Basketmaking, chair seating and willow work

Ply-splitting – tradition and innovation with Tim Johnson

Ref: S4D09357

Suitable for all

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2 places available

About this course

Ply-split braiding offers many creative possibilities and strong woven structures. Traditionally used for animal regalia, footwear and baskets, you will make your own cordage from natural materials to learn techniques to create bags, baskets and fibre art.

Course Description

Learn ply-splitting techniques to create bags, baskets and fibre art, after making your own cordage from natural materials. The basis of the technique is when ropes, strings and cords made up of two or more elements are divided and another element passed through, a very simple and useful weaving structure is made. When this process is repeated with many ropes or strings a whole world of textile creativity opens up. These techniques of ply-split darning and ply-split braiding make very strong woven structures used extensively for animal regalia, footwear, bags and baskets. This family of techniques went unnoticed by textile artists in the west until the 1980s when it was researched and popularised by the master weaver Peter Collingwood. Ply-Split Braiding is largely associated with camel regalia in Rajasthan while Ply-Split Darning is more widespread from Nepal to South Africa, Spain to Mexico.

You will learn a variety of string making techniques with soft plant materials including rush, esparto and cyperus. These strings will then be used in a variety of traditional and contemporary ply-splitting projects to make bags, baskets and fibre art pieces.

During the course you will:

• Make by hand two- and three- ply cordage in several techniques

• Learn how to identify, harvest and process native plant fibres

• Learn how to add colour and strength to your cordage with recycled fabric

• Look at a variety of traditional objects from Tim's textile and basketry collection

• Learn traditional ply-splitting projects from Spain and South Africa

• Make bags or baskets of your own design

• Explore experimental approaches to ply-splitting for wall pieces, openwork meshes and three-dimensional forms.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Rush supplied for the course by the College, alongside some other materials to try supplied by the tutor.

What students need to bring

  • Tools: If you have basketmaking tools please bring them along. You may find the following useful - don't worry if you don't have all of these.
  • Pocket knife
  • Scissors
  • Water mister
  • Cloth or towel for covering work to keep it damp.
  • Rush threader
  • Large sacking needle
  • Materials: The tutor will provide a variety of materials - however you may like to bring along additional materials of your own:
  • A variety of strings / cordage may be useful in combination with natural materials
  • We will have a variety of plant materials for your use - however if you have your own gathered soft plant materials that you would like to learn how to use, do bring them along.
  • It is essential to wear covered footwear in the workshop.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Upholstery needles available
  • Drawing compass
  • Available from tutor:
  • Some additional plant material, strings, fabric etc. will be available for purchase if needed; cost approximately £10 per person should be paid to the tutor by cash or cheque during the course.

Student review

"The teaching was excellent, Tim is generous with his knowledge and very inspiring!"

Sinead, 2019


Tim Johnson

Over the past 25 years, artist and basketmaker Tim Johnson has explored the relationships of material, place, nature and culture. His diverse creative practice encompasses basketmaking and performance, photography and painting, sculpture and installation, textiles and costume, his work has been exhibited internationally.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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