craft of wheat weaving shared by Lincoln woman
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[October 24, 2016]
- It’s not often that a person gets to see an art form that has been
passed down from ancient times. That is exactly what was on display
at the monthly meeting of the Logan County Genealogical and
Historical Society Monday evening. Dianne Ruff from Lincoln spoke
about her artistry with wheat weaving, a skill that has been found
in Egyptian tombs.
“My mom taught me how to weave wheat when I was a child,” she
said. Her father grew a special plot of wheat at their home that was
used only for wheat weaving. Ten days before the wheat was fully
ripened, it was picked, carefully dried, and cleaned. Before
weaving, a process similar to braiding, the wheat has to be placed
in a water bath to make it pliable. “I usually use from two to
twelve wheat stems and heads to weave, but once I used thirty-nine.
It was a big project,” she said with a laugh.
Dianne has been to England twice to take classes and attends
conventions in the states. She is past president of the
International Association of Wheat Weavers and is the current
president of the Illinois Association of Wheat Weavers. “We don’t
have a lot of members, but we are trying to preserve an ancient art
form, and get more people interested in doing it,” she said.
The International Association is having its convention next year in
Indianapolis. “I have met wheat weavers from as far away as
Australia,” she said.
Dianne teaches classes and gives demonstrations during the
While giving her talk she wove a unique heart shaped piece so that
her audience could see how it was done. It was an amazing
demonstration of dexterity and creativity.
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In ancient times, wheat weaving had a religious perspective to it.
Each fall during the harvest, the last of the wheat was set aside
for wheat weaving in hopes of catching the spirit of the harvest in
the figure. In the spring, the wheat weaving figure was planted
before the rest of the crop in hopes that the spirit of the grain
would make a bountiful harvest.
While many of Dianne’s figures use the wheat
stem and seeds, she also converts wheat into other forms. Her
husband Don created a special spinning wheel that turns wheat
into thread. She uses the thread to enhance her figures, giving
them another dimension.
Dianne frequently uses several types of grain in each figure, or
plait (pronounced plat), to create a more complex work. “People
do embroidery with wheat, and make paper from it,” she said.
The monthly meeting Logan County Genealogical and Historical
Society is the third Monday of each month at their headquarters
on Chicago Street at 6:30 p.m. There is always an interesting
speaker and the public is invited to attend.