Setting up a willow plantation, growing your own willow and crafting a basket!

Initial work

Begin by fencing the area to exclude animals (rabbits, sheep, cattle etc)

Prepare the ground by putting down black plastic to conserve moisture and eliminate weeds.

Plant the willow setts (30cm sticks pushed into the ground) The willow then grows!!

I grow about a dozen varieties to achieve different natural colours and various thicknesses for parts of the baskets.

Just Planted Willow

Annual work

After a year I cut (coppice) the willow which has grown between 1 and 3 metres

1 Year Growth

I roughly sort the cut willow into bundles for transporting to my workshop.

Cutting
Cutting in progress
Bundle of willow

Once there, I grade them into lengths, tie them into bundles, and label with date and variety.

Pick of the crop

Preparation

The willow is ready to weave after a few weeks when it has partially dried but is still pliable.

If completely dried, the willow is soaked in a big tank of water until pliable again. This can take from a few hours to a couple of weeks!

Having mellowed in a damp blanket for a day or two, at last it's ready to weave.

Crafting the basket

Start by weaving the base, then add stakes to give shape and structure to the sides of the basket.

Add different weaves ie 'waling' near the bottom for strength, 'slewing' or 'randing' for the sides and more 'waling' before the top border.

'Picking' is the process of cutting off all the little ends before, finally, adding a handle.

And there you have your own home grown, hand woven basket!

Finshed basket