Saturday, 30 April 2011

Woven platter tutorial

You may remember that a week or two back I made a woven platter out of ash twigs from the garden:

It's a great little platter. It's about 8" across and obviously not much use for anything soggy but we've used ours for serving bread rolls and fairy cakes, and it looks lovely on our dresser the rest of the time. When I made it I wasn't so sure about having used string to wrap the outer ring, or at least only using it partially. I do quite like consistency so once it was done I wished I'd either wrapped it all the way round or used a longer stick initially so it could be secure enough just by twisting it around itself multiple times.

I've had quite a bit of positive feedback from people who have seen it, so given that I haven't seen a tutorial on how to make something like this before I thought it might be a good one to try as my first one. :)

To start, you need a good bundle of sticks. We recently took down a section of old mixed hedge so I had several felled trees to pick over. You're looking for sticks that are relatively uniform in size and have some flexibility to them - they will need to bend! I used mostly ash, but hazel or willow would be good choices too. They also need to be as straight as possible, but some curve is OK.

Then, take your longest, most flexible stick. Having already taken the best ones for my first dish I had less to choose from this time but I did find a nice rod of hazel that was just under 5' long. Work the wood in your hands, curving it round. When you've curved it enough to make a full circle start wrapping the thinner end of the stick around the thicker end and keep wrapping until you're out of stick, twisting it around itself. As long as you have enough length to get  over half way round your circle it should be secure enough to remain in shape on its own. You can experiment with the size of your circle too, to get more or less extra twists. My circle was about 9" across.

Next, go through the rest of your sticks and cut them down into lengths a couple of inches more than the diameter of your circle. You don't need to be too precise here, but better to go too long than too short. If you have the choice, cut each stick so that your lengths are as straight as possible.

Now pick out two of the thicker, sturdier sticks. These will be your anchor sticks. Lie one of them on top of your circle across its centre. Take your second stick and lie it on top of your first and at 90 degrees to it, then carefully post each end of the stick underneath the ring. You may need to fiddle a little with this. I found that it was easiest to do one side leaving just enough stick at the other side to touch but not cross the ring. Then I pushed the stick underneath the ring and threaded it through a little way to secure it. I had to do a little evening up afterwards, but once you have both sticks in position the pressure they exert on each other and the outer ring should keep them in place well enough.

Now have a look at your structure. This is the point when you decide which direction you're going to weave in. It doesn't actually matter which way you choose but both times I've done this I've found that one way has felt instinctively right. That might just be me though. Once you've decided, take another stick and thread it into your ring so that it crosses the outer ring and the perpendicular anchor stick the opposite way to the first - so if the one you thread it next to went over the outer ring, under the anchor stick and then over the outer ring this next stick needs to go under the outer ring, over the anchor stick and under the ring again. Once you've done a few you'll start to see it take shape.

I found that I got so far and then all the sticks I had left to thread were too curved to give any resistance once put in place - they'd just have fallen right out again - so I had to take a break to go and hunt for more sticks. It took some wading through nettles to the felled trees that had been piled there but I got some in the end. This was a lesson, or two. One - get lots of sticks to start with and two, don't bother with any that have anything more than a very slight curve to them. The un-threaded ones above were all too curved for me to use and get them to stay in place.

Assuming you have enough suitable sticks, keep going until you can't fit any more in. Then your creation should look something like this:

Then take a pair of secateurs and trim all the ends off, leaving about a quarter inch overlap to ensure they stay in place even if there is some slight movement to their positioning. I really enjoy this part - your creation immediately transforms from a strange bundle of woven sticks into quite a sophisticated-looking platter!

Now you can sit back and admire your handiwork. And eat cake off it, should you feel so inclined.

Having made this one for the tutorial, I wasn't as pleased with it as I had been my original one. I think it was a combination of having chosen not to wrap the ring, resulting in an outer edge that was a little uneven by the time I'd woven all the sticks through it, and having a less uniform bunch of sticks to work with. If you compare the two platters, the first looks neater due to all the sticks being much more similar in size:

I like them both though. I think next time I'll try wrapping all the way round, but I might have to wait until next winter when the next lot of felling is done. I'm all out of ash sticks...

Linked up in the very lovely Not Just a House Wife's blog in Show Me What Ya Got #24. Why not pop over and check out the other great ideas there?

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