Woeful Willow Tale

I’m not terribly good at making things.  Well, Goldilocks thinks I’m good at making pizzas and The Man from Salford thinks I’m good at making a mess, but aside from these dubious talents most of my efforts at home crafts have not been incredibly successful.  Possibly I just lack the necessary desire to want to do hairy knitting,  laborious quilting or make jolly little rag rugs.  Laudable (and sustainable)  though all these pursuits are.   But one thing I have wanted to do for quite some time  now is to take up willow weaving. 

I love willow trees.  I love pussy willow buds in spring, I like watching bees buzzing among the catkins, I love their timeless presence in our lives here.  Willow is a fantastic, sustainable resource.  It grows in our wet climate effortlessly and barely needs encouragement.  It is the ultimate ‘cut and come again’ crop.    The slender, flexible stems can be used to create both beautiful and useful structures.  And when they’ve passed usefulness they can be harmlessly composted. 

Last week I finally plucked up the courage to attend a willow weaving workshop.  It was a really good day out.  Janet the course instructor kept us fuelled up with all manner of home produced and home baked goodies and patiently shared her craft with us.  We all had a good laugh mocking our pitifully wonky creations.

We made bean and flower wigwam supports to start with.  I was quite pleased with mine, I thought it looked as good as anything you could buy in a garden centre and there were no cheating pins or tacks used.  Then we moved on to circular structures.  When I got mine home The Man from Salford laughed mercilessly at my efforts.

rustic charm at the sustainable living project ’It’s rustic charm,’ I told him.  ’If this house acquires any more rustic charm it will fall apart,’ he replied with an unbecoming grin.   However, I remained unpeturbed and was determined to continue with my new found craft.  All the way home I greedily eyed up the hedgerow for suitable materials, carefully noting any willows that appeared to have good serviceable stems.

What a great day I’d had.  Then the itching started, followed by an angry rash of weals all over my arms, legs and torso.  These appeared in new crops for five days, until I finally visited the health clinic to beg for anti-histamines.  I’ve never been allergic to anything in my life.  It is true that willow has a high salicylate content, but I’ve never had an allergic reaction to aspirin before.  I am slightly gutted to say the least! 

I will have another go at the willow, maybe wearing gloves as an extra precaution, but if it happens again I will have to turn my attentions to the weaving properties of hazel and dogwood.  Plenty of that out in the hedgerow, so all is not lost yet! 

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