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.
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.
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.
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