Sunday, January 8, 2017

How to build a living willow PLAY HUT AND TUNNEL

We are now offering kits and instructions for LIVING WILLOW PLAY HUTS AND TUNNELS.

It is becoming increasingly popular to install living willow huts and tunnels at daycares, school yards and your own yard for young children to play in.

Not only are they beautiful structures (when maintained properly), they also give your child a sense of nature as it is a living structure.

So, now we offer kits for your structure - available in spring after harvest of the willow rods - and they come with instructions on how to install.
Actually, we have decided to post the instructions right here for everyone to see and use if you have access to dormant willow rods.

The hut and/or tunnel can be created in different sizes which the kits will reflect, but the instructions are the same.

The ground should be level and without stones approximately 30 cm (1 foot) into the soil.

Step 1:
Start by marking the circumference of the hut.

Preferably you will put down a heavy landscape fabric that extends about 1 foot beyond the floor of the structure all the way round - BEFORE YOU START INSERTING THE RODS. Some people also use a heavy, black plastic, but I find that it can be too slippery when wet for children to play on.

Step 2:
Mark the spots for the entrance (approximately 4 feet wide)

Insert 3 long rods together, pushing them about 30 cm (1 foot) into the ground.

Twist the rods together and secure with a zip tie.

Repeat at other end of the entrance.

Step 3:
Select your longest and heaviest rods and insert from one door post to the other all the way around the circumference approximately 30 cm (1 foot) apart and pushed 30 cm (1 foot) into the ground.

Twist the two parts for the doorway together and secure with several zip-ties.

Step 4:

Insert 2 additional rods for each already installed rod.
Push them approx 30 cm ( 1 foot) into the ground on either side of the existing rod.
Insert at an angle. 

Step 5:

Start weaving the rods together on a diagonal (over, under etc) and tie at the first cross with a zip-tie, elastic or other.

Continue weaving higher up and around the door "poles"

Step 6:
If you want your structure to be higher than your willow rods will allow, this is where you stop.
Make sure that all the crossings of willow rods are securely fastened.
Skip step 7 and leave the structure to grow.
When the growth on the rods is long enough for your desired height of the structure you simply continue at STEP 7.
This could be at the end of the first growing season, sooner or even later - into the 2nd
growing season.

Step 7:

Gather the tops of the rods in the middle, twisting them together and/or secure with ties.

Step 8:
Cover the ground in and beyond the structure with a heavy landscape cloth (if you haven't already done so) and a good layer of mulch to prevent weeds to grow and to keep the soil moist.

As the willow rods don't have any roots when you install them, it is VERY IMPORTANT to keep the soil around the rods MOIST AT ALL TIMES DURING THE FIRST GROWING SEASON OR TWO.
This is best done by installing a drip-hose and connect it to a timer on the water tap.

Our kit for the play hut or tunnel will only include the willow rods. 
In addition to that you will have to get:
Heavy landscape fabric to cover the ground inside + approximately 30 cm (1 foot) beyond the edge of the structure.
Staples to keep the cloth in place.
Mulch to cover the same area in a thick layer.
Zip-ties, elastic or other ties.
Drip hose and a timer to water the structure daily during at least the first growing season.

As the willow start to grow you want to weave the new shoots into the structure to make it stronger and denser.

When the new shoots are about 60 cm (2 feet) long you want to weave them into the structure.
If you wait much longer they may become too stiff for you to do it without breaking or kinking them.

You can continue to do so in future years if you want the structure to be denser.

Alternatively the structure should be trimmed twice a year to keep looking nice.

Do not despair if a couple of your willow rods don't take or die. You can always replace them with growth from some of the other rods as they grow. 

Install a play tunnel in exactly the same way as explained above for the play hut. The shape of the structure is just different.

Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


What could be more exciting than to work with an internationally renowned expert in primitive crafts, learning the finer points of willow basketry? Even more so if you get to decide yourself which project you want to work on with him?

If you agree, you don't want to miss out on this opportunity at Lakeshore Willows, Wainfleet, Ontario in June 2017.

Danish willow basket maker SteenHedegaard Madsen is well known throughout the international willow basketry community for a variety of reasons.
He is indeed a master basket weaver and you will find many people who will claim that he is THE master. In his modest way he told me that he is not a genius in any way – he has just been around for many years.

I first met Steen in 2013 when I, during a visit to Denmark, had an opportunity to work with him for 2 days in his charming studio.

Here is Steen outside the house in which his studio is along with a kitchen, small dining area and sleeping area for visiting students.

Ever since he was a young boy Steen has been interested in history and antiquity. He would play “stone age” with his friends, hunting with their homemade flint arrowheads and cooking their catch over the open fire while making more arrowheads.
Later – for a total of 19-20 years he would work at a Danish Historical Archaeological Research Center.

Maybe as a natural consequence of his interest for old crafts and skills Steen fell in love with willow basket making and is today one of the foremost experts reconstructing baskets made during a time from which no written documentation exists.
Steen working in his studio
A collection of old and new fishing creels at the wall

But more than that today, for those of us who desire to learn the finer points in willow basket making, he travels the World to teach us classes. Historical baskets – if that is what you are interested in – but not just that. Steen will teach you almost any kind of willow basket and bark container; you just have to ask.
During a class Steen usually teaches whatever each student wants to learn! The topics for the class of the day are pretty much open – only limited by your previous weaving experience and skills.
Check out his information on facebook and his website.

And this is your chance for a new willow experience!
This basket maker whose skills are second to none will teach and guide you in creating the basket you are most interested in making.

The classes will fill up fast so if you want to participate, register NOW.
For information about the classes and to register, go to Lakeshore Willows websitehere.

After you register, you want to spend time over the next couple of months exploring what you want to work on with Steen. Use books, the internet, pinterest, facebook etc for inspiration and bring photos or sketches for the class.

I will ask you a few weeks before the classes what you want to make so that I will be able to have the right sizes and amounts of willow prepared.

Some baskets (for example square baskets with or without a lid) are not for a total beginner and for oval baskets it is also recommendable that you have some experience with willow.
If you have any questions about that you can either ask me when you register or send me a mail.

Here are some pics from Steen that may help you to get started on your search for the perfect project!

Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


No New Year resolutions, but of course lots of plans!

During 2016 my "new" studio proved to be perfect for workshops taught by me and classes with visiting willow teachers as well as a wonderful home for my own willow creativity.
The PLAN is to give it a "face-lift" this year - as in new eyes and some make up - but it will still in the meantime be perfect for our use.

Keeping you all informed about what is happening at Lakeshore Willows IS a priority, but sometimes "life happens" and planned time for newsletter, blog, website and facebook slips away.
The PLAN is to connect in a more efficient and frequent way at all those venues to share with you exciting planned workshops and other activities.
Selected pics from Hjornholm November 2016 classes

In 2016 I was very happy to have the opportunity to get to know some very talented basket makers whom I had only heard about until then.

One of Canada's "Grand Old Ladies" of willow!
Many people who attended workshops here would tell me that they made one or a few willow baskets many years ago - with Ankaret Dean.
She is an amazing person, still very much involved in her community in McDonald's Corners, Ontario where she had invited me to teach 3 days of classes this summer.
Staying at her home I had the opportunity to learn about some of all the activities she has initiated and/or been involved in and I am looking forward to next time.

One of the people who actually made her first basket with Ankaret Dean, Joan is a fantastic artist/basket maker living in BC.
I knew about Joan from my friend, Danish willow artist and basket maker Eva Seidenfaden who have visited Joan in BC many times to teach classes. So when the basketry guild that I am a member of, Southwestern Ontario Basketry Guild, planned a willow retreat with Joan teaching one of the classes, I was excited to be able to participate.
A wonderful person and inspirational artist I really look forward to meeting again. AND she taught me my first basket weaving with other natural materials incl cedar bark.

Irish basket maker known by everybody who loves willow.
Joe was high up on my wish list of teachers to learn from and I was lucky to spend 6 days of willow weaving with him at the Willow Gathering in Decorah, Iowa last summer.
A fantastic week learning from one of the best.

And a few more pics from workshops here during 2016:

So now 2017 has arrived and I wish for all that it will be a healthy, happy year filled with positive energy.

Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dormant willow for planting

Winter has been unusually warm and friendly here this year and we are enjoying not to have to plow snow. That also means that we are able to harvest willow earlier than normal (unless we get a big storm) and I expect to have dormant willow available for sale during the first 2 weeks of March.

Willow cuttings

An assortment of willow cuttings for propagaion

The willow cuttings are approximately 10 inches long and ready for planting as soon as you can get them in the ground.
Use them for planting a willow bed for basketry or just for some beautiful willows in your garden.
For information and to order please go to our website here.

Willow rods (whips)
Example of dormant willow rods for propagation
Salix koriyanagi 'Rubykins'

The rods are approximately 6 feet long and can be used for living willow projects such as
Play huts and tunnels
Just installed play hut
Living willow fence (Fedge)

Living willow fence June the second year after installation

Woven trees in pots and in the garden
Trees just made
 First summer
After 5 years

Come and make your own tree - several designs available - in a nursery pot ready to take home. You can keep it in the pot on your patio for the first growing season and then transplant it to the garden in fall.

For information about 2016 spring workshops making living willow trees in pots please go to our website here.

Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Repairing an antique doll's carriage

A basketry guild that I am a member of forwarded a mail to all members from the owner of an antique doll's carriage.
She was looking for someone to help repair the buggy as her 3 year old daughter unsuccessfully had tried to enter it and thus put her foot through it a couple of places.

I wasn't sure that I would be able to do the job, but was willing to take a look at it and responded to the mail. It turned out that the owner lived just about 30 minutes drive from here and she came to see me with the buggy.
My first impression was that it was made using flat reed. As I only do work with natural willow I showed the owner examples of baskets the weave of which would be similar on the buggy if I did the job, and she was excited to have me try to not fix or repair, but replace the weave.
So after a few days I contacted her with a quote as I had decided what/how to do.
The original cover had been cut to fit from a woven sheet and attached to the frame with multiple nails. Then another strip was attached to cover the nails and ends of the weave - using nails. As can be seen on the first of these images, the weave had been painted at least 3 times: pink, blue and the last cote white.
Removing the original cover was a much bigger job than I had anticipated, but I got it off. Interestingly enough it turned out that the material used for the weave was PAPER. Fairly heavy paper folded twice and the stakes were paper that was rolled so that it resembled round reed.
The owner had chosen Salix x 'Americana' for the weave and we decided to paint the frame black which would suit the darker green colour of the willow.
For the basket part of the buggy I drilled holes under the bottom of the frame for my stakes.

Turning the stakes out and around the frame and tying them made it possible for me to weave the sides of the buggy so that the "basket" fit snug around the frame all the way around. 

For further stability and a bit of interest I tied willow around the edge at a point on both sides.
Now to the canopy!
The owner had given me permission to make changes and the two "windows" in the canopy weren't going to be incorporated in the new design.
A square, cracked peg inserted to hold the top frame in place - and to which the original weave was nailed - was replaced with a piece of a willow rod that was naturally black.
To make it all come together I turned the weave around (in the original it appeared that the "stakes" would run from front to back) and wove the canopy as a "frame basket" starting in the middle of the inserted willow piece. 

And the final appearance.

Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.