Katherine Lewis potato basket class
Katherine recently attended the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild Spring Retreat. She was the teacher of two classes at this annual event. Over 100 basketmakers came to take classes, weave, and socialize from March 18-22 at the Pilgrim Firs Conference Center in Port Orchard, WA. Katherine had two full classes. The first was an Irish potato basket. Check out the lovely colors in this traditional basket in the photo above. The willows are all from Dunbar Gardens. In the center of the photo holding her basket above her head is Alex Keggan who often helps Katherine in her classes. The other class was a willow square tray. The stakes on these are scallomed on the square base. Those borders and corners can be a real challenge.
some of the square tray class
Katherine was joined at the retreat by her friend and fellow willow basketmaker Kelly Wilson from Courtenay on Vancouver Island in Canada.
Katherine & Kelly
Mud rooms are a great place for baskets. That room just inside the back door where you keep your hats, gloves, overcoats, and boots. Katherine has made a number of willow baskets by commission for such a purpose. They are usually square baskets for efficient space use on shelving. One of the challenges is getting equally sized baskets. Although dowels are used on the corners, they are no forms or jigs used; just hands, eyes, and a ruler.
The set above is made from Green Dicks or Dicky Meadows willow grown here on our farm. Besides color and size, there is also a choice of handle styles. The ones above have an inset handle on two sides. The set below of red and green baskets have roped handles on one side. The handles are still made from willow; “roped” just refers to the technique or style. The customer wanted a roped handle on one side for pulling the baskets out from their place on a shelf, but not on the other side so that they can be pushed in flush with a wall.
This set was for a family of six. Wonder if they had a cat too?
knife, awl, curved awl, rapping iron
Above is a photo of the tools we sell at Katherine’s willow basketry classes. These aren’t the only tools that are needed to make willow baskets, but they are the ones that people don’t often have. The small curved knife is imported from the Vergez Blanchard company in France.They make a range of tools primarily for leather workers. Katherine bought her first Vergez knife from Jenny Crisp at the Basketmakers Association Spring Course at York in 2006. The small curved blade holds an edge well and the small round wood handle fits in the hand nicely for tasks like cutting scalloms. After searching for a similar knife with unsatisfactory results, we decided to import the Vergez knives from France.
The straight awl made in the US by the C.S. Osborne company can usually be found at a good hardware store, but we keep some on hand as well. The awl is used when passing a rod into or through the work or just holding the work to the lapboard. The curved awl and the rapping iron are made by Dave Swanson in nearby Bow, Washington. Dave is a blacksmith (among other skills). Katherine met Dave after his wife Wendy took a class with a visiting English basketmaker that Katherine organized. He has made quite a few rapping irons for Katherine and recently made a few curved awls as well. The rapping iron, as its name suggests, is for tightening up the work when weaving. The curved awl is used for tasks like inserting handle liners. Another essential tool is a good pair of pruning shears. We sometimes have Felco shears on hand for sale. We particularly like the #6 which fits smaller hands.Current prices for these tools are $32.50 each for the Vergez knife, the rapping iron, and curved awl; and $14 for the straight awl.