How to weave a willow basket using natural materials and a few hand tools. Presented by John “Dog” Callister, master willow weaver on the Isle of Man
From autumn through winter, you can harvest thin whips from coppiced willow and use them in handmade crafts. You can weave them into hurdles, Christmas wreaths, and even willow baskets. My friend John “Dog” Callister is a pro at weaving baskets and has graciously allowed me to film him. The four-part videos below show you step by step how to weave a willow basket. You’ll of course need a bundle of willow for the project, and a few tools including secateurs, needle-nose pliers, and a fid, also known as a bodkin.
Willow is a natural and sustainable material that you can use for garden projects and in the home. You harvest first-year shoots, called whips, and can use them fresh, as John Dog does, or dry them out. With dried willow, you do need to soak the wood in water to make them able to be bent and worked with. The benefit of dried is that once you make your willow basket, the weave won’t shrink as much as the wood dries out.
A two-year-old willow basket
The last of the videos in the series is the one I think you should begin with. It shows what the basket looks like over time and how I use it. It’s interesting to see how the bright yellow willow we began with changed to a russet but the soft grey held its color. The video follows with the last steps to finishing off a handmade basket including attaching the handle.
An Introduction to Basket Weaving
This is a sit-down casual chat with John “Dog” to discuss how much time and willow it takes to make a basket. It takes him just over an hour to make a small basket but students in his classes will take 2-3 hours. Be prepared with 100 pieces of willow when you go into making a basket — it really takes that much!
Part 1: How to Weave a Willow Basket
This part outlines how to create the base of the basket. John Dog shows how to put ‘spite’ into some of the pieces that form the base. Then how to fit them together to create a solid bottom to the basket. Tools you’ll need to create a basket include secateurs, a weight, needle-nose pliers, and a fid.
Part 2: Building the sides of the basket
With the base complete, the second part continues with attaching the uprights and creating the sides of the basket. Finishing with a simple weave at the top, you’ll move on to part 3 (below) to complete the project.