Ply-split braided basketry – tradition and innovation with Tim Johnson

Ref: S4D32578

Book now

Places available

About this course

Traditionally used for animal harnesses, the passing of cords through cords offers many creative possibilities. You will make your own cordage with natural materials and learn ply-splitting techniques to create bags, baskets and fibre art or non-functional wall pieces.

Course Description

When ropes, strings and cords made up of two or more elements are divided and another element is 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. The 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.

In this workshop with artist and basketmaker Tim Johnson, 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 2 and 3 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

• 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 until 9pm, 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


  • The college will supply rush and the tutor will bring a variety of other natural plant materials.

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
  • Cloth or towel for covering work to keep it damp
  • Rush threader
  • Large sacking needle
  • Materials: alongside rush and a variety of natural plant supplied for you to use, you may like to bring additional materials of your own which may include:
  • A variety of strings /cordage to use in combination with natural materials
  • Your own gathered soft plant materials that you would like to learn how to use

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Upholstery needles are available to buy.
  • Available from tutor:
  • £10 per head for additional plant material, strings, fabric, etc.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


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.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.