I started getting interested in making willow baskets (wicker) just before I retired in 2008. I got hooked. It’s very like knitting but in 3 dimensions. It’s quite hard on your hands as willow is strong, however, it is very therapeutic. The history behind it would fill a book so I’d advise anyone interested to read up about it…or even better go on a course. I went to ‘Blithfield Willowcrafts’. The courses were great fun.
There are differing techniques to master for round, oval or square work in the ‘stake and strand’ tradition. You can even make baskets from your garden using Dogwood sticks. You need to soak willow for differing periods if its not fresh, before you work it, then leave it wrapped up in a wool blanket overnight to mellow it before you work it. There is a complete language involving basket making which is fascinating – waling, upsetting, pricking off, rods etc. It can take 100 rods of differing thicknesses to make 1 basket!
I had to buy a 6ft horse trough when I started to soak willow in. As I live in an ordinary estate the delivery man asked
“ Excuse me…but why do you need a horse trough?” I replied, “to soak willow in”. “Oh…I delivered one to a man in Shrewsbury yesterday as he makes coracles…” I didn’t feel so foolish after that comment.
In the winter when my horse trough is frozen and it’s too cold to work, I’ve started to make corn dollies from a book ‘The Golden Dolly’ by M. Lambeth. These are fascinating too –easier on the hands and can be made in the kitchen without destroying the place (willow tends to whip about)
Please come and have a look at my display upstairs in Stone Library in September.
Hopefully you might have a go at a new hobby too.