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Monday, 23 April 2012

Next time you look at a basket.....

Hi folks, hope everyone is well.
A quick thank you for all your very lovely comments about the field mice, I read and appreciate every one :o)  Just to reply to a couple of you, our front garden is quite small, (it's where the hoggies live) so I was able to get within about five or six feet to take the photos.

Now, on to this post. (Warning!  This is long and photo heavy, but I hope interesting.)
On Saturday, I went with four very dear friends (Ann, Jan, Sandy and Kylie) to the lovely Gleanings Rural Study Centre , in my neighbouring county, deepest, delightful Shropshire near the Welsh border for a day course, 'An introduction to basket making'.  An early start for me as I had to leave at 8am, (bear in mind this insomniac didn't go to bed until 1.30 and got up at 6am!)  Ann, who I met last year when she bought poor little Charlie Hedgehog, and has since become the sister I never had, lives very close to me arrived promptly and we made our way some 16 miles to Jan's house to pick her up.  We were full of exited chatter as we wended our way to meet up with Sandy and Kylie another three miles on.  We made our way along motorway and then onto a winding road through the most beautiful countryside to arrive at the study centre for 9.30 for meet and greet.  We were given a wonderful welcome by John and Yvonne Hart and taken into the bright workshop to await the other students and have a very delicious, and welcome cup of tea.

The work room has large picture windows and doors leading to a large deck area that has the most astounding views...that I forgot to photograph!

The other students arrived, and John explained what the array tools would be used for.

The sharp eyed amongst you may recognise hoof trimmers amidst some of the other tools...
John went on to take us outside to see the different colours of willow that he uses and grows,

and explain about the soaking that is required to make it flexible enough to weave.  Once soaked the willow is wrapped in wet sheets and plastic until required.

Then, when back in the workshop John showed us some of the delightful baskets that he makes.

He explained how to 'sort' the bundles of willow into different thicknesses, explaining how each one is used.

and then let us sort some and tie the differing thickness into bundles.

Then the work began.  We were each given six sticks of fairly even thickness that had to be cut to eight inch lengths,

we then chose the three thickest and bored a hole in the centre through each, using a super sharp tool, and then worked the remaining three sticks through the hole.

We were then given twelve strands of soaked willow and shown how to start the

once the willow had been taken round twice we had to start to gently force the sticks apart to for the 'spokes' for the base.  (This takes more strength than you imagine)

My effort - by no means perfect!  We than had to continue adding the willow until the base was fully woven.

John handed each of us the next, long, twenty four stripped willow lengths which were to form the skeleton of the basket.  After trimming off the excess from the base, which had to be re-shaped into a shallow dish by the use of brute force and your knee!
We then had to trim the ends of the stripped willow to a sharp angle before adding (forcing!) them either side of the main base 'spokes'.

At this point a few of us decided to go out onto the deck for fear of getting an eye poked out!
(Some of the delightful views are visible here)

A single stripped willow is placed either side of each spoke - my completed effort...

You can see what a huge size it has turned into.

We then carefully bent up each 'spoke' and loosely tied them near the top to commence further weaving.  They looked for all the world like open tee-pees on the tables!

Then John showed us the (very) complicated first weave that straightens and strengthens the base of the baskets.

The weave started with three willow wands, then half way around another three were added, to a total of twelve.

The start of my effort, after adding the hefty lump of quartz as a weight...

On the way round one of the wands is 'dropped out' of the weave on each half until this part of the weaving is completed.

When this part of the procedure was done, we released the top of the stripped willow for ease of working, and I looked up through a veritable forest of stripped willow to the other class members.  The workshop was very quiet at this point with the air of deep concentration.

By now, and after several cups of tea or coffee with delicious home-made cake and flap-jacks to give us sustenance, it was about 1pm and lunch time.  We were shown outside to an area with stables where these dear goats were happily munching away at their lunch..

A stable door was opened and this delightful setting met our eyes...

We sat down to a most wonderful lunch of the most delicious home-made carrot, apple and cashew soup (I've asked for the recipe and will pass it on when I get it), one of John's

We were able to buy some of their lovely eggs for only £2 a dozen :o)

Back in the workshop concentration again took over as we were handed the next colour of willow for the main body of the basket, this had a silky texture and was a delight to handle.  It was also a lot easier on the brain as it was the basic in and out weave (phew!)

As we worked we had to tamp down the willow to tighten the weave.  The next picture is before the tamping down ;o) and before the next round of teas, coffee and more home-made cakes :o)

Deep concentration is etched on my fellow students faces as we progressed.

After we had used up the dark willow we had to soak the baskets in troughs to make the uprights supple enough to bend and weave into the top rim.

I took this opportunity to hen watch again!

When the willow had soaked enough we toddled off back to the workshop to complete out works of art.  John, who is patience itself had to help all of us with this part of the basket weave.  It was by far the most difficult and complicated part, I was so intent upon trying to watch and learn that I again forgot to capture a photo. 
This is my completed (wonky) basket, which took about seven and a half hours to finish.

and this was how all our (5) baskets ended up, all different diameters and heights despite all using the exact same materials.

Mine is bottom right.

We went home, happy and exhausted, clutching our baskets to proudly show at home :o)

The cost of the course was a VERY reasonable £25, which included all food and drinks, but came with free laughter, new friends and a huge sense of achievement!  I would certainly recommend the course and the lovely couple who ran it.  

Think on, next time you look at a basket of all the work that went into it.

 Next month we are returning for a day of foraging and cooking up our foraged food!  Looking forward to that one :o)
If you are interested in any of the many courses that Gleanings run check out their website.  (I'm not being paid for this post, but am giving an honest opinion of my experience there).

Thank you for sticking with this long post!

Best wishes to all, I'm off for a refreshing cuppa.



Pam said...

Wow! Wow! Wow! I am so impressed by a basket that you have made yourself Rose! I love the way you have described how you made it. Sounds like such a reasonable course, lovely people, fab food and learning how to weave a basket...priceless. xx

Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

Looks like wonderful day! It is always fun to do something like that with friends for the day and you have a memento of the day..your basket! Great job it looks like!

Liz said...

I didn't realise how much work went into making a basket! Looks like you had a wonderful day.
Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

Marilyn said...

Amazing! This basket will be a treasure to enjoy for a long time. Thanks for sharing the process.♥♫

Vintage Jane said...

Your basket looks great! I remember doing a similar course years ago and coming home with a very strange shaped basket that gradually started to unravel! M x

Dan said...

I had no idea so much effort goes into the construction of a basket! It turned out great though. Love the chooks and goats too!

Anna at the Doll House said...

I have always wanted to make a basket. Instead, I have had to make do with buying them. So, it has been a real treat to come with you and watch the process from beginning to end. You must be delighted with the result: I can just imagine it filled with those newly-laid eggs.


Karen said...

Hi Rose, what a wonderful post. Really enjoyed reading about the course and your basket is fabulous - well impressed!
Have a great week, Karen x

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

That would be so much fun. I love baskets. Those turned out so pretty.

acorn hollow said...

wow I am impressed! I will look at baskets with a new eye now.
It looks like you had a great time.
the forage class sounds intresting

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Rose, I would love to take a basket weaving course. This looks like a fun day.
Hugs, Sherry

greenthumb said...

Hi, you have such a lovely blog I will follow along to see what great things you get up to. I love your basket I never new what work when into making one, looks fun.

Sharing Shadymont said...


It looks like you had a wonderful time. Your basket turned out really pretty. I know you enjoyed this so much. Glad you were able to go!

George The Lad said...

Hi Auntie Rose, so that's what when on, Mom said she had a great day out, the only thing is the basket she made is not big enough for us to use as a bed.
Must get dad to take alook at your post as mom didn't take any photos. I enjoyed seeing what went on thanks Auntie Rose.
Have a good week
See Yea George xxx

Fading Grace said...

How wonderful to make your own basket, I really love them. I think its so nice to do workshops like this....keeping the old skills alive xx

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Thanks for stopping by my corner of the world. Wow! Your basket making course sounds absolutely fantastic! What a great experience. I love that all of your baskets turned out completely different. Fun! Have a great rest of the week. Tammy

Leanne said...

I love your (wonky) basket!! looks fine to me, well done!!
Leanne x

Mary said...

Basket maker now added to your long list of accomplishments! What an interesting and fun day. Lovely place and you came home with something so special! Pat on the back Rose - we should always be ready to try something new.

Hugs - Mary

Jooles said...

wow! what a fabulous time you had, the baskets are beautuful, i am sure yours will be treasured forever.
love jooles x

fluffymuffin said...

Hello Rose, What an amazing basket. When I looked at the final photograph my eye was caught by the one on the bottom right, I laughed when I read that was yours. You have a hidden talent :) I love your blog and will visit you often. Rachael x

Kim said...

Rose what a fascinating post!! I've checked out their website and I could see myself doing many of their courses money and time permitting.

Congratulations on your creation - it looks fabulous and will serve you for many years to come I'm sure! A great new skill to pick up indeed.

Lots of love xxx

Mary said...

Me again - thanks for stopping by as always, love to see your comments Rose. I just knew you'd enjoy the Cochin lady's baskets - they were really beautiful and I would have grabbed them all myself if only I'd had space in the luggage to bring them home! Needless to say they were were inexpensive - just a few dollars each in our currency - I felt angry that she only received that much for such hard work, but she seemed satisfied with what the buyers paid. Imagine how many she must have woven over her long life!

They were such delightful people............the contrast in living conditions was unbelievable there, these simple village shacks and spacious million dollar houses almost next to each other! Life is often cruel I'm afraid.

Happy weekend - love, Mary

Nancy said...

Totally in love with the basket-making! Awesome thing to learn and yours turned out beautifully!

Kelly said...

It was interesting to see what goes into making a basket. No wonder they can get so expensive! Looks like a very fun workshop.