The Canton of Tessin (Ticino) is in the south of Switzerland and borders Italy.
By the 1500s, it is claimed that the straw hats of Onsernone were much desired. This valley is only known to have worked whole straw into plaits. As in the Rafzerfeld, Zurich, the whole straw plait had to be milled when finished in order to flatten it. The mill (or mangle) used in this region was different from others. Normally the mill had only two rollers, but the mills found in Onsernone had three rollers. People met in the evenings to work together plaiting, and the finished plait was hand sewn into hats, which were sold, along with plait to northern Italy.
The industry of this region suffered the same fate as in the others with cheap imports destroying the business. Today, only the houses and cemetery provide clues as to the former prosperous times of the straw trade in this region. Some individuals still make hats and other straw articles, but they do not make the plait. The local museum at Loco has an extensive exhibition of straw work and straw work tools.
Hubert Boschung, october 1999
© Schweizerische Strohstiftung © Fondation Paille Suisse © Swiss Straw Foundation
c/o Kurszentrum Ballenberg, Museumsstrasse 96, CH-3858 Hofstetten