Swiss straw work – hat decorations with Veronica Main

Constructed and woven textiles Basketmaking, chair seating and willow work Sewing, embroidery and accessories

Ref: S1D12241

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About this course

Discover the Swiss straw work techniques used to create products for the 19th century hat industry. You will learn how to make these delicate motifs from split straw and straw threads for decorative trimmings.

Course Description

The course will begin with a short contextual introduction to the Swiss straw industry and its relationships with hat making. There will be a small display of antique pieces made for the 19th century hat industry.

You will learn how to select and prepare straw for successful working then during the day there will be the opportunity to spin straw threads. You will progress through a structured programme of skill development to make a split straw motif then progress to making a design with straw threads.

By the end of the course you will have acquired basic skills enabling you to make a range of several types of motif.

Please note:

You will be working with wheat and rye straw, which can be dusty, and manual dexterity is required to manipulate the straw. Bring glasses if required for close work, as some of the work is small and intricate.


Timetable for one day courses

Students should arrive by 9am for registration.

Classes are from 9.15 - 5pm

Lunch is included.

Course Materials


  • A half sheaf of straw, a straw splitter, double-sided dog comb and long darning needles, alongside use of some antique straw threads on the day.

What students need to bring

  • A notepad and a pen or pencil
  • Scissors: needlework size
  • Small container, approximately 15-20cm square or oblong, and 5-10cm deep
  • Hand towel/absorbent tea towel
  • Box or bag for storing samples
  • Glass-headed pins (strong)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Glass-headed pins
  • Available from tutor:
  • Swiss Straw Work: Techniques of a Fashion Industry by Veronica Main MBE
Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals (safety boots, if specified).


Veronica Main

Veronica Main MBE is the most experienced traditional straw hat plaiter in the UK. For more than 40 years she has researched the hat industries of the UK, Europe, and the United States, unlocking information and learning how to recreate plaits using authentic techniques by working as a forensic curator. 

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