Posted 12th Jul 2016
For centuries willow has been used for making everything from baskets and natural fences to ladders and sculptures, and anyone can give it a go. Why not try willow weaving for yourself with this simple project to create a wicker basket?
1 Take two willow branches, the thickness of a finger, and twist together to make a ring of the desired size. If you have no suitable shoots available, you can also cut fresh willow from the garden. For weaving, however, it is recommended to use only dried and softened material that will not shrink after it has been worked.
2 For the two central ribs, select some slightly thicker shoots measuring 8cm to 10cm in length and split them lengthways so that they will bend more easily. Place the prepared shoot around the outer ring with the cut side facing inwards.
3 With your left hand, press this rib firmly together while winding the narrow end of a long strand around the rib with your right hand.
4 Then, with your right hand, take the strand upwards behind the outer ring, then back in front of it, around the rib and back up again.
5 Weave alternately forwards and backwards. Once the rib is securely fixed, tuck the end of the strand under the previous row and trim.
6 Decide how shallow or deep you want the basket to be and cut central ribs to the appropriate length. Attach all four ends to the outer ring in the same way.
7 To strengthen the central ribs, two additional ribs of a similar thickness are tapered at their ends and inserted into the weave.
8 Arrange the four central ribs at equal distances from one another.
9 The shape is now easily recognisable. Before you start weaving, decide whether you want to leave openings for use as handles, as in our vegetable basket (pictured above). Place the thick end of the first strand plus an appropriate excess length under one of the central ribs. Weave evenly from one side to the other, alternating above and below the ribs, ensuring that the strands never end at the outer ring and always on the underside of the weave.
10 In skilled hands, the basket can be finished in three to four hours. Ensure that the strands sit tight against one another so that no gaps appear. Finally, tuck in or trim off any ends of strands that remain.