Baskets can be made from all sorts of  wild and garden bushes. Usually, if you can bend a shoot round your wrist, it can be used somewhere in a basket! You don’t even need much in the way of tools, a pair of good secateurs are about the only essential item. 

Most commercial baskets are made from  cane, rush or specially grown and treated varieties of willow, but a lot of interesting things can be done with the prunings from your garden . Anything that grows long slender shoots can be tried, try leaving some of that privet hedge to grow for a year or use a years growth of :-

      Hazel                                 Birch
         Poplar                               Weigelia            Rowan
              Eucalyptus                         Snowberry              Larch
                     Lime                                 Forsythia                   Alder
                             Cotoneaster                                                     Field Maple
                                                                                                                        Blackthorn (ouch!)
                                                            Virginia Creeper
                                                                    Wild Rose

and of course,  Willow.

The best time to collect materials is between October and March when maximum growth has been made and the sappy new wood has hardened, if the leaves have fallen, it saves you the bother of removing them. You can use the material immediately, but the twigs will shrink as they dry, leaving your weaving loose and your basket floppy. It’s better to leave them in a damp shady spot for a few weeks. If they need to be stored for longer, first dry them out, then bundle them and keep them in  a cold dry place.  When you come to use them, they’ll need to be soaked for a week or sometimes longer to soften them enough. (Not all woods will take to being soaked, you may have to experiment).

Some species need special treatment. Fibrous climbers can be coiled up, given a quick boil in  a pan, and then peeled. Wild rose needs to have its thorns removed by hand, and brambles can be dethorned by pulling through a fist, well protected by heavy gardening gloves.

If you've already done some willow basketry, go out and collect, you can try anything that stays still long enough. Some of the less flexible plants can be used for the sides, base sticks and handles. Creepers and weeping willow are useful for tying in the centre of a base, and you’ll need to reserve the dogwood and willow for basket uprights or the filling of  frame baskets.  Remember, borders are very fussy about the material they need  and they SHOW.



Useful  information

Books. (These seem to go out of print very rapidly and should be snapped up when seen).

Handmade Baskets by Susie Vaughan .  Search Press 1994. £9  ISBN 0 85532 755 3

Basketmaking. Olivia Elton Barratt. Letts 1990. ISBN 1 85238 109 4

Willow Work. Mary Butcher. Dryad Press 1986 (recently reissued)

The Complete Book of Basketry Techniques. Gabriel and Goymer. David & Charles  1991. 

Baskets and Basketmaking. Shire booklets. £3

The Basket Makers Association for basketmakers and chair seaters.

Membership  Secretary. Sally Goymer, 37 Mendip Road, Cheltenham, Gloucs. GL52 5EB

Tel:  01242 510724.  Single membership £15pa

Willow (in increasingly short supply, but you could try........) and Tools.

P.H.Coate and Son. Meare Green Court, Stoke St. Gregory, Nr. Taunton , Somerset . Tel:  01823 490249

R. Hector. 18 Windmill Hill, North Curry, Nr. Taunton, Somerset

E.M & H.J.Locke Thorney Rd. Kingsbury Episcopi,Martock, Somerset TA12 6BQ Tel:  01935 823338

The Cane Workshop, Gospel Hall, Westport, Langport, Somerset, TA10 0BH  (Tools and cane)


Making a Tension tray

First take a long straight rod and coil it into a circle. Add a second rod if you think the ring needs to be stiffer. Remember, you'll need 3 ft. of rod to make a 1 ft. circle.

Cut an even number of sticks, a few inches wider than your circle. For an 6 inch circle,  4  pencil thick straight sticks will do. You'll need 6 or 8 sticks for a 1 foot circle.  Lay them across the ring evenly spaced. This is your "warp", called stakes in basketry.

Now select a handful of your most flexible rods, these will make the "weft" and are usually called the weavers. Take the first and put the thick end under the lip of the ring from the top, across the centre of the ring, at right angle to the short sticks. Now the tricky bit. With one hand hold the "warp sticks" in place across the ring, and weave this rod over then under them till you reach the far side of the ring. You should finish with the tip end lying on the top of the far side of the ring.

Struggling to hold everything in place (you can stand on it if two hands aren't enough), take another weaver and slip the thick end under the ring next to the tip end of the first one. Weave it back to the other side.
Work out from the middle adding a new weaver first on one side of the first pair then on the other. Keep the weave as tight as you can by packing the weavers together each time each time you add a new one until you have filled the ring .  Tha's it. All you need to do now is finish it.

You can leave it as it is and use it as a wall hanging.

OR you can take your secateurs and cut all the loose ends neatly to make a tray or pot stand.

OR you can leave all or just a selection of the ends and bring them up in an arc, trimming and tying them in the centre to make a handle.

OR you can use them to make two small loop handles.>

OR you can bend the ends up and use them as uprights in a basket, but only if you have plenty of time.

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