Basketry -1962


Basketry is one of the oldest and most primitive of the arts, and as such, is of educational and curative value. It can be taken up with a small initial outlay for tools and material, and is a pastime witch can prove very profitable. All manner of articles can be made by those who take up this fascinating craft, and it is an excellent outlet for creative faculties.


  • The few essential tools for basket making are as follows
  • One small blade, known as a picker, a reasonably good pocket knife.
  • A pair of small pruning shears
  • A bodkin or spike, as it is sometimes called
  • A rapping iron
  • A ruler or tape to measure.


The material generally used in basket making is called the basket willow osier or withy, better known in the trade as rods. The basket rods are those with finely tapered tops, with length in proportion to thickness. There are four kinds of rods obtainable, green, white, buff and brown. The first named is freshly cut and has the bark on. The white willow has its bark removed immediately it is cut. The buff is not peeled until after the willow has been boiled for a few hours as it is the tanning or natural dye in the bark that gives the pleasing buff tone to the peeled willow. The brown is the name given to the green willows when they have become matured with the bark on, and are brown in colour. All willow material is sold by length, and not by thickness or weight. For light work witch is most suitable for beginners, I suggest the short. Small, five foot willow which is used for stakes, and a variety known as “Dicky Meadows” for randing. These are form 18” to 2’ in length


Before using, willows will have to be soaked for some time, to enable them to become pliable. The length of time necessary varies from 30 minutes to 3 days, in accordance with the type and nature of the osier. For type I recommend to the beginner, about an hour should be sufficient. For the beginner, round shaped work is the simplest, with oval next best. Other shapes and deigns should not be attempted for some time. I would advise the use of wooden bottoms or bases as they are of material assistance. However, when some mastery over that material is gained, it is more craftsman like to make the article in willow throughout.

One point is to always remember is, never to let your work get out of hand. This unfortunately seems to be just the thing that happens to beginners. If it does, the only real remedy is the drastic one of taking it down and beginning all over again.

 The following instructions for the making of a round waste paper basket, are simplified as much as possible, but they must of necessity, be far less effective than oral tuition or demonstration. Before starting the work, study any basket work you may have, it will be most helpful.


The making of the base for the waste paper basket is begun by piercing three bottom sticks in their centres with the bodkin and threading the other three through them, to form a cross. These sticks are always two inches longer than the size of the basket required. Next take two thin rods of the same size and length, and insert both tops into the split on the left of a group of three. Work around three times using a method known as pairing. On the fourth round, each group of three’s is separated out singular.

Begin the separation of each group by taking one of the rods down behind the work. Separate the next stick, and bring the rod to the front of the work again between the opened sticks. Taking the other rod, you do exactly the same thing with this one. These two movements to be repeated until the desired diameter of base is completed. In this case, six inches.

The inserting of new pairing rods is simply a matter of placing a new one by the side of the one that has got too short for working. The bottom sticks are now cut off with the shears and the bottom picked.

The next process is called “Stacking Up”. This is done on a table with concave or hollow side of bottom downwards. Now prepare 23 stakes of the five foot variety by pointing at the bottom end; push a stake in on either side of each stick end, excepting one, her only one is placed. Each stake is now linked up sharply and brought onto a vertical position, and tied at the top, and so to the upsetting or waling. Take three rods some-what finer then the stalks. Now place each of these rods by the side of a stake, and work each on outside two, and inside out, until two to three rounds are completed. Insert new rods when required, the same as the base.

We are now ready to start randing the basket. This is the easiest part of basket making. It is just a matter of weaving each rod as required in front and behind each stake. Continue in this manner until the work measures the inches in height and nine inches in diameter. Now repeat the waling as at the base of the work for two rounds, and level off the top.

Finally we come to the border. This is begun by bringing down any three stakes behind the next two and the outside of the work. Calling these stakes number 1,2 and 3. Now take No.1 stake it in front of No. 2, 3, and 4 behind No. 5 and in front again, bring down an upright stake beside each one, until you have got three pairs outside. To continue border, always take the right rod of the third pair.

To finish border, the last three are brought to front of work under 1, 2, and 3 respectively. The right hand one of the three pairs are then cut and inserted into stalks 2, 3 and 4, thus completing the border by the method of cramming off.

I now conclude with the hope that this effort will at least prove a useful complement to personal instruction.

Become a Member

Irish Countrywomen's Association, 58 Merrion Road, Dublin 4,Tel: 01 668 0002 Fax: 01 660 9423 Email:
Designed by Language and Fusio