Coffin Course with Roy Youdale

The first week in October saw the beginning of our Pilot Residential Coffin weaving course.  Monday and Tuesday was spent gathering materials and preparing willow for the course which began on Wednesday morning.  Roy Youdale arrived on Tuesday night with Lynne and Rosemarie and immediately set us to sorting out vast quantities of  6 and 7 ft willow which would form the main weaving material for the 4 coffins.  Roy has made a number of coffins and is reknowned as a skilled craftsman and teacher producing basketry of an extremely high standard.

Susan Early from Gloucester, Lynne Saunders from Dorset, Rosemarie Cooke from North Devon and Jill David from Penarth were the willing guinea pigs who had volunteered to spend several long hard days learning new skills to make their own coffins.  The course was held in the Heritage Coast Centre in Dunraven Bay in Southerndown and our 4 ladies were staying in the basic but comfortable bunk rooms in the centre.  Roy enjoyed wonderful hospitality at the beautiful Little West Bungalows Bed and Breakfast with Hazel and Roger Norfolk.

Wednesday morning saw the staking up of the wooden bases.  Roy demonstrated how to insert the stakes and form a simple trac border underneath the coffin base.  Everyone quickly got on with the job and by lunchtime were ready to put on the first rows of waling.  Roy demonstrated the use of a ‘Willow Winder’ which precurves the willow and enables a lovely loopy curve on the wale.  Everyone was keen to try this out and 4 beautiful rows of waling ensued.  The ladies then started out on the french randing which was to form the main weaving on the coffin.  


The coffins were rectangular in shape and detailed with sisal rope handles and a beautiful base plait border.  Roy provided expert tuition and many resources which facilitated the production of four beautiful coffins – 4 days later.  Roy and our volunteers worked incredibly hard – one night until 10.30 pm – and we would like to offer enormous thanks to all 5 of them!

We hope to run the coffin course annually but have decided that the course will have to be run over 5 days.  Roy will therefore have a manageable teaching commitment and our course participants will be able to fully appreciate our wonderful area by having a little spare time to rest and relax!  If you would be interested in attending such a course let us know and we will put your name on the waiting list.

RE the Willow Winder, Les has been busy with his wood turning  lathe and produced some lovely ‘Willow Winders’ which he has for sale for £10 – I can see these becoming as essential as the rapping iron in teh basketmakers tool basket – If you would like to get hold of one let us know and we will pass Les’s contact details on to you.


5 thoughts on “Coffin Course with Roy Youdale

  1. Hard work, but well worth all the effort! Roy was a kind, and patient tutor who had a keen eye for detail. I am not normally that confident with tools like drills, hammer and nails, using workmates, but no tools were snatched from my hands, I watched and listened, took notes and learnt a lot! Mel and Clare ensured our needs were well catered for throughout, and I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone. My coffin is the very best thing I have ever made!

      • Storage is proving to be a bit of a problem! It was in the sitting room for all to admire for a couple of weeks, but was very much in the way. Has now moved in to the bedroom of number two son who is not here at the moment! It really cant stay there! I am not able to get in to the roof space! Not sure where to move it next! Where’s yours?

  2. It was brilliant to spend five days weaving from early until late every day. Roy was a fantastic teacher, explaining very clearly each step and technique and I learnt loads. It was a much longer process than I had imagined but it was an incredibly satisfying project. My coffin now sits very comfortably in my sitting room! it will be be moved upstairs eventually.
    Clare and Mel were wonderful sorting our willow and providing us with much needed teas and coffee and delicious cakes to keep us going. Sharing lots of information and history about the area and their basket making experiences and courses.
    It was great to meet Les too, a welsh basket maker and to buy one of his ‘willow winders which works brilliantly and I’ve used it lots since I’ve been back.
    All the staff at the heritage centre were very welcoming and informative and I can’t wait to come back to enjoy and explore more of the area with more time! We had a walk every lunchtime in the sunshine which was wonderful too.
    It really was a memorable and exciting way to spend five days in the most beautiful surroundings, coming home with a wonderful willow coffin.

    • We are so thrilled you enjoyed yourself so much Susan, we were just so impressed with the standards of work you all produced. Perhaps it will become a fashion to keep your coffin in your sitting room – Mel keeps hers on her bookshelf …………

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s