Weaving with Spanish Moss: Tales & Details, Part 3

Many uses for Spanish moss: a Carolina Wren’s nest made with Spanish moss.

I began my “Weaving with Spanish Moss” blog post series almost three years ago. I’m now writing the promised third part in the three-part series.

Weaving with Spanish Moss Part One tells the story of how I became aware of Spanish moss when I was a child as my family traveled to Florida for vacations. My mother would gather great armfuls of it to use in her flower arranging back home.  And then, as an adult  I decided to use Spanish moss to help bring the South to my high school students who may have never traveled to see Spanish moss.  My plan: to set a unique tone to the start of our studies of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Weaving with Spanish Moss Part Two tells the remainder of my unusual Spanish Moss teaching story.   And at the end of part two, you the reader are left to wait while I stir and rinse a large pail of Spanish moss that soaks in a bucket in my Florida backyard.

I’d been fascinated by Jeff Klinkenberg’s story from the Tampa Bay Times: “She spins Spanish moss into beautiful blankets”.  The story covers a woman who weaves her son a saddle blanket from Spanish moss for his horse.  He is a involved in reenactments of the Civil War.   Follow this link to view an interesting video of the story.  http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/she-spins-spanish-moss-into-beautiful-blankets/968162

Spanish moss is green when alive.

There are other articles  (https://www.ravenecho.com/articles/3/188/) about using Spanish moss pads in the civil war.

My own Spanish moss story didn’t turn out as I had anticipated … which accounts for the delay in Part Three for my blog.

This week, I was prompted to write Part Three by an email from a blog reader who is a volunteer at Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island. They do programs on how Spanish Moss was used in history. And, she said that she, too, was interested weaving with Spanish moss.

Indeed I had started nobly to weave Spanish moss.  I read everything I could find which wasn’t much back then — a range of  online articles and of course, Wikipedia.

The remaining Spanish moss fits in a Chinese food takeout container and waits to be spun.

Spanish moss is plentiful in Florida, so I gathered a  garbage bag full of green Spanish moss.  I removed the twigs and leaves from the moss and placed it in a large bucket of water to soak. The soaking — for a long time — removes the green moss from the dark fibers beneath.

As the moss soaked in the bucket of water, an incredibly strong smell began to emanate from the bucket. Even with changing the water regularly and rinsing the moss, the smell persisted and made it difficult for me to embrace my task. I moved the bucket to the back corner of the yard but the smell of decomposing moss wafted through the backyard regularly.  The smell grew larger as the moss itself shrank in mass.

After several months, the green covering was gone, leaving a mass of dark brown fibers — about 1/5 of what I had started with. I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed the fibers.

Spanish moss on a spindle

The fibers took about three days to dry on the patio in the backyard under the hottest Florida sun.  In the meantime,  I turned a nice cherry spindle on my lathe and I planned on  leisurely spinning strands of  Spanish moss. I envisioned an idyllic and industrious afternoon sipping iced tea and spinning in a tempered Florida sun.

Once the moss was dry, I separated 5 – 10 strands of the wiry fiber at a time and twisted them together to start spinning on the spindle. It was hot outside. The wiry fibers scratched and stuck to my fingers. Although I had been sure I’d washed away all odor contained in the decomposing moss, frequent clouds of invisible aroma assaulted my nose.

I forget what distracted me from my spinning, but I set the tiny bag of dried moss aside — somewhere near my spindle that has the shortest of moss threads wound on it.

Yes, I do mean to return to it.  One day.

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  1. Glad you got into the spirit of the post, ME! You can see why making flutes is preferable to weaving Spanish moss. 😉


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