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Exploring Twined Structures with the Northumbrian Basketmakers

Following the excellent long weekend with the Scottish Basketmakers' Circle at Kindrogan near Pitlochry I was delighted to be invited to come and teach for the Northumbrian Basketry Group in Hepple. Whisked south (thankyou Anna!) I arrived a day early in Coquetdale and was very happy to have a day wandering the countryside on a gorgeous sunny day and revisiting places I visited in my childhood. It was a pleasure to find many plants familiar to my childhood botanising such as Purple Moor Grass, Bog Myrtle, Ling Heather and Hair Moss that have now become special to me as materials for making.

Above: Hair Moss (Polytrichum commune) on the edge of the Otterburn ranges.

The lovely old Hepple village hall - originally the primary school - provided an excellent and warm venue for teaching and making. Using two varieties of rush ( chair seating and salt) bought in for the workshop and a selection of other local and garden materials we explored different twining structures that give strength, texture and different making speeds. Defined as a weaving technique with two or more weavers travelling along together and twisting as they go locking in stakes, the twining family is very diverse with numerous variations from worldwide traditions.

Working with a special 3 part mould  we started with plain twining then moved on to further variations including alternate pair twining, chain pairing and the very attractive but long named 'chased - countered- alternate pair twining'. As the 10 participants got their fingers and minds around the different weave structures we were thoughtfully kept in good shape with a steady supply of tea, biscuits and cakes and a great atmosphere of group learning.

I ended the two day workshop with a demonstration of two variations of handles or straps that can be added to rush baskets depending on how they are to be used. Many thanks to everyone who made the workshop possible especially Charlotte Boxall who ran the event so well.

Above: Deer Sedge (Trichophorum cespitosum) at Holystone Burn Nature Reserve.

Below: Birch and Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea) in Coquetdale.

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