Last month, I tired my hand at willow weaving. Beneath the weeping willow in Tottenham’s Chestnuts Park I joined local residents to help weave a series of round willow pods – their intended destination: the branches of the London plane trees which grace the park’s central path.
Fortunately for me, willow artist Angie Baker had already created the basic circular
frame of my pod. All I had to do was select moistened stems of green willow and
dogwood, massage them lightly to increase their suppleness, and then gently weave
them in and out and around and around the frame.
Weaving with pliable materials like willow is one of the oldest and most wide
spread handicrafts in the world. The oldest known baskets have been carbon-
dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, predating the earliest pottery.
Today, the practice is undergoing a revival and it’s not hard to see why. It’s
wonderfully relaxing yet sociable pastime, and while it takes a long time to get to
Angie’s standard, it’s relatively easy for a beginner to pick up the basics.
The willow/plane pods were the final part of a series of willow weaving projects that
have transformed a section of the park known as the Friends’ Garden this summer
and seen the creation of a willow den, hurdles, and a stag.
With each stem, my willow pod gained a layer of strength. The trick, according to
Angie, was to let the stem guide you to where it wanted to go and never to force it.
The trickiest part was to know when to stop weaving, as well as trying to keep the
pod in a relatively round shape.
The following day, the willow pods were suspended from the plane trees with a
cherry picker, and the following week I returned to Chestnuts Park to watch them
swaying in the breeze.
I can’t be sure, but I think mine is the wonky one.