We held a skep making day on the 1st February in Weymouth. There were about 15 of us there and I think we all came away with a lot more knowledge on how to make a skep and a started skep - or place mat!
Skep making is not a quick process. In fact it is a slow process - but a very satisfying process. Starting is the most difficult part and fortunately we were told how to start but given started skeps. When I say started what I mean is a straw disc about 2 inches across. (Using Imperial measure seems the best way to describe such an ancient art as skep making,)
Once we collected our starter we sat and steadily wove the new straw into the base and as we chatted and worked the skep gradually got larger. After about 5 hours we had all managed a good size skep base - or a place mat for the dining table!
It was a very enjoyable day and my thanks to Richard, Tony and Sally for their encouragement and help. Also my thanks to the cake and Rocky Road makers. A good supply of cake and coffee was very welcome.
And the end result. Well I ended up with a large place mat and the sides are starting to come up into a skep shape. Keen to finish our skeps we have now purchased more straw and lapping cane and all we need is more time. Hopefully there will not be any swarms before June and by then ......
For those who want to see what we did then here is a video. In the video he describes the tool as an awl but for us it was a "fid" and the cane used to the binding was 5mm lapping cane - flat on one side, round on the other. The materials can be bought from Somerset Willow Growers. We decided to collect the materials and drove up there. They were very helpful but this is a working farm and there may not be someone to serve you so best to ring ahead if you do want to collect. If you do go then I can recommend a trip to Coates English Willow at the same time There you can see what can be done with willow and there is good food there as well.