HOW TO ORDER WILLOW, FIND HEDGEROW MATERIALS AND IMPROVE YOUR BASKETS
- Brown is natural unpeeled willow which looks a greenish colour
- Buff is boiled and peeled and is a reddish brown colour
- Steamed is dropped into the boiling water after the buff is removed and is a rich shiny chocolate brown
- White is peeled in spring and is white to start with, going honey coloured with age
- Green is fresh willow for living willow plantings
- Sticks are sturdy two year old buff rods used for handles and frames
- Brown, steamed and buff are available for most of the year; white has to be ordered specially and set aside, green is available in the spring
- Traditionally willow has been sold by the bolt and by the height, 3 ft, 4ft, 5 ft and so on but PH Coates and other growers now have online ordering and they also sell by weight (kilos). They also have a helpful guide to the amount of rods you can expect to have per bundle on their website
- Buff and white ; soak in clean water for an hour.
- Mellow in a damp cloth in a cool place for a further hour
- Use within two days or dry out again.
- Brown and steamed ; soak in water for the equivalent of a day a foot eg 3 days for 3 foot rods
- Mellow in a thick dry cloth or blanket in a cool place for a further day or more until the rods can be bent without kinking
- You can keep brown willow ready for use like this over a couple of weeks.
- You can keep in a freezer if you have space and defrost for use. ( I have never tried this myself!)
- You can find and collect many useful basketry materials from the hedgerow at all times of the year.
- General rule of thumb is that if you can wrap it round your hand you can use it in a basket.
- In winter look for dog wood, snowberry, shoots of holly, beech and birch twigs, larch, shoots of hardwood trees which grow round the base such as lime, ivy, honeysuckle.
- Store in a cool dark place.
- Hedgerow material or freshly cut willow will keep supple for several weeks but it will shrink in the basket if used too soon leaving gaps
- It should be left to ‘clang’, ie shrink but not dry out and harden
- Pick plenty
- In summer look for bulrush, field rush, montbretia and iris leaves.
- Store in a cool dark place, preferably hanging up.
- Dry out and then damp down to use by spraying with a plant spray or watering with a watering can.
- Choose materials carefully
- Soak what you need
- Soak for longer in cold weather
- To speed up soaking use hot water
- Boil brown willow for several hours to make it pliable and give a shiny finish
- Mellow all material; this gives the enzymes a chance to work and start breaking down the structure of the rods
- Dry out leftovers as quickly as possible if you cannot use them
- Soaked brown /steamed willow can be left wrapped up in a dry cloth in a cool place and will keep supple for at least a week, often longer
- It can also be kept in the freezer and defrosted when needed
- Choose good thick base sticks, thin weavers for bases, well matched stakes, even and carefully chosen weavers for siding
- If you have unpromising or hedgerow material try ‘tipping up’ - match at the tips and cut off the butt ends.
- The base is the foundation of the basket; it should be even, domed if necessary, with the base sticks at regular intervals and in the same plane
- Oval bases are easier to make using very sturdy sticks.
- If an oval base starts to warp try turning over and continue pairing or pair at the ends and rand down the sides
- Trim before staking up
- You can start with tips on smaller baskets but butts are preferable for bigger basket.
- Try using two rods less than the number of stakes when you are French randing - this means you can keep going round and round without that awkward moment when you have to sort out the last couple of rods and make sure they are correct.
- Sort your rods carefully for slewing - you can use up odds and ends but sort them out by length and use up in order so that you always have a group of rods which are nicely matched and give an even result.
- There are many variations of English randing - eg you can go in front of two behind one then ordinary rand and this creates a strong spiral effect
- If you are short of materials try tipping up - ie match up at the tips and then cut off any excess at the butts - sometimes you will find it easier to match a set of stakes like this especially with hedgerow materials.