Joining other beginners at a basket weaving course at Wicken Fen on Saturday, I was surprised and delighted to leave at the end of the day with a basket that resembled a basket. I set out to make a produce basket as a way to learn about what happens to willow after it’s cut and how and why it makes such a good weaving material. It turns out that the process is laborious from cutting the willow at the right time of year, stripping off the bark and leaves then grading it into bundles, drying and re-soaking before it is ready to use for weaving.
As soon as you start working with the damp lengths though you immediately understand why it is so useful – pliable and fibrous it bends or folds easily and can be pulled into shape even by unskilled hands.
We all started with the same criss-cross of base struts and worked our way round thinking about shape and form at every turn. It’s important to keep the convex form so that when you add the sides later, the base remains a little inverted rather than popping out and turning your basket into a Weeble!
By the end of the day we had all produced remarkably different baskets. I sewed long handles onto mine for ease of carrying at the allotment and the next day filled it to the brim with the day’s pickings. As my children would say, “Awesome!”