rushes are round

Grass, rushes, reeds, sedges… what’s the difference? A traditional rhyme can help distinguish and identify:

“Sedges have edges,

Rushes are round,

Grasses have knees that bend down to the ground”

After Kindrogan, Tim Johnson came to Northumberland on his way south and had a couple of days with the Northumbria Basketry Group. His account of the workshop is here:

These examples used mainly rush, with other assorted local materials.

rush tool pouch
rush working tools
rush bag (graciously modelled by Black Cat)

many new adventures…

… waiting to be told!

Serious work, string making. Photo credit: Tim Johnson

Here’s a taste of the weekend at Kindrogan with the Scottish Basketmakers’  Circle. October is a beautiful time to be in Scotland, and the trees (and red squirrels)  were in full glorious colour. Days were chilly but dry, so we were able to spend a lot of time working outdoors. I had the chance to work with Tim Johnson once again, a great opportunity to consolidate some of the things I had learnt in the summer, as well as to experiment with new skills. Here he is demonstrating how to prepare soft rush (Juncus effusus). This is a quite magical transformation, changing a stiff, pithy rush into something that resembles hair: the flowing tresses of a mermaid perhaps. What is even more exciting is that there are absolutely armfuls of this plant waiting to be gathered from the moors just across the road from home.

1st step: beating the freshly gathered rushes
Combing to remove pith
Soft bundles ready for use – for string making, using in basket-ty constructions. Or for a mermaid’s headress

You can read Tim’s own account of the weekend here:

west dean summer school

Not long back from a summer school at West Dean in Sussex, with the inspirational Tim Johnson, artist and basket maker.You can read more about Tim and see his work on his website

The course was called ‘fibre art and basketry’ and was an opportunity to learn new techniques for making and using string. So I have now mastered the Danish ‘palm rolling’ technique, alongside Scottish twisting and a leg rolling method used in Papua New Guinea, amongst other places…

The sun shone, the gardens were in full flower, and it was a great week spent exploring new materials and techniques with a group of people all similarly entranced by making string!

2016-07-27 15.43.37
basket from combed rush using looping method
west dean house
West Dean college



3000 year old rope

The archeological site at Must Farm has found a piece of rope, over 3000 years old. The material it is made of is as yet unknown.

This is a very rough working shot but we wanted to share our very exciting start to the day. We’ve found that one of our large oak causeway posts that pre-date the settlement still has a preserved section of rope attached. It is in surprisingly good condition given that it probably dates from between 1290 – 1250BC! The rope is tied around the post roughly halfway down its length, suggesting it was still attached when the post was driven into the sediment. We are hoping that it might be threaded through a carved hole on the side we have yet to excavate.

see more here:

summer solstice

2016-06-12 14.37.13A glimpse of what I have been up to over winter, building a shelter in the woods. Mainly willow and birch, with some honeysuckle encouraged to join in. Perfectly orientated for watching the sunset.

Bronze age textile fragments

Very exciting evidence from excavations at Must Farm, near Peterborough:

During the 2006 evaluation of the site we discovered several pieces including one particularly large fragment that had been folded. After these were examined by specialists it emerged that they were made from plant fibres, most likely from lime trees. This was especially surprising as there is a fairly common assumption that most archaeological textiles would have been made using animal fibres, such as wool.

for more info about this and  additional textile finds go to