Wilder Woods

Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership

Basketmaking at Drayton Woods – January 2012

by Hannah Aitken - January 27th, 2012.
Filed under: Events.

Ten of us gathered together on one of the frostiest mornings of the year to be initiated into the ancient and traditional craft of basketmaking. Armed with gauntlets and old baked bean tins (?) we set about dethorning vicious bramble stems. The sound of a bramble being forced through a hole in a tin has to be heard to be believed! Once subdued we began to see our garden enemies in a whole new light. No longer were they stealthily attempting to slash our skin to shreds or attach themselves inexorably to our clothing. They underwent a total transformation, becoming instead sturdy green and purple frames and handles for our baskets.
Our teachers, Linda and Hannah, dealt patiently with all our queries, soothed us when willow rods snapped and introduced us to the vocabulary of basket making – ‘slyping’, ‘waling’, ‘tips and butts’ ‘upsett’ and ‘randing.’ Once every rib was slyped and in place we were off. We sat around the fire chatting, listening to birdsong (and from time to time the farmer inconsiderately cutting the hedges with something very loud!) totally absorbed by the rhythm of weaving the willow, ivy or bramble seeing each other’s our creations take shape. Everyone put their individual stamp on their basket design – some enviably neat, others of us going for a rather more rustic and airy look! It is hard to describe how relaxing it was just to simply be outside and thinking about absolutely nothing except getting the weaving right, choosing which willow to use next and seeing our work actually begin to look like baskets. The range of colours was amazing – acid green, deep red, olive green, saffron yellow and purply-green. We could hardly bear to tear ourselves away from our creations when it was time for lunch.
By the end of the afternoon we were admiring each other’s handiwork, all of us now the proud owners of our own unique handmade baskets. The sense of achievement from making something yourself from natural materials (which you could actually use!) was truly satisfying. The fact we had spent the day outside was an added bonus. Click on the basket photo in the Drayton Woods Gallery to see all our creations and get a flavour of the day.