Thursday, March 17, 2016

Crown of Thorns - Palm Weaving

Probably not the right blog for this craft, but I think it's worth sharing.  Last year I had the privilege of meeting a great group of women who taught me how to make these. These ladies get their palms, Palm Sunday and then get together to weave on Good Friday.  To keep the palms moist in the interim they are kept refrigerated in plastic bags with moist paper towels.   
Here are a few of their creations. This video shows how to do the braid on the left and this video shows how to weave the cone on the right. Note in the video she is weaving four separate blades and the one below is one blade split into fourths. 

I love traditional crafts handed down generation to generation.  I also love the old magic of craft circles. There is nothing quite like the peaceful energy that comes from collective creativity.

They sent me home with a few palms to practice with and of course by the time I got home I'd forgotten how to get started.  Luckily there is this excellent video on how to do the palm braiding portion.  There is also a second video that shows how to cut the thorns.

I also found written instructions similar to what I was taught using the same weave and this is a different style of weave altogether. 

What I didn't find were any instructions exactly the way I was taught and that brings us to the following tutorial. 

To start you will need half of a palm leaf. 
To split the palm leaf open it up like a book and split it along the spine. 

 The bottom of the leaf is rough and discolored. 
Trim most of this off, but leave at least two inches to discard later. 

Next, get rid of the hard outer edge on both sides by pealing it off. 
Save them in a plastic bag for later.

Make a cut in the center of the palm about an inch
from the end and split it all the way to the tip.

Then do the same thing splitting each half in half to make four strips.

Secure the end with a clipboard or tape.  It's hard to get the first few weaves to lay right, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't look great.  Those first couple of weaves include the discolored bit of palm, so we'll trim that off later anyway.  

Starting with the far right, weave it over, then under.  The left is going to come under, then over.  If you notice the second strand from the left never moves, all the other strands are being woven around it.  Hopefully it becomes a little more clear in the following pictures.   

Again starting on the right, it's going over the
next strand and under that stationary strand. 

Now on the left it's going under the next strand...  

...and over the stationary one.  Notice the right hand strands curve up towards you and on the left hand side they curve back and away.

Again on the right, over the next strand...

...and under the stationary strand. 

On the left, under the next strand, over the stationary.

 Continue to the desired length or until the strands start to become too thin. Bring the ends around together and secure them with a bit of thin wire, 26 gauge works well.  Notice I didn't include those first few wonky looking weaves, in the next step we'll trim those off. 

Wrap the wire around three or four times. 
Trim the ends on both the wire and the palms. 

Now it's time to make the thorns.  Using a small scissors, make little snips along the outside of the braid on one side of the crown. 
Take care not to cut through the entire palm

 Turn it around and do the same thing on that side. 

Gently flatten the crown so it lays spread out like this. 
Place it in a large book to dry out. 

Take it out after it's completely dry, which can take a few days.  Use a small 1/2 inch flat head pin to poke up through the bottom of the crown in the center. 

Here is where we will use those outer strips we saved. 
Start with the thickest end and stick it onto the needle. 

Loop it and again secure it onto the needle.

Make another loop, doing the same thing. 

Keep going until the palm is too thin to work with and trim off the excess.

 The last step is to embellish it with a small flower.  Add a dab of glue and place the flower over the pin.  This is a picture of one that was gifted to me, they also added a bit of ribbon.

Here it is from the side view, you can see the flower should be long enough to accommodate the pin. 

Here's where I deviated a little.  I trimmed the pin down a bit, so my flowers wouldn't stick out as much.  To do this you need something heavy duty. I used tin snips.  A smart person would also wear safety goggles.  I use the tried and true method of keeping my thumb on top of the pin while cutting it so it couldn't shoot up and poke my eye out.  I did say a smart person would wear safety goggles.

One name that kept popping up during my research was Sister Cecilia Schmitt.  What I read about her echoed the sentiments of the ladies I worked with.  As a religious art, palm weaving is becoming less prevalent and it's a tradition they would love see continue and enjoy passing on. 
Besides teaching, Sister Cecilia Schmitt also wrote two books; Palm Weaving Guidesheets and Palm Weaving the Story & the Art.  I found these instructions by her of the same name, but it only contains a dozen weave patterns, whereas I've read her book has over 100.

Update:  I purchased the Palm Weaving Guidesheets as a gift, from the Franciscan Sisters of Little Fall, MN for $5.99 plus shipping.  It's a 39 page plastic spiral booklet with a 10 page stapled printout titled The History of Palm Braiding. It has a few more weaves than the instructions that I found online at  Many of them of are variations of the ones online, but there are few interesting ones like 3 and 5 point stars and a butterfly.  The quality of the content is typical of it's time, dark Xeroxed photos and hand draw instructions. My friend loved it and shared it with her palm weaving group. 

I found a couple of interesting articles about Sister Cecilia and some the other Franciscan Sisters of Little Fall who share her love for the craft, here at and

For more palm weaving check out my star flower tutorial and my latest creation. And because I love creepy crawly things, I found a few other non-religious palm creations. has some awesome palm woven snakes and lizards and here is another awesome snake.

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