May newsletter

Dunbar Gardens willow baskets display

News from Dunbar Gardens May 2010

Willow Basketry Classes & Upcoming Events


There is an article about Katherine Lewis, Willow Basketmaker in the latest issue of “Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot”- the quarterly journal of Handweavers Guild of America. The article was written by Sandra Swarbrick who lives nearby on Camano Island and has a long involvement with the HGA. Nice article describing Katherine’s background with basketry, willow, and her teachers.

Katherine is serving as President of the Board for the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild for the coming year.

Upcoming Events

Edmonds Arts Festival: June 18-20, popular festival featuring 240 juried artist exhibitors, music, performing arts, children’s activities, wine bar and bistro in downtown Edmonds on Fathers’ Day weekend. Katherine will be selling her baskets in the Plaza area for traditional arts and crafts.

Anacortes Arts Festival Arts at the Port Juried Exhibition: August 6-8, Opening reception July 30, 5:30-8pm. Exhibition entitled “Next” juried by Esther Luttikhuizen showing a diverse mix of work in fine crafts, painting, sculpture, and photography. Katherine is excited to have four pieces selected for the show.

Nana Queen by Katherine Lewis

Looking ahead: Exploring Baskets: A juried show and sale of work by members of the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild: December 3- January 29, 2010 at the Depot Arts Center, Anacortes, WA. Katherine is involved in organizing this show and expects an outstanding and diverse exhibit.

Willow Basketmaking Classes with Katherine Lewis

Classes are two days, from 9am to 5pm. Everyone will leave with a finished basket. Class size is limited to 10. Cost is $170 per student which includes materials. Tools will be available to use during the class; and awls, French curved blade knives and locally made rapping irons will be available for purchase. We provide tea and coffee.
There is a registration form on the website. Or you can send us your contact info (name, address, email, telephone) along with a $50 deposit per class session. Last minute sign ups should email for availability. These classes are all in the Mount Vernon area at Dunbar Gardens or just down the road from us at the McLean Road Fire Hall meeting room.

Katherine Lewis basketry class

June 26-27 (Saturday-Sunday): Gathering basket, round or oval laundry basket

Depending on each student’s experience, you can make a round gathering or a laundry basket. The gathering basket starts with a round base made by twining, a sturdy base wale around the sides, English randing for the side weave, and a strong cross handle to complete the basket. The round laundry basket is larger than the gathering basket, taking more hand strength and more time to weave the sides.  It begins with the same twined base and base wale; then students may choose between different side weaves. The laundry basket is completed with two roped side handles. More experienced willow weavers can make an oval laundry or log basket that is also finished with roped handles.

July 13-16: four day in-depth class

This class session is currently filled. Katherine appreciates the positive response for the longer session and will be planning another one in the future.

August 16-17 (Monday-Tuesday): Scallomed projects

This class provides baskets at all weaving levels. We will weave the base on a hoop frame, and scallom on the stakes. The oval shopper is the simplest of the shapes, great for beginners. The magazine basket is a skinny long oval basket with a lengthwise handle, making it great for magazines or books next to your favorite chair. The square basket is great for shopping, and is a chance for those with previous willow experience to learn square shaping and square border corners. Students can choose from a selection of side weaves. Experience with willow is helpful, and comfort using a knife is essential for this class.

Tidal Twinings class

Classes at other locations

May 20-23: Willow basketmaking presentation and class in Portland, Oregon for Columbia Basin Basketry Guild members. Katherine is looking forward to her trip to Portland. She will be giving a presentation to the CBBG on her passion for willow basketry at the regular meeting of the CBBG on the evening of May 20. She will teach a two day class weaving an oval laundry or garden basket May 22-23. Sign up for the class is through the CBBG and Carol Horvath (email:

October 21-23: Tidal Twinings, Columbia Basin Basketry Guild Fall Retreat in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. Katherine will be teaching two classes at the CBBG retreat this year. Willow bicycle basket on Thursday & Friday and a Berry picking basket on Saturday. You can be a member of either the CBBG or the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild to attend this fun event. See their website for details and contact info.

Facebook: Dunbar Gardens has a Facebook page. If you are a Facebook user, become a follower and keep up to date with our activities there. We also invite you to contribute by posting comments, your photos from one of our classes, starting discussions related to willow basketry or willow growing.

For more information about classes, baskets, willow growing, or our farmstand please visit our website.


Katherine & Steve


Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley tulips

April brings us the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I photographed these beautiful Golden Apeldoorn tulips just around the corner from Dunbar Gardens. This field is located next to McLean Road and has been designated Field 26 on the Roozengaarde “bloom map“. Washington Bulb Company is the largest bulb grower in the US and these tulips are part of their farm production. They have this bloom map on their website that you can check to see the locations of the fields, whether they are in bloom, and which bulb varieties are growing there. This lovely field has Golden Apeldoorn and Elite tulips just beginning to bloom, so it should be a traffic stopper the next couple of weeks.

big clouds over Skagit Valley tulipsThis year above average temperatures have the tulips blooming on the early side. The tulip festival is designated as the month of April, but visitors have already started coming and the early part of the month will be the best part of the”show”. Yesterday we were treated to these impressive clouds over the valley as well. (Click on photo for larger view.)

Skagit Valley tulips

The tulip fields have packed soil roads that are used by the  farm equipment and workers. As long as you stay on these wide paths you can go into the fields and take a few photos. I like to ride the bike down the road and into the field  with my camera. There is a local business Tulip Country Bike Tours that offers bike tours of the flower fields, display gardens, and refreshments and is customized to the weather and field bloom as well as the preference of the group.  They usually ride past Dunbar Gardens on their way back to the home base. It’s enjoyable to meet the variety of people from many places who stop in on one of the bike tours. The smiles on their faces are recommendation enough for taking a bike tour instead of hassling with a car on our country roads.

Dunbar Gardens sign

Hopefully when you visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival you might run across one of our signs pointing the way to another roadside attraction! We don’t offer any frills or thrills, but we have this nice selection of willow baskets to check out.

Katherine Lewis willow baskets

Our small farm is admittedly pretty rustic, and I think many visitors that wander down our driveway are surprised at the quality of the willow baskets that they find in our barn. There are few willow basketmakers around let alone one as accomplished as Katherine Lewis. It is enjoyable to explain how we grow the basketry willows, and show folks the freshly harvested bundles.

basketry willows at Dunbar Gardens

Of course, our baskets are available any time of year. We don’t mind if the tulips are the headline act for Spring visitors to our beautiful valley. We figure they will be back to get a taste of the wonderful fruits and vegetables also grown in the valley, take in the Festival of Family Farms in October, or maybe a visit to nearby La Conner to take in the Museum of Northwest Art and eat at our favorite Skagit restaurant Nell Thorn. Stop by, we’re around!


Mom and Pop business

ballon basket sample

“We found your website while looking for some willow baskets for a display. We were hoping that you might be interested in bidding on our project.Please let us know as promptly as possible if you are interested” read the email that we received on a Friday afternoon. On Monday Katherine sent back a list of questions and arranged to speak by telephone that afternoon. That’s when the project coordinator told Katherine, “My boss said, ‘This is just a mom and pop business. They’re not going to get back to you.'” But Ann had responded, “Sure they will, this is how they make their living.” Mom & Pop on the internet selling their wares and services have to be ready to respond to potential jobs, especially in the current economy.

Spaeth Designs in New York City has built a reputation on window displays. They are known for the animatronic windows that they produce for stores like Saks Fifth Ave and NBC in NYC and Marshall Fields in Chicago. They also do special events and promotions. The job they contacted Katherine about is one involving some hot air balloons. They needed a basketmaker to make replicas of four balloon baskets of different sizes. They had some drawings done but not really the details.

On Tuesday, Katherine soaked up some willow and went about weaving a sample basket. Later in the day, she told me that we needed to get some photos done and emailed by the end of the day. The Spaeth crew was meeting with their client the next morning and needed photos of the sample and a price quote before the meeting. So I got out the camera and opened up the Photoshop  while Katherine worked the bid. Wednesday afternoon we heard the boss was surprised we managed to get the sample photos sent, but also that the project is over budget. So they aren’t sure what is going to be kept in the final display. “We’ll let you know by the middle of next week at the latest.” Ironically, we are still waiting for a reply at week’s end. Must be their client’s fault. You know those big retailers never get back to you on time.

Post script: To save cost they decided to make solid boxes with “a covering of some sort”. They did say, “We want to thank you for being right and ready to hop on the project at a moments notice…” Maybe a future project will come our way.


Willow basketry class schedule

Katherine lewis, willow basketry teacher

We have posted a new schedule of willow basket making classes by Katherine Lewis for the first half of 2010. You can view all the info on the basket classes page on the Dunbar Gardens website. She is offering a variety of baskets and techniques, as well as trying to accommodate weavers with different levels of willow experience in most classes.

  • February 27-28: Scallomed projects – oval shopper, magazine basket, square shopper
  • April 10-11: Stake and strand projects – round gathering basket, oval shopper, oval garden basket
  • May 1-2: Irish potato basket and fruit basket
  • June 26-27: stake and strand projects – gathering basket, round laundry with roped handles, oval laundry
  • mid August (specific dates to be announced): repeat of scallomed class from February

Katherine is also organizing an in depth four day class for July. This class will be for a smaller number of weavers looking for a more extensive experience. Possible projects will include square work and fitching. Some students have been asking for more in depth work with Katherine, and this will be the chance. People interested can contact Katherine for more details. (Need I say weavers with the necessary hand strength to go four days?)

fitched willow basket by Katherine Lewis

We have also listed a couple of classes that she is teaching in other locations. She is offering an “Intro to fitching class” at the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild Spring Retreat March 25-26. The project is a lovely oval market basket. Katherine will also be traveling to Portland, Oregon May 20-24 to give a presentation and class to members of the Columbia Basin Basketry Guild.

Visit our website for more details, registration form, and photos of the baskets and past classes.