Highland Hairmoss Basket
I am, to misquote Madonna, “a materials girl”: I develop obsessions with particular basketry materials, anything from corsetry boning to black willow to elastic. For this piece, I used a plant that grows abundantly here on the west coast of Scotland: hairmoss (Polytrichum commune).
I was intrigued by a “Basket from Hair Moss (England)” in the Kew Gardens Economic Botany Collection collection, a bowl-like basket of plaited hairmoss, with visible stitching. It was simple and robust. I also discovered that the archaeological record includes a hairmoss plait discovered in Ayrshire that dates from 585–630 AD.
At home in Applecross, I pulled up a few handfuls of hairmoss from alongside a nearby burn and tried plaiting it. I found that making a simple 3-element plait, constantly adding new strands of hairmoss, you could keep the green on one side (looking a little like Astro Turf!), while the other side of the plait resembled tweed.
It takes many hours of plaiting to create enough to make even a fairly small basket, and stitching the plaits together is another time-consuming business. I made a mould to work on, and created a small biodegradable handbag of hairmoss and linen.
“Highland Hairmoss Basket”, won third prize in the Basketmakers’ Best Basketry 2017 competition.