The baskets we were making were not made with 100% bramble, as they needed a solid frame to weave onto, the frames were created from buff willow. The willow had to be brought onto the site as we don’t harvest wood from our trees on Kingston Hill as part of the ongoing management for biodiversity as well as the Tree Protection Order on the entire woodland.
This post from the Basketry and Beyond website is an excellent information source on the process of commercial weaving with willow, explaining terms such as buff willow and mellowing which I will mention below without going into detail.
We started the day with Mark Lloyd providing a health and safety talk, and explaining what makes ideal weaving bramble..
Unfortunately for those of us who regularly work to clear brambles from, gardens, woodlands etc. all parts of bramble are not easy to weave.
Narrower strands are better to weave continuously without snapping compared to thicker growth, this can also be harvested in advance and dried, to be made flexible at a later date by soaking (not possible with thicker strands). One volunteer did prove that green growth can be deliberately used to weave if you bend and flatten the strands at the weave points and weave immediately.
Once we were shown how to harvest the bramble, Mark showed us how to do the fiddliest technique of the day, which was creating the God’s Eye Knot – a structural weave originating from Mexico, vital for attaching parts of the frame together.
Once we had practiced that, Mark showed us how to create hoops from the mellowed buff willow, join them using the god’s eye knot and then add the ribs to allow us to start weaving.
Even with practice, creating the god’s eye with bramble to hold everything together took a couple of false starts for everyone, but as people were all willing to help each other, we were soon all on track.
By the end of the day the majority of us had nearly complete baskets, with one volunteer finishing his basket on the day. Luckily with plenty of bramble around, we’ll be able to continue to fill those gaps, and add extra material to any gaps that form as the freshly harvested green bramble shrinks and loosens as it dries.
Out next woodland workshop on the 25th of March will be spoon carving, we only have 10 spaces so if you want to attend please email me as soon as possible.