For this project you will need:
• A large dowel rod about 1 inch in diameter, 2 feet in length
• A spool of 18-gauge nylon twine
• A stick sturdy enough to be your besom handle, 2 to 3 feet in length
• A drill to make holes at the top and bottom of handle
• A knife for cutting broomcorn (a large bread knife works well)
• A sharp pair of scissors or basket shears
• A jerk string (made from twine, as directed below)
• Roughly 1 pound of broomcorn (how much you will need will vary depending on personal preference and the size of your handle—smaller handles may need less)
• Dried grasses and flowers of your choice (I harvested the grasses shown from a local field. You can also use dried items from
• Floral tape
• Large wired ribbon to finish
I find it’s easiest to begin by getting all your materials in order. Drill a hole through the center of your dowel rod. Slip the end of your twine through the hole, secure it with a square knot, and load roughly ten yards of twine onto the dowel rod. Work back and forth evenly in a six-inch space so the twine doesn’t get too thick in any one spot. (This will make it difficult to hold tension later.)
Make your jerk string. Take 12 to 16 inches of twine and knot both ends together to create a loop.
Drill a hole through the bottom of your handle, an inch or so from the end.
Prepare your broomcorn. Start by taking the broomcorn in your hand and wrapping your fingers around. (Imagine you are measuring pasta.) The tip of your thumb should reach the first knuckle of your pointer finger in a circle.
(This is not a hard and fast rule, as everybody’s hands are different.) This is your first bundle. You will need three bundles.
Split each of those bundles in half and then in half again; each of the three original bundles will now be broken into four smaller more manageable bundles. I like to set each bundle in a crisscross pattern so I can grab them easily as I work.
Your first set of four bundles will be the base; add nothing to the broomcorn for these.
You may add dried grasses to the second set of four bundles. I set my grasses on the surface of each without mixing them.
Your third set of four will be the uppermost layer. Here you have options. For ease, I recommend prebundling your dried flowers and binding them with floral tape. You will need to make four of these bundles. This will create a more pronounced look but will be easier to handle. If you prefer, you can do the same as I did with the grasses and simply lay your dried flowers on top of the broomcorn. This will create a more blended look, but the florals may be more delicate and prone to breaking under the tension of the twine.
Have your jerk string, knife, shears, and each layer’s bundles set up at easy reach.
Take your dowel rod and place it on the floor in front of you. Your twine should be coming up and over the dowel and toward you. Place your feet, one on either side. You will be holding the dowel with tension using your feet.
Pull the free end of the twine toward you and slip it through the hole you drilled in the bottom of your handle. Secure with two square knots.
My right hand is dominant, so I place my handle across my lap to my left so that my right hand will be better able to maneuver.
Pull tension and start to wrap twine around the base of the handle, rolling or turning the handle toward you. The twine should be coming up from your feet over the handle, and you are rolling toward your body.
Tension is important! Your besom will be held together solely with tension, so make sure your twine is taut.
Once you have two or three wraps, you can begin adding your broomcorn from the base, broomcorn-only pile.
Holding the handle above your lap with twine taut, slip the bundle between your lap and the handle and place it against the handle. Give yourself three or four inches of broomcorn from the bottom of the handle. You will be wrapping up toward the top of the handle, so having enough working and wrapping space is important.
Wrap tightly one solid round.
Pick up your second broomcorn-only bundle and place it between the handle and your lap and secure it to the alternate side of your first bundle. Wrap tightly again and add the following two bundles in the same manner.
Holding your besom taut, take the first bundle of your second pile, the one with the grasses laid on top. Position the bundle to be added so the grasses are facing up and out on the surface and place the bundle onto the besom.
Take time to visually adjust this layer before you wrap and secure it. You can line it up with the previous layer, or you can stagger it a little to be a bit shorter than the base layer—it’s a matter of personal preference. Once you’re happy with the placement, secure the first bundle by wrapping tight a solid once-around wrap, and then add the next three bundles in the same alternating manner as the base bundles.
Once your second layer has been secured, pause and check your distribution. This is optional but very helpful.
To do so, give six really solid tight wraps, then look at your remaining working space of broomcorn. Angle your twine toward the top of the dowel rod, leaving about 1½ inches of broomcorn. Give a solid wrap around, and then before you wrap further, set your jerk string onto the besom (like setting your bundles) so that the smooth loop is facing the top of the handle, leaving about two inches of loop, and the knotted end faces the bottom of the sweep. Now tightly wrap over the jerk string four to six times, securing it to the besom. Keep in mind that you’re always holding tension.
Slip three or so inches of your working twine through the loop of the jerk string. Do not cut your working twine.
Pull the knotted end of the jerk string until the working twine has been pulled out of the bottom and the jerk string has come free. Your besom should now be held securely. Take your knife and brace your besom on the edge of a table or a bench, handle out. Trimming away the broomcorn in a motion down and away from you, roughly ¼ inch from the twine. Be careful not to cut your working twine.
Work slowly and steadily so you don’t damage your handle. Remove all the excess broomcorn until you reach your handle.
Now you can see clearly if your distribution is even. If your handle is noticeably uncentered, you can go back and correct this before moving forward. Because you’ve added in bundles, you can remove them in the same fashion, realign, and secure them again.
If your handle is mostly centered, and you are ready to move on, you can gently pull your working twine back toward your dowel, releasing it from the hold and rolling the twine back onto the dowel. Unwind until you are back to the single wrap securing your grass bundles, and prepare to add your final layer.
With your final bundles, you will add and stagger this layer as before, placing your floral bundles centered to each addition before securing and adding the next bundle.
Once all four outer bundles have been placed, give two or three nice tight wraps, making sure everything is secure.
With your shears, cut a portion of the extended broomcorn from this last layer as close to the clean edge of the first two layers as you can. This gives you a window to see how much working space you have to continue your final wrapping. From here, continue to wrap until you get about a half inch from the top of the working space. (Use your window to gauge how far.) Once you’re within a half inch, set your jerk string like you did previously: smooth loop to the top of the handle, knotted end to the bottom of the sweep, and wrap tightly four to six times around to secure.
When you come back around to the jerk string, place your thumb with tension on the wrapped working twine, and cut a six-inch tail. (Do not release your tension.) Take the tail and slip it completely through the loop of the jerk string. Pull the knotted end until the entire length of tail and the jerk string have come through and are now secured. Release your thumb, trim the tail to about a half inch, and carefully singe the end with a lighter or a candle.
Using your knife or your shears, you can trim off the excess broomcorn from the last layer.
Give your besom a spin, and decide which side is the front. Then drill a hole at the top for hanging it.
Once you’ve decided on your front, cut a length of ribbon and tie your bow accordingly.
Broom care tips: Broomcorn is a natural material, so hanging your besom in a place with high moisture may lead to mold. Ideally, cool dry spaces are best. Hanging your besom in direct sun may lead to brittleness and cause it to fade over time.