Saturday, 26 May 2012

you are what you weave

interlaced willow, brambles and flowers on lattice base

I was very lucky earlier this week to be able to mix my interest in weaving with gardening and foraging, when I took a group of university students to Stave Hill, an ecological park close to the river in South East London.  I knew they’d be wowed by the park, and its spectacular 360’ panoramic view of London.

twined  blackthorn, willow and dogwood

We came with as little as a cutting tool and some twine, then proceeded to source materials to weave with from plants around us, using the park as a studio for the day. The great thing about ecological gardens is that they are man made and so designed to sustain human intervention, unlike nature reserves.  At the right time of year, with permission from gardeners and site managers, they are a fantastic place to source materials to work with.  It is well into spring here in the UK and is nesting season too, so not particularly the best time to forage.  Mid summer or early autumn would be better when brambles and bindweed desperately need cutting back. We nevertheless found plenty of plants to work with – apple and cherry suckers, dogwood, willow, hops, creeping roses...  A good number of species we found were edible too, as well as being good to weave with, such as alexanders, angelica, nettles, goosegrass and garlic mustard. 


goosegrass (or cleavers)

alexanders stems with cordage and twined basket (bindweed and willow)

So we twined the sunny afternoon away, and then collected some more materials for supper.  On hindsight, we might have saved ourselves time and effort by making a basket entirely from edible materials which could later be dropped into a pot of boiling stock, and then hey presto, soup’s made!  That is a sure recipe for my next book, and it also leaves me wondering, is this the reason basketry instructions are traditionally called ‘recipes’?

twined blackthorn, dogwood, and willow

stripped willow and bark

willow, day lilies and bindweed

our materials

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