Random weave basketry with Polly Pollock

After the talk I went to on Japanese baskets I became interested in what I now know is called the random style of weaving. So I jumped at the chance to attend a short course on random weave basketry with Polly Pollock at City Lit.

The course runs for one evening a week over four weeks, so it’s a fairly speedy canter. But Polly provides good handouts of techniques, plus sources of suppliers and further sources of inspiration.

We started by making a cane basket – Polly brought some samples to show us what we were aiming for.

polly pollock cane samples

First we made moulds around which the pieces are woven. Obviously they need to be removable once the weaving is finished! We made ours by putting rice into thin plastic bags, moulding them with clingfilm and then firming up with sellotape. The mould needs to be very solid to keep the weave firm.

mould for random weave basket

Then it was on to the weaving. The cane was soaked in hot water for a couple of minutes to make it flexible, and we had to keep it moist with a damp sponge while working with it.

We marked the opening on the sellotape to remind us not to weave over it. Then we started on the first layer, keeping it in place with bits of masking tape, which were peeled off later.

random weave first layer

Polly explained the importance of interlocking triangles to ensure that the piece didn’t unravel when we removed the mould. Reassuringly, she said that this had never happened yet in her class!

We didn’t manage to finish the pieces in class, so we took them home and then brought them back the following week to remove the moulds.

This was done by jabbing a metal fid (you can also use a potato peeler or scissors) through the plastic to create a hole through which we poured out the rice. Then we cut up the plastic with scissors and pulled it out with tweezers.

removing mould

And here’s my first finished piece.

cane random weave

Because we finally had nice weather at the weekend we did a lot of work in the garden. We trimmed back a lot of ivy, so I decided to try making another piece using the ivy stems – waste not want not! 🙂

I had more difficulty removing the mould from this one, as I didn’t leave an opening. But with persistence and some nifty tweezer work I finally succeeded!

Here’s the result:

ivy random weave ivy random weave

You can see from the photos that bend at angles rather than curving smoothly – maybe I should have soaked the stems first to try to increase flexibility. But I like the irregularity of the different thicknesses of the stems.

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Flextiles

Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

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