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English Sheaf Knots

English Sheaf Knots

Long ago when grain (or ‘corn’ as the british say) was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’  and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. These shocks were allowed to stand in the field until the grain finished maturing. At that time they were gathered to either a threshing floor in the barn or a stationery threshing machine. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed. I once had the great pleasure to watch an old master at the Upper Canada Village in Ontario, smoothly, lithely, and quickly twist a handful of grain stalks and wrap around the sheaf, turning his hands just so and flipping  the temporary strand into a completed knot. This is most certainly one of those obscure skill sets that youngsters got by standing, attentively, at their elder’s knees during harvest. When practices such as these fall out of use, important small pieces of who we are and what we value slip away as well. LRM

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