Willow and ivy

Back in April I posted photos of willow withies harvested from a friend’s garden for a particular summer project (‘Basket for Adele’, April 17th) and said that I would write more about that later.

What was the project? Last winter my son and his partner asked me if I’d like to make them a willow arch for their summer wedding. Not something I’d done before but I said yes and went off to do the internet research!

Here’s the result, maybe more of a bower than an arch. It stood up to two nights of torrential rain last week without disintegrating so we were happy with our design. We made it up ourselves in the end, we didn’t like any of the internet examples.

= 12 willow withies c/o Adele,  a car boot-full of ivy c/o Lorraine’s garden and Fingask Castle, assorted artificial orchids and unidentified silk flowers, some green garden twine and the ubiquitous waxed linen thread. This photo was taken the day after the wedding. With James and Catherine’s permission, I’ll post a photo later of them under the arch in full wedding dress 🙂

prototyping the arch in the garden
arch on site, morning after the rain

Basket for Adele

I’ve got a big project to make this summer (more about that in another post) which needs a good quantity of long straight willow. When I saw a facebook post from Adele offering more than 100 prunings from her willow hedge free for removal, I jumped at the chance. 


When we got to Adele’s she had already quality-controlled the willow into five piles sorted acording to length. I couldn’t take all of them but reduced the piles a bit, taking a mixture. We’re not sure what species of willow it is, but it looks fine for the purpose I’ve got in mind. 

I couldn’t believe that the prunings were only one year’s growth. When we tied them on to the roof bars on the car they were overhanging both ends. They must be more than twelve feet long. That’s 6 inches a week in a six month growing season. Nearly an inch a day. You could sit and watch!

This wee basket used up some of the thinnest and whippiest twigs. I’ll deliver it to Adele this week as a thank-you for some very useful materials.

Loch Voil basket

Just finished…

Birch (silver and downy), oak, willow, bog myrtle, all the monofil fishing line I pulled out of the loch (untangled and wrapped round an oak twig), a weight and a swivel. The little rusty hook broke as I was trying to impale it onto an oak twig, so it’s in the bin.

River weave

We walked along the north bank of the River Earn on Sunday, looking for wildlife and tracks and signs and enjoying the spring sun on our faces (next best thing to being ON the river, which we didn’t have time to do). There were noisy oystercatchers giving us away round every bend, we didn’t see any animals. We did find otter spraint (droppings) and beaver wood-chips, and some mud-slides that might be used by both species. That’s an entertaining thought. I wonder what otter and beaver make of each other?

There’s a bit of spring growth along the river’s edge – some wild garlic leaves, aconites and celandines – but not enough to cover the evidence of this winter’s floods. In places the banks are a jumbled mass of uprooted trees, broken branches, plastic debris, dead vegetation, sand and gravel. It gave me a shiver to stand on the banks eight feet above the river and see flood debris hanging from branches above my head. 

The force and flow of the water is captured in these ‘baskets’, woven by the river…


Fife Craft Collaboration legacy

I worked with a great bunch of people on Wednesday at the Centre for  Stewardship Falkland, running a one-day Stitched Basket workshop for the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership.

It is a year since the Fife Craft Collaboration took place in this same venue and I was very pleased to be sharing some of what I’d learned during that inspiring week last October. I showed the group how I’ve been using traditional North American basket-making techniques and local materials to make baskets/nests/pods, each with its own story. Thanks once again Joan Carrigan for the introduction to waxed thread!

(See Joan’s work at http://www.joancarrigan.com and find out more about Fife Craft Collaboration 2014 at livinglomonds.org.uk)


LLLP baskets

Silver birch, dogwood, willow, broom, soft rush, sycamore stalks, reedmace, lavender, old rope, red campion pods, common reed, sea grasses, Crocosmia leaves, varied threads, lots of beeswax and imagination.

“Apple of My Eye”

Amanda3Amanda1    JuteJudy's    imageLorraine's cone basket

Hope to work with you all again! And thanks to Emily, Lisa and Kelly at the Centre for Stewardship for looking after us.


Black Loch basket

These are the twigs I collected three weeks ago from the roadside near Black Loch: honeysuckle, willow, blackthorn and snowberry:

Goosegrass rope

Here’s their basket, including goosegrass rope, jute and beeswax:

Black Loch basket portrait

Black Loch basket base

Black Loch basket

Alder and willow

Yesterday we visited an alder carr, a tiny stretch of nearly-natural river and woodland in lowland Perthshire. It was alive with small birds and there were signs that beavers had visited not long ago.

I like to imagine that the River Eden would have been like this once, winding its way through the Howe of Fife.


Tonight I finished an alder basket, lined with willow:

alder basket