Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Evolution of a basket



A couple of weeks back, the girls and I made a pilgrimage of sorts to a willow growing farm just over the border into Bedfordshire. Wasseldine is a farm set on a gentle hillside, populated by glorious red poll cattle and with a wonderful view. And a big shed full of freshly harvested willow in astonishing colours. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter (I'd love to see you!) will have already seen this, one of my favourite photos. Yum.



So even though it's still a bit green, I have been weaving with some of this. Willow shrinks as it dries, so basketmakers often work with dried and soaked material that has already done all of its shrinking. If you've ever had a basket that ended up a bit rattly and loose after a year or two, that's because it's dried out a bit since weaving.


Anyway, I had no soaked willow to hand, so green willow it was. I started as I usually do, with a straightforward round split spoke base, and I put a dome on it - this is an important part of making the basket sit flat on its rim later - wobbly baskets, unless designed that way, are generally not a good thing!


At this point I thought the basket was going to be shallow and a bit like a tray. I trimmed the base and put in the side spokes and then did the fabulously named process of upsetting - bending up the side spokes without breaking them (always a tense moment) and locking them in place with a row or two of very firm four rod coil.


I had planned to try a method where you add one weaver per spoke and the basket builds quickly, but it got very, very out of hand so I changed plan and went with a more regular chasing weave. The basket started to flare nicely. "I know," I thought, "I'll make a plant holder."


Pretty soon the basket was getting too big for a plant pot and really started to look like a bucket. At one point Mr DC came and asked whether it was supposed to be octagonal. What a nerve!


After a while I decided to put a border on and call it done. This went in smoothly and after a bit of a trim looked as neat as I could have hoped for.



 And then I realised that what I had actually made was a lovely round stripy wastepaper basket. And jolly useful it is too! The two willows I used are called Black Maul and Dicky Meadows - for me the names are almost as gorgeous as the colours.

29 comments:

  1. I love this post! I believe you let the willow decide what it wanted to become, an organic design for an organic medium. It's beautiful.

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  2. Gosh you are clever, that looks amazing!
    V xxx

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  3. Wow - this basket weaving looks like a lot of work. Well worth to though - it's beautiful!

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  4. O.M.G.

    (just because the boys saying all the time and it's very annoying... I'm spreading the word, we can all share the pain)

    THAT is so amazing. You're a genius, Val. A basket genius! (which doesn't sound as nice as I meant it!!!)

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  5. I love everything about this post! Your pictures, descriptions, weaving, results, everything! And especially Black Maul and Dicky Meadows, which sound like characters in a story, as indeed they now are :)

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  6. It all seems to happen as if by magic! It looks beautiful.

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  7. Wow always wanted to try this looks fun :)

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  8. I am in awe. Utterly gorgeous, Ax

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  9. Its beautiful, totally brilliant!

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  10. You've just reminded me that I promised myself a basket weaving course this year. We're near the Somerset Levels. I'm pretty sure that you make it look easy! Love the waste paper bin.

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  11. That's a gorgeous basket. How dare Mr DC suggest it's octagonal, I'm sure it was a case of work in progress .

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  12. Beautiful work Val. I love seeing the phases of basket weaving!

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  13. Excellent post, tried making a bit of a basket once, no experience or tools, just a book and will ow from the garden, ahem! It is on my wish list for the future though to learn how to do it right. Thanks for sharing your wastepaper basket looks great!

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  14. What a lovely basket... perfect. (Bucket indeed!)

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  15. Love it, and the willow names are marvellous :)

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  16. I am completely in AWE of this weaving!!! And the basket is BEAUTIFUL! I will get round to buying one from you one of these days. :)

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  17. You did a great job there. And I'm sure I was at uni with Dicky Meadows.

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  18. Wow Val, I didn't realise that you were such an accomplished willow weaver! Beautiful piece.

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  19. Brilliant Val. I love how it started out as one thing and evolved into something else entirely and wonder if it was because you were enjoying yourself so much that you couldn't stop - I hope so! You really have a flair for weaving Val, hope you'll be doing lots more xxx

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  20. Looks like a lovely day out. The basket has such a lovely finish to it. I love woven baskets and have a couple in the house. Make lovely presents.

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  21. Weaving must be really cool as Martha Stewart has a page about Stephen Zeh and his baskets. Have you met his baskets yet? Hope you are well. x

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  22. Gorgeous. I love the stripe effect!

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  23. A very pretty basket it is too, I didn't know there was different types of willow to basket weave with.

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  24. we made baskets in school art classes , years ago , and I remember how astonishing it was to make something so useful and goodlooking out of a few "twigs".
    Now I've seen your beautiful stripey one , I'd really like to try again .

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  25. Your basket looks fab, I've always fancied having a go at a bit of weaving, but something that goes in the garden for sweet peas to grow up, that way if it turned out lopsided, maybe no-one would notice. Is it tough on your hands?

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  26. You do know....'big sigh' - I'm still working on the mister!.

    Nina x

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