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How to Make a French Chicken Wire Cloche

Monday French Country Crafts

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You know how much I love my history of France!

Cloche comes from the French word meaning bell. Cloches are also popular in French pottage gardens to help keep frost off of young tender plants.

European growers have made use of small-scale greenhouse methods since the early 1600s. The simplest forms of greenhouses were the “cloche”, a bell-shaped jar or bottomless glass jug that was placed on top of the plants, and the cold or hot frame, a small seedbed enclosed in a glass-topped box.

In the hotframe, decomposing horse manure was added for additional heating. Something like the above glass frame would be placed on top of a wooden box with seedlings buried in the box. Glass was difficult to obtain in large sheets so these were made with fragments and separated with wood or rods of metal. Another fine example of these framed heat facilitators are in the picture below.

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BUT, there’s something charming about a bell jar… or cloche (pronounced kloshe).

Cloche were first used in France around 1600. Then in England about 1629. In 1677 square cloche emerged.

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This is a picture of a 17th century kitchen garden. Cloches are used in great numbers and several young plants were housed under each.

The French developed the glass cloche, or bell jar, formed from a solid piece of dome-shaped glass. The purpose was to protect an early garden plant from bleak cold and frost.

However, as you may expect, glass was expensive to use in the garden and might break leaving shards of glass in the dirt. So the cloche were a very valued concept for the garden and were used with great care.

In France a cloche was used to cover the brides head piece worn on her wedding day and carried high symbolic content. It was the bride’s mother who designed and gave the globe to her daughter.

Nearly all of them had mirrors. A mirror represented sincerity. The large mirror in the middle is the marriage mirror, the reflection of life. The small rectangular mirrors are the number of years the couple courted. The small losenge-shaped mirrors are the number of children wanted.

The domes would also cover doves (made of metal or resin) which are the symbol of peace, ivy leaves for attachment, grapevine leaves symbolized a life of abundance and prosperity; oak leaves to show strength, love and health and of course linden which was the symbol of fidelity (which is why linden trees are often planted at the entrance of a property), clover means happiness, a sheaf of wheat is to remind the husband that he has to work every day of his life to keep his wife and children happy and sometimes daisies where placed under the dome which are the traditional flowers of lovers.

I am just so pooped today. As usual, I had plenty to keep myself busy both for my business, as well as for here. This project is something that almost got the best of me.

I thought this was going to be another easy - breezy project, but it's not! This project requires a lot of thinking from the very beginning.

Before you do anything, just roll out your chicken wire and sit for a minute. Now having done this myself, I would only recommend using a simple glass container. This will alleviate so many headaches like I encountered the first time I tried this yesterday.

We'll only need a few supplies to get started...

  • Glass container
  • Chicken wire
  • Craft wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle nose pliers 

I'm using a piece of salvaged chicken wire that worked perfectly for this project.

My piece was approximately 10" w x 24" l

This craft wire is going to become your BEST FRIEND when working on this project.

How I made mine was simply joining the two ends and sewing them together with the craft wire. This left me with a fairly large dome piece.

This is how it looked after attaching the two sides. Just a dome with no top.

This is the one I made yesterday and thank gosh I kept it because I cut off the top of it to use on my new cloche that I was making.

Now this is probably not going to happen to you. So you'll want to measure your dome from side to side and cut a piece of chicken wire 2" larger than these dimensions.

You can always trim it, but you can't make it larger!

So now I had to attach the top of it.

This is my final piece where you can see the top attached.

So to attach the top, you'll need to do the same thing as you did with the two sides - stitching it to the dome. This is another area that you really need to pay attention to. Every "stitch" needs to grab the top and fasten it to the sides.

Maybe I should have done a video with me working on this, but I don't know how to do this - sorry!

Now with my chicken wire dome finished, I know that I'm going to rust it and find the perfect finial for the top. I'm also going to buy an antique plate for the bottom.

Stay tuned if your interested in learning how to make your own rust finish.

LOVE IN MY HEART TODAY...

Here's a couple cloches that I fell in love with.

With this one, I love the base and the finial at the top. You can do this is you find the perfect base. Just take your chicken wire, place on top of the base and twist the chicken wire to fit inside the base - then cut it.

This one I love because of the industrial style base.

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