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. lakeshorewillows@gmail.com

Bluesgtem Nursery,Kootenay Boundary, B.C. bluestem.ca

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 year...it 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