Christmas 2018

The end 0f our third year and thanks to all the friends and family who came and shared the world of basketry. Thanks too to those who brought us baskets for the museum!

We had several workshops and a few tours. The most memorable was when the St. Andrews Society came from Ottawa. They arrived on the day that the caterpilas were dropping by the dozen out of the maple tree in the garden, and landing on our heads and shoulders. A new experience for most!

Our most productive event was making a rush mat for the museum. A group of us braided an eleven strand braid, which was later sewn together to make a mate about 48” by 36”

How to make a willow Christmas tree and star

You need: approx. 20 willow rods about 30 – 36” long for stakes and pairing around the base and star. Several short fine pcs. for the random weaving, you can als use the tips of the stakes.

You need to make a base to start the tree.

Use a 10x10” scrape of 1/2” lumber.

Make a 9” circle on the base, and mark 12 dots evenly around the circle. Using a drill make holes the right size of the base of the willow rods.


Stand the willow rods up in the holes, and pair around the base for an inch or so. Wrap the top of the tree at the preferred height and cut off the tips.

Fill in the tree with random weaving, .

Remove the tree from the woo0den base and even up the base.


Use one rod about 24” long and follow the diagram below. .

  1. Using your thumb nail, kink the rod in equal lengths. Bend into this shape.

  2. Take the end under and over as shown.

  3. Kink the end and take it back to the beginning under and and over. You can twist the end around itself and then place it on top of the tree.

  4. Happy Christmas!

Summer Blog

Rushes. .. now is the time to collect and to use them!

In the late 80s I took a group of people on a basket tour to England. One of our visits was to a small business, called Waveney, in the county of Suffolk. Here they made rush mats and a variety of rush baskets.

Rushes are also used in England to make hats which are traditionally worn for dancing around the maypole on May Day This August, I plan to make a rush mat for the museum, using rushes from Dalhousie lake.

The first few weeks we will be making the long braids and later sewing them together on a flat surface.

If anyone is interested,  come and help me make the braids. We could also go and collect rushes at the lake close by.

See pictures below show workers making the large variety of different braids. Others show the making of a waste paper basket over a wooden frame and the finished mat and log basket.

Red maple basket

Here in McDonald’s Corners the taps are coming out and the trees are being prepared for maple syrup time...and so...I got to thinking about maple trees and how they have been. used for basket making... which led me to Nova Scotia and the history of making rib baskets using red maple saplings

Turn back the clock to the early 1900s where there was a thriving black community in Halifax. Coming from a tradition of making rib baskets, they were unable to find any suitable materials to use. Knowing that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ they turned to experimenting with the local trees and shrubs. Here they discovered that the red maple saplings could be cut down and split into ribs handles and weavers to make rib baskets. So successful was that discovery, that they started selling them in the Halifax market. Edith Clayton and her family made baskets and sold them in the market for years, her daughter has carried on the tradition.Edith has become a local folk hero in the world of basketry. Joleen Gordon wrote a book about here which was published by the Nova Scotia Museum.

I have never had much success splitting a red maple sapling, I wonder if anybody else has?



What better than thinking about spring on a dark dreary day in mid January.

Growing willow is one of the most satisfactory things to grow in your garden, they grow quickly and easily, and they are useful every year once they are runner established.

Even if you do not plan to use them for Basketry, they are invaluable for gardeners. Every year they provide stakes for tying up your runner beans tomatoes and cucumbers, your perennials which fall over and to make fences to keep off dogs etc..

There are many different types of willow, willow trees that grow huge and in Europe they pollard (cut back} the top of the stumps every year to use as first year shoots.

For baskety and most gardening we use shrub willows. They can grow very tall, but they are cut back every year as the first year shoots are what we need. Second yet shoots have branches Which gets in the way and have to be cut off.

There are many different types of willows, different colours and different sizes. The easiest and least expensive way to get your willows is to buy them as cutting. They can be rooted in the ground, or rooted in water and then planted in the ground.It is important to keep them well watered when starting.

It is a fallacy to sit believe that they have to be kept with when they are full-grown. They prefer to be kept well watered but they will survive quite well in any situation, but they do like to be in the sun for at least half a day. Plant the cuttings about 18 inches apart and keep the weeds and grass done until they are well grown. Many people use black plastic to cover the ground. There are two nurseries I know of in Canada, who so cuttings in the spring. Take a look at the catalogues and dream of the spring and growing your own willows in your garden. You do not need a lot of space for a few willows.


Lakeshore Willows Wainfleet, Ontario.

Bluesgtem Nursery,Kootenay Boundary, B.C.

Basketry grapevine bird feeder

On this very cold winter day, my thoughts go out to the little birds, and here is an idea just for them..

By enclosing their feeder inside the grapevine globe, the big pushy birds, like pidgins and blue jays, cannot get into the seed supply and scratch it all onto the ground..

To make the globe

Firstly, you will have to collect a good handful of grapevine. You also need a few twist ties and a small bird feeder to hang inside,

The next step is to make 2 circles and tie them together with twist ties. (See photo)

Then using the long finer pieces,start encircling the globe, it is easier to start in the middle of a long piece rather than at the end. The plan is to weave over and under in a random technique, and if necessary, you can use more twist ties. Don’t forget to put in the bird feeder before you have done a lot of the weaving.

You will need to get your hands in to replenish the seed supply so remember this while you are weaving the top of the globe.

This bird feeder looks beautiful covered with snow.

In the summer, the grapevine globe can be used to hold a flower pot.

Christmas tree decoration

To make this tree decoration you need a small amount of round reed, a balloon and some gold spray paint.

Blow up the balloon and soak the round reed to make it pliable.

This is simply a Japanese random technique covering a round form made with a balloon. It is quite challenging to start, and much easier to have two people, and four hands,  to hold it together. Alternatively you can use twist ties to hold the first strands in place, or use pieces of masking tape.

It is a fun project to do with children once the form is holding itself  together.

It can be left in it's natural colour or sprayed to look more festive.

Coppicing willow

Now that all the leaves have fallen from the willows it is time to cut them right back to the base of the stool.

In some countries where they do not have much snow they often wait until the beginning of the new year, but here if we wait too long, we may not be able to get to the base of the willows until April.

I planted this golden willow in my garden five years ago, and now it goes mad every loved the wet summer and you can see from the photos it is well over my head, and much too branched fro basketry, but useful for sculptures. . It was cut right back last fall.

If kept in a dry cool location it will stay pliable for months and keep the golden colour.

It is a good idea to divide the willow into separate bundles according to length. With a lot of willow it is easier to put the whole bundle into a barrel and scoop up the tall ones, then the middle length and so on. In England I saw them using a sunken barrel which would be much easier on the back.

 Willows are better kept standing on their butts, straight up, so they do not get bowed. Kept dry and cool they will last for years.

Latest news from the Basketry Museum

This is the first of a regular blog for the basketry museum and the subject is… surprise...Christmas!!

Firstly, a small idea for a stocking stuff for your family.

A little soap trivet and a piece of soap

You will need some coloured round reed, or some fairly fine pieces of willow, and a piece of soap.

The technique for the little trivet is called ‘a tension tray’ and very simple to make, but it is important to have the right materials.

Take a piece of thicker material about 32” long, and form it into a small oval (see photo), and cut two pieces a little wider than the width of the oval about 5” long.

Cut about 25 pieces 6”long of the finer material.

Now start weaving, the first piece is placed under the end of the oval, over one piece, and under one piece and over the end., hold in place. The second piece goes under the OTHER end over the first piece under the second piece and over the end. These two pieces should hold the sticks in place. See photo. Now continue, always starting with the new piece placed under the oval frame, over under and over. Once you get started it is very easy and quick to weave. Fill in as many pieces as you can, then cut off all the overlapping pieces. 

This technique can be used for making cheese trays, using white or buff willow. See photo.

Looking for ideas for presents for yourself or friends?

Basketry Books

Two good willow books are:

" Willow Basketry" by Bernard and Regula Verdet-Feirz.

“Basket making in Ireland” by Joe Hogan

*The Best of the Basketry Express1985-90

*Another Best of the Basketry Express 1990-1995

*Yet Another of theBasketry Express 1995-2000

*The Use of Cattails, Rushes and Grasses in the Textile Arts 

*These are available from the Basketry Museum