Weaving Willow

basket &bodkin

One of the workshops being run by the Walter’s Tools project was in willow basket making by tutor Helen Elvin. She popped over before hand to hook out some basket making tools from the collection, including a knife, a reindeer antler bodkin, and a rapping iron. She also discovered a wool gathering basket that Walter had made years ago, lurking in the depths of his old barn.

Friends of the project and workshop tutors in tool handle making and blacksmithing, Sam Robinson and Shaun Bainbridge, had kindly sharpened up the tools so we could use them in the course. At the start of the course, Walter talked us through his small collection.

Then 6 of us set to making a round willow basket over the course of the weekend, that Helen had grown herself in her woodland in Wasdale. The variety of colours were beautiful – greens, yellows, browns. It was very physical work and totally consuming.

We learned a fair few new words in the process too ~

Structure/ process:

slath – the cross structure made at bottom of basket
staking up – when you put the side stakes into the base and bring them up into the pyramid
waling (wale ) – weaving 3 or more rods in sequence for the start of the sides
randing – weaving with a single rod at a time on the sides


rapping iron – to make weave tighter
bodkin – to make a space to weave through
slype – a slanting cut made on rod to ease threading it through a gap
border – weaving the stakes along top of basket to finish top.

Helen teaches

It was interesting to see the different forms each basket took, despite our making it from the same basic pattern and principle.

Tim basket making

Janet basket making

A finished basket

a finished basket

 All photos ©Dayve Ward 2014

basket cases


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