Friday, 15 July 2016

How to Stick Weave a Snail Brooch

The book shelves swayed rhythmically as the printer churned out another set of pages of my minimum opus, an A4 book called 'Dye Plants'.
"Not a catchy title, is it though, Beaut?"
"Oh, shut up, Elinor."  My patience was wearing a little thin. Computer assisted self publishing is all very well, in theory.  
In practice, for technical reasons obscure to me, the oh so clever automatic A5 booklet format kept putting the pictures in all the wrong places and having redesigned it myself, for A4 size with a spine, I forgot that the wider margin had to be on the other side for all the even pages.  A warning message appeared.  The coloured ink was running dangerously low. Why oh why did I not get organised in good time for Wisley Arts Fest?
Elinor interrupted my concentrated collation of final copy mark 5.
"Heard of a wonderful new invention, Beaut.  It's called the wheel.  You should haul  your arse out of the Dark Ages and sell this as a download."

I have decided to take her advice on virtual publishing.  For anyone who comes to our Stick Weave a Snail Workshops at Wisley this weekend, if you fancy making another when you get home, here are the online instructions.

To read how to make your own weaving sticks, see this blog.  You will also need thin, bendy, lightweight wire, which you can buy in a coil in garden centres, two 4m lengths of fairly thick yarn in the colours you want for the shell and another 3m yarn for the head, two beads for the eyes and a large darning needle to finish off.  Cut a pair of one metre lengths of wire, thread one through the hole in each weaving stick, then twist all four ends of wire together securely.  Holding the twist in one hand, pull the sticks to the middle of the wires and press the bend in the wires firmly against the base of the weaving sticks, to flatten any bump of wire
which would stop your weaving slipping down smoothly.  Take the two strands of coloured wool, hold both weaving sticks in one hand and pass the wool between them. Working with the two strands together, bring the wool round
behind the left stick and from the front, pass it back between the sticks again.  Next, bring the wool round behind the right stick and back between.  To lock the two loose ends of wool, lift them up and over the first weave, then back between the sticks.  Leave the ends loose and carry on weaving the wool in figures of
eight around the sticks.  Do not pull the wool tightly, just wrap it gently.  When your weaving is near the top of the two sticks, pull one stick upwards so half of it is showing, then pull up the other stick to match, allowing some of the weaving to slip onto the wires.  If it is stiff to pull, rotate the stick between your fingers as you pull upwards.
Carry on weaving, smoothing the woven wool down the wires when it becomes tightly packed.  Once there is only 30cm left of the coloured wool, put the ends of the 3m white wool together and run it back through your hands to the mid-point.  Put the middle loop of the double strand of wool over 
one stick and continue weaving until there is only 5cm of the white wool left.  Slide all the weaving off the sticks and onto the wires.  At the far end, pull on the loose coloured yarn ends to tighten, neaten up 
the twist in the wire and wrap the yarn ends round it a couple of times.  Usewire clippers or strong scissors to cut the twist in the wire to about 1.5cm long.  Fold the twist down flat against the weave so it secures the wool twisted round it.The woven yarn will now be spread loosely along the length of the wires.  Starting at the tail end, slide the weave down so that it sits fairly firmly at the end
and start to curl the snail up.  As you curl it, press the next section of weaving up more firmly until your coil reaches the
point where the weaving changes to white yarn. Leave the 30cm long loose ends of coloured yarn hanging outside the coil.  At the top end, slide the white weaving down firmly, leaving the wires below the weaving sticks exposed.  Use clippers or strong scissors to cut the wires just below the weaving sticks. 
Take one wire from the pair on each side and twist them together.  Pull on the white yarn ends to tighten and wrap around the twisted wire, clip to about 1.5cm.  Remembering that the snail head will curl in the opposite direction to the body, flatten the twist against the inside of the weave and start to coil the snail’s head.  The two outside wires of the pairs need to be passed through the weaving when the coil completes one full circle.   Slip
one bead onto each of the remaining wire ends and bend them round to secure the beads, making the snail’s eyes.  Thread the loose ends of coloured yarn onto large darning needle.  Holding the coil firmly, stitch right through to the opposite side, poke the needle back in about one centimetre further round the circumference and stitch straight through again.  Do this a couple of times, then loop the yarn tightly round the weave
to fasten off and cut the ends.  Now you can either use a sticky pad to fix your snail to the bottom of an upturned flowerpot or wherever you fancy standing him, or use a smaller needle and thread to sew a brooch pin on to the back of your snail.

This book, 'Dye Plants' is 23 pages long, with plenty of pictures.  It is a beginners' introduction to choosing, sowing and growing garden dye plants, harvesting leaves and flowers and making dye baths, with an overview of autumn foraging, berries, roots and bark dyes.  If you aren't going to Wisley, email me at and for only £3, I'll send you the pdf.  Printed copies are £5 plus p+p at cost.
Cracking cover, isn't it?  Original art by my friend BG, who is going great guns at local exhibitions, gets commisions from abroad and - she's even worse than me at IT.


  1. Good Luck for the weekend Fran, are you leaving Elinor at home?


    1. I had to. Otherwise she would have spent the whole weekend in the Pimm's tent, being snarky about the performance art.

  2. Fabulous! I could do this with the children at school (after the holidays, of course!)

    1. I did a couple of stick weaving sessions with my sister's class of 11 year olds and from this experience, I would recommend picking five or six of the most able at crafts, spending an hour making snails with them and then having them as mentors, one to each table. This was for a class of 34, including some with special needs.

  3. This was a while ago, is it still possible to buy this pdf?

    1. Sure, I'm mid way through writing a proper book, but I've still got that pdf on file. Send me an email to and I'll send you a paypal invoice.