I love a good craft workshop and at my age, they’re few and far between. I remember going through a stage when I was about 14 of just desperately wanting to be retired so I could spend my days doing all the time-consuming and lovely crafts that so many older people do. Woodcraft, beading, knitting tea cosies, learning violin tunes… I wanted it all. I soon got busy with homework and figured I’d better put some of these activities off until later life and go get a career and stuff.
So I was very excited when a friend recently organised a basket-weaving workshop at her gorgeous country retreat in the mountains. Basket-making has long been a crafty fantasy of mine – I can date my dream to make a basket back at least to a Northern Territory trip when I was a teenager and we saw Aboriginal women sitting in the street making beautiful and complicated baskets.
A group of us were visiting for my best friend’s dad and my former neighbour’s art exhibition (check out Michael Ashby’s art) The day after the exhibition opening we all sprawled out on the lush grass in the sunshine and had a go at creating baskets out of a plant called flax which they had growing in their garden.
Basically we started by weaving the flax leaves in and out of each other (it’s important to have an even number). We used pegs and string to keep the strands in place.
Then, the part I was least expecting, we had to bring the sides up by systematically overlapping each strand into the next – but the corners become the sides and the sides become the corners, if that makes sense, creating a diagonal cross pattern on the finished basket.
Finishing it off took more time than expected. It was slightly confusing when you got going – keeping up with so many strands of flax all going in different directions. We had to tame each piece, fold it over at the top, chop it and weave it back through the basket for a fine finish.
I can see why Sue was adamant we kept our baskets as tight as possible. Just a couple of weeks later when mine had dried out a little, fairly large holes have emerged between the pieces. I think they look great!
I love the fact that it’s possible to just pick a few hunks of a plant from the garden and create a beautiful and practical basket. We wanted to dig some out and plant it at our place but ran out of time and decided to make that a project for next time!