The summer holidays are always a busy time for Sylvan Skills. It is usually good weather for outdoor activities and people have time to enjoy their gardens, improve their outside spaces and learn new skills. This year we also taught a series of willow weaving workshops in Chopwell as part of the Well Newcastle Gateshead community arts project. Organised by Atypical Support CIC and funded by Bluestone, the Isolation Buster event was designed to allow members of the local community to interact safely whilst learning new skills from neuro diverse teachers. Besides the willow weaving session people could attend photography, carpenter or sewing workshops.


willow weaving workshops
willow weaving workshops

Willow weaving workshops take place outside…

There was a big interest in the Isolation Buster sessions, especially after the trying times of the pandemic which made many feel isolated and insecure about social interactions. The willow weaving workshops took place outside and provided an airy gazebo for overhead protection in case of rain. During the willow weaving classes Ruth taught the participants how to make obelisks, woven panels, birdfeeders, baskets, and other small decorative items. Each session lasted for two hours and provided room for ten participants. They got a chance to interact in a safe outside space, learnt a new skill and could take their creations home with them.

After having spent a lot of time on their own or in a social bubble everybody enjoyed meeting new people and making new acquaintances. The workshop provided plenty of opportunities to have a chat. It was especially pleasing that quite a few people on the spectrum attended, were able to contribute and be heard. Some participants even came up with new designs of their own.

willow weaving workshops

Guiding through the weaving process…

At the beginning of each session a straightforward introduction set a starting point. Ruth then guided through the weaving process step by step, making sure everybody could keep up. During the two-hour session the participants were facing new challenges, learnt a satisfactory skill and created objects to be proud of. The results were great to look at, motivated people to try out new things and improved their confidence.

This film was made by Chris Bradburn of Bradburn films

This video was made during a workshop  organised by Atypical Support CIC, funded by bluestone collaborative
as part of their Well Newcastle Gateshead community Arts projects.

Workshops are a rewarding experience both for the participants and the teachers. It was great to see how enthusiastic people were, some even asking for more willow to recreate the item when they got home as they were enjoying the process of willow weaving so much.

Participants worked with soaked basket willow and some green willow such as the uprights for the obelisks, occasionally cable ties helped keeping things in place. All natural materials were locally sourced and provided by Sylvan Skills.

If you are interested in organising a willow weaving workshop for Ruth to teach at please get in touch.

Read some of the feedbacks from our workshop participants:

“Getting so much more than willow weaving: networking, new skills, opportunities etc.”

“These sessions have been well organised, and it’s been fun to attend and meet like-minded people.”

“Excellent group activity. Really enjoyed activity and meeting people.”

“Yet again a great morning. Lovely folk, great atmosphere.”

“Ruth was an excellent instructor and facilitator.”

“Loved this session making a basket, instruction was great. Help at all times and plenty of materials provided.”

“Loved doing these sessions, would highly recommend!”

“Relaxed and friendly group. Enjoyed learning a new skill and meeting other local people.”

“Excellent tutor. Really enjoyed meeting people I have seen around and wanted to talk to!”

“A nice, friendly outdoor group session. A great way to get people together as well as learning a new skill.”

“Very well organised. Excellent support and help on the day.”

“Excellent guidance and support by hosts. Really enjoyed having a laugh.”

“Lovely session with lots of help and crafts to take home.”

“Fabulous morning. Lovely people. Made to feel very welcome.”

“Ruth has been a great help and given gentle and constant guidance throughout the session. Really enjoyed meeting people locally!”

“Myself and my nephew have had a lovely morning and learnt something new with lots of support. Thank you.”