Making the cros Bríde: Interwoven type

Interwoven (or interlaced) cros Bríde

Interwoven (or interlaced) cros Bríde

As noted on the previous page, there are many different types of cros Bríde, which Seán Ó Duinn has broken up into the following categories in his book The Rites of Brigid (2005):

  • The four-armed or ‘swastika’ type
  • The three-armed type
  • The diamond or ‘lozenge’ type
  • The interwoven type
  • St Brigid’s Bow/Bogha Bríde
  • St Brigid’s bare cross
  • The Sheaf cross

This is in broad agreement with O’Sullivan’s assessment of cross types from the 1970s, though O’Sullivan also includes a ‘miscellaneous’ category. This includes some crosses that may have been made for children, who would wear them on the day of the festival; he notes, however, that some of the examples he has collected, which fall into this category, are of dubious authenticity.1

Instructions for how to make the four-armed, three-armed, and diamond or ‘lozenge’ types can be found at the links provided, so here we will concentrate on another kind of cros Bríde, the “interwoven” or “interlaced” cross.

The interlaced crosses can be fairly simple, with only three strands of rushes (or straw) being woven together, or else they can become more complex, with five or more strands on each axis. These crosses are most common in Kerry, Cork and Clare in Munster, Sligo and Leitrim in Connacht, Donegal, Derry, Armagh and Monaghan in Ulster, and Laois in Leinster, though O’Sullivan comments that they may have been a relatively recent introduction to Co. Laois as late as the 1940s2 – it just goes to show how the traditions spread, though, doesn’t it?

Making this type of cross is a lot easier if you prepare everything beforehand, so collect your materials and cut them to the length you want them; I think it helps to have longer strands if you’re aiming for a more intricately woven cross, to give yourself more wiggle room. As usual, if you want to use straw, you will need to soak them before trying to use them, otherwise they won’t be supple enough to work with. Rushes can be used as soon as you pick them, however.

 

Making an interwoven cros Bríde

Start by preparing your your rushes (or whatever you might be using). It is much easier if you cut them all to size from the beginning (though you can adjust things later on if need be). Remember, it is traditional that you don’t use scissors or a knife during the process – no iron! So use your finger nails or something that doesn’t contain iron. Tip: If you are making a more intricate cross – like the one illustrated above, with additional strands – you will want to make sure that some of your rushes are longer so they can bend a little further as you add them on to the outside edges of the cross.

Once you have them all cut to length, bundle three rushes together to make one strand. I found it helpful to tie them together so the bundles weren’t loose while I was weaving the cross (I’ve used loom bands in the pictures below – they’re like small elastic bands, so they’re quick and easy to work with):3

When you’re ready to get weaving, take two of your strands and lay them out in an equal-armed cross. Your horizontal strand should go on top of the vertical, like so:

Now take two more strands and lay them vertically over your horizontal strand, on either side of the central strand. They want to be parallel with the vertical strand you already have in the middle, and you should have three vertical strands to one horizontal strand, like so:

Once you have done that, it’s time to work horizontally. Take another bundle and weave it in across at the top of your cross, going above, below, and above your vertical rushes.

Do the same again at the bottom (beneath the central strand) – weaving above, below, and then above – so you end up with a grid of interwoven strands like this:

Now you can either tie it off and finish your cross, or keep weaving (to continue on, see below). To finish off, simply tie the three strands together at the top and bottom:

And then do the same on each side (working sunwise!). You can untie each of your strands as you do this, for a neater look, if you like. Fiddle about a bit to even out the shape of the strands, too, so your cross is nice and even:

Alternatively…

If you want to continue with making a more intricate cross, just keep adding more strands on the top and bottom, left and right, following the same idea as before.

Working vertically first, weave your strand from top to bottom working over, under, then over your horizontal strands that are already in place:

Then working horizontally, you want to work the strands over, under, over, under, and then over from left to right. This will leave you with a larger grid, like so:

You can keep going so long as you have room to work with, though it’s best if you add an equal amount on each side so you don’t end up with a lopsided cross. For the more intricate crosses, it helps to keep the spacing of your strands fairly tight and even in the centre as you go (so do as I say not as I do! The spacing shown above is for illustration purposes only…).

When you have finished adding more strands, tie off at the top and bottom, then each side (as shown above with the simpler version), and tidy up the spacing and the ends, if need be. You can also remove the individual bands/ties you may have used in bundling your strands together, like here:

And you’re done! You can now hang up your cross, or perhaps give it as a gift of friendship to someone who is dear to you. Receiving a cros Bríde as a gift is a great honour and a blessing.


References

1 O’ Sullivan, ‘St Brigid’s Crosses,’ in Folk Life Volume 11 Issue 1, 1973, p80.
2 O’ Sullivan, ‘St Brigid’s Crosses,’ in Folk Life Volume 11 Issue 1, 1973, p78.
3 I swear those things breed…