El esparto

Esparto craftsmanship


Esparto craftsmanship begins with the summer months. Grass as it is, it is ripe for harvesting in the middle of summer (July and August). If you are facing an "atocha" (common name for the esparto plant), you can catch some leaves (about 20 or 30) and roll them up on a little stick, which you’ll pull energetically up to the direction of the leaves until you extract them from its stem. It is a quick method to pull up the bunches but frecuently it causes a separation in the roots of the plant. Also, the thin ends from leaves will be damaged for the "palillo", "cogeor" or "talisa" (stick). Another method to harvest it, less agressive to the plant would be: harvest a bunch of about 8 or 10 leaves, you hold them tight with the hand and pull them up with strenght. Although it will need more time than the previous manner, it causes less damaged to the leaves.


Table mat

After harvesting a lot of leaves, you can proceed with cleaning and selection at the same place of harvesting , getting rid of dry or damages leaves. The esparto leaves will be joined in small bunches to expose them to the sunshine for 40 days. This is important , because this will give the typical golden colour to the esparto leaves.


Once the esparto leaves are prepared, there are two ways to handle them, one way is to work with it like raw esparto and the other like crushed esparto "picao"):

To catch snails
  • + Raw esparto.

    As it is dry it has to be put in water for 1 or 2 days before working with it and recovers the needed flexibility. It’s suitable to make the pleita (the most important plaiting in esparto craftsmanship), "cordelillo" (worked as it was wicker), cofin work and "cachuleros or cernachos" (esparto bags used to collect snails).

  • + Crushed esparto ("picao").

    After drying (like raw esparto) it is necessary to put the bunches in water for 40 days to make them stronger. Afterwards, the leaves will be dried and the next step will be to crush the leaves.With a wooden mallet (holm oak generally) it is crushed continuously on a trunk (pine, almond tree or similar) until the numerous fibres that form the leaves get separated. This is the moment that we are able to handle the esparto. (More details in the section of this website "The esparto")


Large basket

· Raw esparto will be plaited in wide strips, made of as many strands as you wish, but always in an odd number (most usual are between 13 and 19 strands). Each strand is made itself by 4, 5 or 6 esparto leaves. This long strip will shape the baskets, mats and other objects in accordance with the intention and the meaning of the craftsman.

· Crushed esparto is used to be plaited "guita" (made of 3 strands) and the so called "soga cerneja" or "recincho" (made of 5 or 7 strands). In the same way the strings of 4, 5 and 8 strands are plaited . The last ones are remarkable for its result; it is a square section string, used frecuently as reins for the beasts of burden.

From this point, the craftsman as keeper of an old knowlege, combines raw esparto with crushed one to make the handicrafts. The result will be a fruit of care, patience and thorough each one's.


The most simple work is the "guita" (plait) and you can use it for almost everything. Whit three strings of crushed esparto it is plaited quickly. In this way it was usual to make "lías" (ropes) to lace implements or working tools. Its funcionality is its main characteristic. Also it was used to wrapp bottles or to make simple table mats.

String  of 2 strands

String of 2 strands - "Cordelillo"

String  of 3 strands

String of 3 strands - "Cordelillo"

Plait  of 3 strands

Plait of 3 strands - "Guita"

Plait  of 4 strands

Plait of 4 strands

String  of 4 strands

String of 4 strands - "Tailcat"

String  of 5 strands

String of 5 strands - "Soguillo"

Plait  of 5 strands

Plait of 5 strands "Recincho"

Plait  of 7 strands

Plait of 7 strands "Recincho"

Plait  of 13 strands

Plait of 13 strands

Plait  of 19 strands

Plait of 19 strands

Plait  of 8 strands

Plait of 8 strands - Soguillo de 8 ramales

Its square section is a remarkable thing

Plait  of 25 strands

Plait of 25 strands

1.- Pleita works

2.- Other types of works

The cofín work was used in winerys and "almazaras" (mill for making olive oil). Big esparto circles were plaited, into them were depositated the olives or the grapes. After putting many of these pieces one above other, the press was accionated and the liquid -oil or grape juice- came dowm between holes of the cofín to barrels. In some places capacho work.

With beehive work they made the old beehives or "corchos" (big cylinders in where bees lived).

"Cordelillo work" is the piece more similar as when you weave with wicker. In places where willow wasn'muestras, this kind of work was made with esparto. They are pieces a bit slow to weave but very showy because of their fine weft. Also "comb woven" or "filete".

The Chickpea work was very useful, simple and secure for the wrapping of bottles and little carafes of water in the hard agricultural works. It is a nice work.

The recinchillo is a stich that is scarce to find in household labour because it is a very entertaining and slow work to do. Its effect is very pleasant. It is a labour of five branches.

..."he is knowing more specifics craft or art hi will always in dark, not for their know first, because if it does not leave behind, never leave it or take advantage more".

(San Juan de la Cruz. "Noche Oscura", song 2ª, book 2º, chapter 16, part 8ª)

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© 2016 esparte.(See section "trademark")

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The copyright protected.

© 2016 esparte.(See section "trademark")