Willow Weaving Workshop at Baulcombes

Flourish sometimes invite specialist trainers to work with our groups, as a way for them to learn new skills and for us to use our natural resources - in this case Owena's willow.

Owena Lewis tells us about an excellent willow weaving session run by Sarah Lawrence at Baulcombes Barn

On Wednesday 28th September, four members of Bluebell House attended a willow weaving workshop run by Sarah Lawrence at Baulcombes Barn, Hamsey.

Sarah taught the group how to weave a Catalan tray. She introduced everyone to the willow baskets she had made and the Catalan trays. She spoke about the history of these willows, which she planted at Hamsey. One of the participants had actually cut the willows in February 2015, since when they had been stored in the stable.

I had soaked them in a water tank for ten days before the workshop. On the morning they were taken out of their ‘bath’ and laid out under a tarpaulin to stop them drying out.

As Sarah had prepared hoops for each person, they could start weaving immediately.

Starting was a little tricky as the willow struts across the hoops were hard to keep in place. When the participants had got the struts in place they were then able to weave their platter.

Sarah advised people to use the thinner pieces of willow as weavers, because they were easier to bend around the small structure.

While people were weaving Sarah told us various stories about willow.

She explained the meaning of ‘Sally Gardens’ being a willow bed.

She also told us about the dance ‘Strip the Willow’.

‘The cut willow rods were stood upright in a stream until their leaves started appearing - then the bark was looser and could be stripped off easily, producing the white willow rods needed for selling dairy produce.’

When the platter was finished, the ends of the willow were trimmed.

Sarah then showed us how to make a hoop by coiling the two willows around. One participant successfully made one in the last ten minutes! These hoops can be used to make more wreaths or Catalan platter.

Participants were introduced to some of the language associated with willow work.

Butt: the thick end of the willow

Tip: the thin end of the willow.

Taking out the Spite: easing the bend in the willow.

At break time there was a reluctance to leave the weaving!

Everyone seemed pleased with their efforts.