. They also use it for making baskets. When braided, it is firm and tough. The long strips make splicing unnecessary for small articles such as hot pads and glass coasters. New lengths may be added by overlapping the ends, as in braiding cornhusks. The split rush is ideal for basketry material where raffia is commonly used. See Plate XXI for scraping the pith from the split rush. This material absorbs dye readily.