Norah Kennedy believes everyone has a basket inside them. 'I haven't met anyone who couldn't weave one,' she says. I called her bluff. And lost
Saturday 09 September 1995
Basket-making has its own rich vocabulary. I soon learnt about waling and randing and slewing; that reeds that snapped were "unkind" and that the process of inserting uprights into the frame was known as "upsetting". Some of the language was frankly anatomical. Sticks have bellies; baskets have foots (not feet); and when Norah reminded us to place "butt to butt" I wondered what I had let myself in for.
"I haven't yet met anyone who couldn't make a basket," Norah began encouragingly, which to me was something of a challenge. I was one of only two beginners, and the other was an artist, so I was the only likely candidate. My lack of manual dexterity is such that I was sure I could prove her wrong - but by the end of the day I had been converted. Five hours was all it took to create an attractive fruit bowl and I had not only started but also finished with a broad smile.
I was one of a small group taking a three-day basket- making course at the Kingcombe Centre in west Dorset, where a variety of walking, environmental and crafts-based holidays are held. The centre is on the Kingcombe Estate, which was once a busy farming community and is now owned by the Dorset Trust for Nature Conservation.
Modern farming methods were never used on much of the land, with the result that rare flowers, lichens, fungi and butterflies thrive there. Guided walks around the grounds made a pleasant diversion during our stay.
As the days went by, the barn was taken over by huge spiders' webs of willow as every kind of basket imaginable took shape - apple baskets, clothes baskets, shopping baskets, a cheese platter. Michael, a retired priest, was working on a "Welsh tea-things basket" with a central funnel for teaspoons and a surrounding shelf for plates and cups.
The smell of boiled tannin permeated the air and willow stalks littered the floor as Norah moved from table to table offering advice. She used to be a cowherd in Iceland but now makes baskets from her home in Gloucestershire. It's not simply a job - it's a passion. Throughout the three days she managed to give each of us just the right amount of time and praise. Her enthusiasm is clearly infectious - most of the basket-weavers were here for the second or third time.
I was not sure that I would take to basket-making, but now I would recommend it to anybody. It was relaxing, therapeutic and totally green: all that we used were simple tools (no machines) and our own hands. I got a real satisfaction in looking at the finished product and realising with some surprise that it was my own creation.
"Isn't that lovely?" said a woman on the train home as she admired my new laundry basket. "I made it myself," I said.
The Kingcombe Centre, Toller Porcorum, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 OEQ (01300 320684). The next willow basket-making course runs from 31 October to 2 November 1995. The cost is from pounds 90 plus pounds 10 for materials. For details of basket-making courses elsewhere, contact Ann Brooks (secretary of the Basketmakers Association), Pond Cottage, North Road, Chesham Bois, Bucks HP6 5NA (01494 726189)
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 Google April Fools': company unveils backwards search engine and huggable digital assistant
- 5 April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
University of Cambridge: Remains of 1,300 scholars are found under building
April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
April Fools' Day 2015 live: The best pranks and fake stories from around the world
Turkey power cut: Prime Minister says nationwide blackout could be caused by terrorists
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...
£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...
£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...