Tuesday, 8 January 2013


It's been a pretty 'dreak' wintertime here in London.  That's my thrifty Scottish gardening friend's way of saying dark, dreary and bleak - but why use three words when just one will do!  A lot of  grey skies, rainy days and sodden ground.  Not great for gardening but perfect for a winter basketry project!  One to brighten the gloom and lift the spirits.  What I long for at this time of year is a bit of flower power.

I need as much vibrant colour in my life as I can get so I'm taking inspiration from some of my favourite planting combinations from sunnier days.  I love the way nature mixes it all up sometimes.  No such thing as clashing colours - just a joyful free-for-all.  These opium poppies came up unbidden amongst the stately golden Verbascums in a newly dug flower bed.  You couldn't plan it better - the cool glaucous greens and silvery greys of the poppy and verbascum foliage are a perfect foil for the riot of purples, pinks, magentas, reds and yellows.

It's almost a text book tutorial in complementary colours - in other words the way that the three primary colours red, yellow and blue tend to associate well with the three secondary colours green, purple and orange: i.e. red with green, purple with yellow, blue with orange.  Of course that's the theory and not everyone may agree in practise.  But just look at the way the pale greeny-yellow poppy seed head is off-set by the deep magenta-purple stain at the base of the petals - stunning!. 

This wild flower nectar bar is a pastoral symphony of soft pastels with pink corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and steely blue viper's bugloss (Echiums).  Fo me that golden Californian Poppy just peps the whole thing up a bit.

Though dreamy pastels from the cutting garden can also combine well against their own deep green foliage.

One bleak January my cousin and I went to Madeira where we almost overdosed on exotic blooms.

The local willow wild life was pretty exotic too! if not quite what I had in mind for a winter project.
Though I did have a go at making willow reindeer at the Hertfordshire Basketry Xmas workshop.  That's mine on the far left, the one with the big ears.  They are each made from a single willow rod and based on similar animal stick figures found in caves in the US dating back 5000 years.  Nice to know our ancient ancestors occasionally got time off from hunting and gathering for a spot of crafting.
Covered core coiling in 'figure of eight' stitch illustrated in 'Practical Basketry Techniques' by Stella Harding and Shane Waltener, A&C Black 2012
What I had in mind was the colourful coiling project from 'Practical Basketry Techniques'.  Covered core coiling such as this can be time consuming but that's perfect for long winter evenings. It's simple to pick up and put down whenever you've a spare moment and a good way of using up odds and ends of yarn.
It has proved a popular project with readers too.  Here's an image of her coiled basket sent to me by Celia Darbyshire.  Her colour palette was inspired by a particularly beautiful dawn sky.  She has a lovely blog too!
So I'm off to my stash of tapestry wools to begin coiling my next flower inspired coiled basket. 
The cutting garden at Restoration House, Rochester UK
Orange Tulipa Ballerina at Great Dixter, UK - they actually smell of fresh oranges!
Can't decide.  Tulips from posh borders?
Or wild flowers from a derelict council estate?
If you're inspired to try some basketry projects please follow the link on the home page of my website for details of my latest programme of BASKETRY WORKSHOPS www.stellaharding.co.uk

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