The Wonder of Weaving

Seeing as I am currently immersed in weaving for my OCA course, and think about little else at the moment, yesterday I attended a basket weaving one day workshop.

Entitled ‘The Basics of Basket Weaving’, with Meri Peach as the tutor, we concentrated on creating a coiled basket with spiral stitch.  Although Meri uses a variety of materials to weave including mixed plant fibres, plastics, wire, foil, cabling, cling wrap, raffia, rattan cane and more we concentrated solely on plant fibres.

She had a wide range of finished samples (as per these two photos) and numerous books to show us with some truly stunning works displayed in them.  Her website shows many of her larger and more adventurous pieces.  However, we were content to gaze at the smaller, simpler and – we hoped – more achievable projects.

I didn’t do step by step photos as I was way too engrossed in what I was doing and determined to finish my small piece by the end of the day.

Meri brought a variety of plant fibres that had already been dried out for 3-6 weeks, resoaked ready for weaving and being kept damp by wrapping in wet towels.

I was very surprised how green everything still was even though it had been sitting drying for quite a while.  You can see from my basket here that the colours really are still very green and vibrant, where as her samples above have dried and lightened to lovely golden-yellow/greens.

As the fibres dry again over the coming days and weeks the basket will shrink a little, tighten up and become a bit more rigid as the fibres firm up, and the colours will lighten.

It was a terrific day and I learned a lot.  It was quite hard on the hands (and neck) as it is necessary to maintain tension on both the fibres and the waxed linen thread to keep the shaping and the firmness of the stitching.  With most creative pursuits it is the start point which is the challenge and this was no different but once we moved to turning a larger circumference it became a little easier and we were able to add different materials to create patterns – I use the word ‘pattern’ here quite loosely, perhaps I should say stripes instead.

Here are some of the finished baskets, all so different.  Even the coloured thread used to stitch them gives each one a very unique look.  I went with a coppery brown linen which I hoped would blend into my plant colouration but some of the others used bright red and yellow thread which has made more of a feature of the stitching.  This is probably not something that I would take up as a craft myself at home as there is quite a lot of preparation, I’m not the best authority on plant material and my hands and neck wouldn’t stand up to repeatedly working in this manner but I would attend another workshop because it was very enjoyable and the results ………. well, my end result can at least be vaguely recognised as a  basket.

I’m not sure the technique we used would strictly be classed as weaving but there is a definite vertical and horizontal aspect to the construction, a type of warp and weft I suppose.

Some materials we incorporated:
Muehlenbeckia Axillaris (Lignum)
Dianella Tasmanica (Flax Lily)
Lomandra Longifolia (Mat Rush)
Kniphofia Sp. (Red Hot Poker)
Raphia Sp. (Raffia)

Go to http://www.sharkchic.com.au/Basketry.html to view Meri’s work.

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About Claire B

A passionate embroiderer, a printmaker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I'm a perpetual student and love learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in Textiles 1: A Creative Approach, Workshops & Classes. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Wonder of Weaving

  1. Nola says:

    Meri does beautiful work, and I’ve seen her students’ work from a workshop, too, so I know the workshops are wonderful. Your basket is beautiful too! I love the colours you’ve used. I’ve always thought it might be hard on the hands – most basketry is. Just holding things in tension for long periods is hard, and the medium is not as malleable as cloth. I have gorgeous examples made by locals when we lived in Samoa – same technique but the tying medium is more plant matter – some kind of local palm fibre, I think. Basket weaving is such a big thing in that culture. If they had something to carry, they seemed to whip up a basket from a palm leaf in no time.

    • Claire B says:

      It has certainly given me a new appreciation of the time it takes to produce a vessel. It’s still damp this morning and smells like wet hay, not unpleasant. It is also getting softer as it dries. I know it will shrink a little but I’m still expecting it to stiffen more when it is fully dried out which probably won’t happen for weeks. I hope the shrinkage won’t affect my stitching.
      Next time I would do a finer, thinner core with many more wraps to height thereby enabling me to do smaller tighter stitching. Obviously, pressed for time, we worked baskets with quite a thick core and larger stitches than on Meri’s own work and, being the first time we had done this type of thing, we were aiming at getting a result in the day instead of struggling on alone after the class.

  2. fibresofbeing says:

    Your basket is beautiful! Lovely variation in colour. It will be interesting to see the change after it dries and lightens.

    • Claire B says:

      Meri told us about the drying effects of each plant fibre and a wide very floppy dark greenish one we used will end up quite yellow so it’s going to be very interesting. She also mentioned how we should be careful to store them out of the sun or they will continue to fade. I suppose that’s quite logical when you think of the degradation of dead plant material when it falls from a plant and lies decomposing on the garden bed.

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