It was all about the baskets in February. I had organised a couple of basket weaving courses as part of what I do with the Lochcarron Community Development Company for their Adult Education programme. I love basket weaving, the skills are pleasurable to try & work out, techniques, patterns, counting and just where to push which fingers. I love working with the willow, and creating forms. I love the smell and feel of it, and I love having useful baskets that I’ve made gradually replacing plastic crates and containers. Usually when I’ve organised for Monique Bervoets to come over and run a course, I am too busy to attend them myself which is frustrating, so I made sure that I had free time for these ones. First was a beginners to intermediate course, a round basket with handle. I wanted to make a shallow open basket for day to day carrying things around. I hate hand bags, because of all the rummaging for lost items, baskets are great for throwing things in or out of. I started the base with some quite chunky willow base sticks so everything scaled up from what I pictured, but the result was a very useful basket. It ended up Oval looking despite a circular base. To do this I worked the shape as I wove & took the end uprights our of the supporting hoop to help create shallow sloping ends
Here it is after the border has been done, this can be the most tricky technical bit, the pattern is confusing and if the uprights are too thick or too dry it is difficult. Here it is with the handle wrapped & ends snipped off.
There was some willow left over from this class, so I took it home to use up. The pressure was on, because it would dry out in 3 or 4 days, I had a lot of other work on & the house was full of renovation chaos.
The first one was a small square basket. I hadn’t had any tuition on square baskets at this point, and have worked out a few methods from looking at baskets in shops & pictures in books. Square ones are great for storage, stacking and in this case to display art prints or cards in. It started to go wrong however when i came to the end & laying down the border, as the upright sticks had dried out faster than expected and started to snap on me which was frustrating! So i put all the willow back in the bath to soak. Soaking it more than once like this can result in a loss of pliability & the bark coming off. Over the week I got the feel of when the willow needed to come out, or go back in.
I wanted a very shallow wide basket to display items on cards, like buttons or jewellery on, this one lost it’s shape a bit, the base sticks too chunky. I used an Oval base I’d made a year or so before, simply soaking the base to make it workable. So much of willow weaving is the right materials for the job, as I am learning slowly, any old sticks from the garden will give you problems.
Next, My mother asked for a kindler basket 12″ wide at base & about 14″ high. This was my first challenge of making something exactly one size, I was also running out of the weavers to go in & out, so i planned using some birch from the garden and making some open shapes to save materials. I made a lovely big base, exactly 12″. But as soon as I added the uprights and started the wale, the first weave to give it a strong foot and go up the way, the basket added a couple of inches. When it got to 14″ high it looked too dumpy, so I carried on and made the proportions look right to my eyes. having a play with a band of birch and some open shapes. Because it was too big for my Mothers mantelpiece, I did a swap with a basket I’d made earlier and we are now using this one for our kindlers.
Now I needed a big square basket to display bigger art prints & pictures for sale in. So I went with the technique i found i preferred, which is adding the uprights into the base rather than adding them afterwards. This will be clearer in later pictures.
enough scraps for a small open basket, practicing the joins for open patterns.
Then the last of the last scraps went into the start of a frame basket , this used some chunky handle willow as hoops and small scraps to start filling it in, this is still in progress.
The second of the two courses was two weeks later, this time it was how to make a square basket, so at last I could solve the questions in my head about the weave on the base, where to place the corner uprights and how to keep the shape. It turns out, I’d pretty much got it anyway, and with this style basket there seems to be less right & wrong. So if it works…
Base sticks are held in place with bits of wood and clamps. I use some foam off cuts to hold them as they still slide about with wood only. I did one massive chunky one by putting the sticks in the ground, this was hard to keep the shape though.Here is the base weave, small weavers interspersed with the uprights in a basic pairing weave.uprights are added to the top & bottom, then it is carefully bent up ( there is a trick to this ) , weighed down ready for the wale and randing weave.
I did a different border here, while a Monique the tutor was on hand if it went wrong, this was four in front & two behind, usually I do three in front & one behind. It made a nice chunky border. With this wee basket I also got to play with colours, and learn how to add a false foot. I’d tried one before from looking at a book & commercial baskets, but found it nasty, fiddly because it you let go of one it all fell out & the uprights all veered off one direction. This method that Monique showed me was much nicer, it is basically using the off cuts upside down in the same way that you’d start a basket. having a wee foot on makes the baskets sit more squarely. I will definitely be using that technique again.I had an hour or so left in the class while the others worked, so i had a play and made a quick wee wavey basket. I always learn so much doing these. It is a lot of hard physical work though, which people don’t realise until doing a course, the thumb muscles can end up aching and numb. It is hard for me with mt tendentious in right arm, and after these two weeks of intense weaving many of my fingers are cut hacked & taped up with duct tape ! however it is Great fun !