Friday, 15 February 2013

Living in the past and the present

I can't remember now whether I've ever mentioned that I like to weave. I took up weaving in the early 90s when I was a lonely postdoc in the US and a friend persuaded me to go with her to her evening class. I made a truly hideous yellow and purple egg basket and was hooked - from that point I wove every pattern I could lay my hands on, experimented with dying reed, and filled my tiny apartment with baskets and trivets. When I moved to upstate New York to rejoin Mr DC my hobby continued  - I stocked a spare room with reed, joined a weaving guild, went to basketmaking conventions (oh, yes, I did) and started to teach friends the basics. I designed baskets for our wedding which went into the hotel rooms of our family members, filled with bottled water and aspirin, and wrapped with tissue paper and love. I foolishly didn't make one for us to keep.


When we moved home to the UK, my baskets came with us - picnic baskets (separate ones for food and wine), woven rubbish bins, a laundry basket - but the reed had to stay behind. Our new house was teeny tiny, with no room for weaving. Pretty soon we moved into our present home; first one baby arrived, then her little sister and the extra space we had gained was filled with small people and their belongings, as it should be. Baskets were forgotten.


A year or so ago I met a local basketmaker and remembered just how much I had loved my hobby. Over here willow is a very popular weaving material and while you can buy reed (it's called centre cane) it is imported and expensive. Willow seemed to be the way to go. I signed up for a class and made my first wobbly plant support. Then  last autumn, Celia mentioned she had met Debbie Hall, a willow artist who runs courses and would some of us like to go along for a day? Try holding me back.


A second, far more pleasing, obelisk came home with me; and soon I had revisited Debbie to learn how to weave borders and make lanterns. One of my unfinished border practice pieces lives in our honeysuckle and looks like a sunburst, inspired by the one in Debbie's garden. Another hangs on our front door - a willow wreath, if you like. My fingers have not forgotten how to twine and rand and wale.


This week I tried a pattern for a very simple bird house. It's in Kirstie Allsops's craft book. It has issues - the buff willow I bought is rather splitty, and it has no proper base and I'm not sure any self respecting bird would look at it twice; but it has given me ideas for improvements and new designs I am itching to start. But in the meantime I have taken on a little project to do some weaving for some very small, very special dollies to raise money for Comic Relief. More of that another day - my efforts are nearly finished and when they are I'll let you know but in the meantime you could head over to visit Mac, Maisie, Blossom and Poppy's very own blog and see some of the other goodies the four cheeky friends have been given already!

25 comments:

  1. Gaaaarrrrrggghh I love that wee birdie cottage. You are one clever missus. Love it. Happy weekend Ax

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  2. What a wonderful hobby to have! I love what you have created - and the story behind it too.

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  3. Val, your weaving is wonderful and if I were a birdie I'd move straight into that des res! You should definitely twine, rand and wale a lot more!

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  4. Look at you!!!!

    I knew you'd done it before ;-)

    C xx

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  5. What a wonderful hobby to have, enjoy your re-discovery.

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  6. I've never tried this but have watched other people at craft fairs. It always looks simple but I know it's not. You have made such wonderful things. Glad you have discovered your hobby again. Enjoy.
    Rosezeeta

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  7. Love it! : ) If I have one rule in life, it's you can NEVER have too many baskets. Beautiful work! I hope we get to see lots more.

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  8. I'm so pleased you are reunited with your weaving, I've always thought that a special talent and I imagine making something teeny tiny will be a complete joy. I didn't know you lived in the States either .. ooh err, the things you learn :)

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  9. Oh my, those are talented fingers ... and I've seen the mini thing :D I always wanted to make baskets, having grown up on the Somerset Levels where the willows and reeds grow, but somehow never got around to it.

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  10. Well done! The bird house is charming :)

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  11. Right, that's it! I AM booking a workshop with you! I'm going to pin you down in a patchwork chair until you agree ;-) xx

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  12. Not that is an interesting hobby. Love the little bird house :)

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  13. Well done, your weaving is gorgeous. I once went to an evening class and made an obelisk to go in the flower border and to my amazement it actually stood up. I look forward to seeing the work made by your nimble fingers.

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  14. What loveliness! Thanks for sharing it with us all. I particularly like the bird house and the obelisk.

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  15. I went on a willow wigwam workshop last weekend and found it totally absorbing..... My effort was huge and wonky and i had trouble fitting it in my car but i am soooooo proud of it. I want to fill the garden with lots of them to support the sweet peas i plan to grow this year....

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    1. Oh, you must weave lots and show us pictures!

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  16. Your weaving is beautiful. I can't wait to see what you make for the dolls -- they're getting so many beautiful and creative things over there!

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  17. Val you just keep coming out with amazing skills! Your basket weaving is very impressive! I love that bird house :o) xx

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  18. Oh well done. You are one skilful blogger. About a hundred years ago when I was a little girl I was given a basket making kit (seem to remember plastic rather than willow was involved). My little baskets looked nothing like the pictures on the box lid.

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  19. Those are absolutely gorgeous, I love the garden obelisks and that little birdhouse is fab - no issues from where I'm looking! x

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  20. Beautiful. I took a basket weaving course in college, thinking it would be something I would continue, but sadly weaving and I didn't mesh as well as I thought we would! Still, I graduated with an armful of baskets, one of which still holds all our cloth napkins... Where are the others?
    Also I truly was surprised how wet I got while weaving!

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  21. ooooh I adore your weaving!

    I'd love to be able to weave baskets... I wonder if there is a course somewhere near me that I could do one day, when the kids are bigger. I kind of like the idea of being an old lady weaver!

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  22. why haven't I visited your blog recently???? why???? it was lovely to see you yesterday and now all the weaving talk makes much more sense! Doh.

    I would love to learn to weave willows... I am slightly obsessed with baskets too you see...

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