One thing I wasn’t told when I decided to go on a willow weaving course was quite how mucky your hands will get! Last July I went on a one day willow weaving workshop to make a willow pig (try saying that 3 times quickly!)
The workshop was run by a lovely lady called Leilah from a yurt in the garden of her home in Church Fenton near Tadcaster. Leilah runs DragonWillow – an environmentally minded business aiming to encourage people to try traditional crafts such as willow weaving and green woodwork.
I’m writing this post on a chilly March afternoon but casting my mind back to a warm and sunny July day…. A group of 8 of sat in the sunshine crafting our new porcine friends.
We started off with the basic foundations of our pigs – three hoops of different sizes to make the body and a smaller hoop which would eventually become the snout. The size and shape of the hoops, we were told, would determine the shape of our pigs. The bigger the hoop, the more portly our pigs would be.
Hoops made and first experiences of bending and curving willow into shapes under our belt. We then moved on to filling the pre-drilled holes in our wooden blocks with bunches of willow to construct the feet. Some careful bends and tying off under Leilahs guidance and we had the basic skeleton formed of our pigs.
Given the time constraints of working on a hot day with willow which needs to stay damp to be pliable we worked quickly under instruction. Therefore we didn’t really “learn” how to create willow structures – but we did all get to go home with a completed pig. Personally I liked this approach. It’s quite time and labour consuming to gather and process willow ready to weave it so this isn’t a craft to dip in and out of. You would have to commit some time and energy to prepare willow and then store it ready to use.
After a lunch break we got to work covering the willow skeletons with the long ends of willow which form each foot. Each strand had to be woven round to cover up gaps and “fill” the form. This took quite along time and with the end of the day looming, most o the group expressed concerns that we weren’t going to manage it. However Leilah is clearly a practised hand at these courses.
Woven ears added and attached. Then finally the feet were bound off by Leilah and our pigs were free to roam in the sunshine. Everyone finished by 4pm with pigs ready to take home (once rounded up from Leilah’s garden)
Details: The workshop was £60 which included all materials and light refreshments (I did need to take my lunch). Leilah runs a variety of willow weaving workshops, talks and demonstrations. She has a yurt for weaving on more inclement days. For more details please visit her website dragonwillow .
Master of this trade?: Definitely not. Willow weaving is reasonably intuitive once you get started. However we were all carefully guided in the process to ensure we all came out with successful structures. I don’t think this is something I could or would try to do at home. However I will definitely try to return to make another creation. Possibly a fat hen to confuse my girls at home or maybe a trug or basket.
Dorcus and her Friends enjoying the sunshine
Disclaimer: This is my own personal review of this course. I have no links or affiliations with Dragonwillow or with Leilah herself. I paid to attend the course and have received no payment for this review financial or in kind.