First Base complete

On reaching First Base in a new craft

One of my crafting ambitions of 2014 is to learn basketmaking. As my main interest is working in hedgerow materials I’ve been avidly studying a very useful book I discovered by Georgia Crook, a professional basketmaker and tutor in Scotland. The book is simply entitled “Basketmaking” but its focus is on using hedgerow materials as well as giving a clear and practical introduction to the basics of this ancient craft.

So far I have been practising some of the real basics – such as cutting slypes and making slaths. If you are thinking I’ve started talking a different language, to an extent you are right. One thing I quickly learned was that it is important to get to grips with the correct terminology in this craft. A slype is an angled point cut with a knife on the end of a rod of willow or other basket material. A slath is the neat cross-over of sticks that make the centre of a basket base.

Slath for First Base
A slightly shaky version of my slath – with two slypes in the near foreground

Today I moved on from slath-making and started weaving, or pairing to be precise. Pairing is the the type of initial weaving that holds the slath sticks in place.

Pairing weaving in progress around the slath
Pairing weaving in progress around the slath

I finished up with a relatively round basket base 15cm (6 inches) wide, though I did learn a few things along the way. I learned that the first pairing weavers need to be really quite thin to make working neatly possible and that my ready-cut oddments of green willow are reaching the point of needing soaking before they are going to be workable.

I also learned that basketmaking is an ideal craft for a chilly day – it certainly kept me warm as I worked my slightly-too-chunky weavers around the slath.

First Base complete
My completed First Base

I was fairly pleased with my first attempt at a basket base and I am now inspired to try my hand at the the next stage, the “upsett” – I’m sure that will be another story.

J Peggy Taylor

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5 thoughts on “On reaching First Base in a new craft

  1. Hey, congratulations! Looks like a solid base – I look forward to reading the next chapter of this story:-) I’ve been thinking about learning traditional bookbinding this year, because I write myself, so I’d love to make my own books.

    1. ahh bookbinding! That takes me back a bit! I used to be a librarian in the dim and distant past and the library service had its own bindery. I only have to think of bookbinding to recall the smell in the bindery room … leather and fish glue 🙂 It is a fascinating craft. I love well-bound books.

  2. I think that is so cool that your learning basket weaving. I always wanted to try it and they have classes at the fiber shows, but I don’t think they go into all of the (foreign) basket language . Good for you for diving in and diving deep.

    1. I really like working with natural materials, so baskets were something I’ve been wanting to try my hand at for some time. I’m finding the book I mention in the post really useful and very clear … including good images to explain the new terminology 😉 I hope you find the chance to try basket making soon too 🙂

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