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Creating your perfect Willow Basket

Initially this page gives some information about growing willow and the various natural colours available.
Scroll down a little to find more information about making baskets and the options available when creating your custom made willow basket.

Willow thrives in wetland areas

Willow is a fast growing, sustainable crop, which grows well in wetland areas, such as the Somerset Levels.  There are many varieties of coppice willow grown for many purposes, including basket making.

willow ready for cutting Willow is harvested from late autumn or early winter, after the first frosts, when the leaves start to fall.  Here a bed of willow awaits cutting.  The variety is Salix Triandra, a popular choice for basket making, and the one we use for our baskets and furniture.

Green Willow
Freshly cut willow, known as Green Willow, can be used as it is, without soaking.  It will remain soft and flexible for just a few weeks.  Once it has dried out it is referred to as Brown Willow and will require soaking for up to five days before it can be woven with.  An example that uses soaked brown willow (still called green willow because of the colour) is the child's round shopper

Buff Willow
round willow tray We make our baskets primarily from willow without the bark, as in this state it is very strong and easy to work with.  Boiling green or brown willow for about ten hours, allows easy stripping of the bark.  It also transfers dye from the bark to the willow and produces the buff colour.  Hence the name buff willow.
he round tray is is made from buff willow.

Steamed Willow
willow shopping basket buff/steamed If the willow is boiled for just two hours, instead of the ten required for stripping the bark, the result is what we call steamed willow.  The bark becomes very dark brown, almost black.  We use a lot of steamed willow for garden features and in combination with buff for our baskets.  The Ashfield Shopper shows the lovely combining of the two colours.

White Willow
washing basket white willow In early spring, when the sap in the willow rises, it can be stripped easily without the need for boiling, to reveal its' natural creamy white colour.  It is then known as White Willow.  Because there are only a few weeks during the year when it can be produced, it is relatively scarce, and is mostly reserved for cradles and washing baskets.


Generally every basket has the same elements, and they are :-
The Base, Uprights, Wale, Weave & Border.

Each is described below with examples.


The Base
milldale shopping basket randed weave

The base can be round, oval, square or rectangular.  It is also possible to make triangular bases.


The Milldale Shopper has an oval base.

The Uprights
barrel log basket slewing weave Willow rods are pushed into the edges of the base at uniform intervals to provide the uprights necessary for weaving.  The number of uprights in a basket will determine the overall look.  Many uprights placed close together will produce a fine finish, as in the Milldale Shopper (above); whereas fewer uprights more widely spaced give a more rustic chunky look as in the Barrel Log Basket

The Wale
A wale is an almost unnoticable, but very important band of weave.  You will see a wale in many places on the basket, just above the base, just below the border, before any change in weave or shape, below fingerholes and at regular intervals on tall baskets.  They secure the weave, help to keep the shape and provide extra strength.  We often use the necessity of a wale to provide a band of colour.   An example of this is the round linen basket where the wales have been woven in white willow.

The Weave
There are many different weaves; the most common in British basketmaking are randing, slewing and fitching.

Randing uses a single rod of willow at a time to produce a fine finish.  An example using randing is the Fairstead Shopper.

Slewing uses three or four rods of willow at one time and produces a chunky finish - you can see this on the Ashfield Shopper.

Fitching produces open work.  An example of this is the Fitched Waste Paper Basket.  Although it looks as if it should be very easy, it requires a greater skill to keep the uprights in place than with the other weaves.  Another style of fitching is cross fitching and is used in the Children's Settee.

The Border
The border is a very important element to the basket, as it holds everything in place.  It is formed using the remaining lengths in the uprights once the weave is finished.  When the uprights are formed into the border the weave is secure and cannot come undone.

Track Rod Border
There are several syles of border.  A track rod border, for example, is just a single willow rod thick.  Using this kind of border optimises internal space and does not add weight to the basket.  You can see this kind of border on the Rectangular Shopper.

The Standard Border
wicker fruit baskets

The most commonly found border is what we will call the standard border.  Whereas the track border is just one willow rod thick, the standard border is several rods thick, thereby reducing the internal space available (compared to the same size basket with a track border).

The track border is therefore most suited to small baskets where internal space needs to be maximised.  The standard border is most suited to larger baskets and baskets which have to work hard, log baskets for example.

There is also the overall look of the basket to consider.  You may prefer one style to the other.

Plait Border
wicker moses basket

The Plait Border is a decorative border to be found mainly on furniture, cradles and coffins.






And finally....

If you have any questions at all about the options available, what would best suit your requirements, or if you would like a quotation, please call Alison on 01294 829012 or send an email to baskets@btinternet.com.

If it's storage baskets you are looking for then the storage solutions page shows baskets with different borders, weaves and colours.

Many customers have sent us pictures of their baskets in situ.  They can be found on the gallery page.


Basket Maker |  Handmade Willow Baskets | Wicker Baskets | Custom Made in Scotland UK