After I did my baked cornucopia (horn of plenty) I wanted something that lasted a little longer. So I tried a little willow weaving and made a cornucopia that I can’t eat! 🙂
Basketry always fascinated me, but I never tried it before. It’s a really old handicraft with a longstanding tradition. In tutorials you will read about a lot of technical terms and different methods. It takes a little time to learn the basics. I’m going to write a separate blog post about that.
The materials for basketry are easy to find and not very expensive. You can use Wicker, Willow, Reed (available here*) or even thinly rolled Newspaper.
For my horn of plenty I used willow stems. If you are lucky, you can harvest your own willow from the countryside. Alternatively you can buy bundles of dried willow in a garden center. Round reed (available here*) will work just as well for this craft.
Before you can start with your project, you need to let the Willow soak in water for a few days. Just try to bend a stem at 90 degrees. If it doesn’t break, you are good to go!
How it’s done:
1. Cut 3 sections of Willow to the same length. They should be slightly longer than your cornucopia is going to be. Those 3 sections will support the structure and are called “stakes“.
Look for a really long thin shoot and tie the stakes together on one end. This shoot is going to be your “weaver“. Make a knot with your weaver and wrap it tightly around the stakes a couple of times. Then you are going to start to weave around the stakes. Simply weave alternately over and under the stakes for 2 – 3 rounds.
2. Add 2 more stakes to your structure. Sharpen the ends with garden shears and insert them into the weave right next to two of the stakes.
3. Contiunue to weave around the cornucopia a few rounds to secure the new stakes.
4. Add another 2 stakes the same way. Just use a different spot for them this time. All the stakes should be spread out evenly around your structure. Continue on to weave around your cornucopia and pull the weaver in as tightly as possible.
Your cornucopia now has 7 stakes. You can choose more or less for your structure. Just as you like. But it has to be an uneven number of stakes. (That’s why you always add 2 at the same time.)
If you reach the end of your weaver, just continue on with a new one. Cross the end of the old weaver and the beginning of the new one behind one stake. Let the ends stick out a little and cut them off after a few rounds.
To achieve the typical horn-shape of your cornucopia, you need to bend the stakes into the desired direction as you go along. To help with that, insert a flower pot (or something similar) into the sctructure and continue to weave around it. After each row, bend the stakes a little more into the direction you want. I wanted my horn to bend a little upwards, so about midway I left the stakes below straight and only bent the stakes at the top.
If you think your cornucopia is long enough, you need to weave a border to lock everything in place. Use a technique that is called a “Three Rod Wale“. It looks really pretty and is not difficult at all. – I promise!
Choose three new weavers and put the thicker ends behind 3 consecutive stakes. The thinner ends of the weavers should point to the right side.
Start with the left-most weaver (weaver number 1) and bend it to the right over two stakes, then behind one stake and back out to the front. (picture 1)
Continue again with the left-most weaver. (now weaver number 2) Bend it tho the right over two stakes, behind one stake and back out to the front. (picture 2)
Do the same with weaver number 3. It is always the same. Pick the left-most weaver, bend it over the next two stakes, then behind one stake and back out to the front. Contiune on with your waling for about 2 rows. (Or until you reach the end of your weavers.) You can see the typical drawstring pattern of the wale. (picture 3)
The only thing left to weave is a rim and your cornucopia is finished. You can choose from many different designs. I made a plaited border, which is a bit more difficult and not recommended if you are just starting out.
For a simple rim, just bend every stake to the right over the next stake and insert the ends down into the weave. You can also made up your own design for a rim.
For my plaited rim, I used 7 new thin weavers and inserted one right next to each stake. Then I cut off the old stakes. (You could also skip that step and use the old stakes to form the rim. But mine were too short and thick for this particular design.)
You can see the beginning steps of the plaited border in the 3 pictures above. But this pattern is very complex, so I made a more detailed illustration with a step by step tutorial below.
Tutorial for a plaited rim or border:
1. Bend stakes 1 and 2 to the front and slightly to the right.
2. Curve stake 1 slightly, bend it over stake 2 and bring it to the back between stakes 3 and 4.
3. Bend stake 3 to the front.
4. Curve stake 2 slightly, bend it over stake 3 and bring it to the back between stakes 4 and 5.
5. Bend stake 1 above stake 2 to the front between stakes 4 and 5.
6. Bend stake 4 to the front. It should be placed next to stake 1. Stakes 1 and 4 are your first pair.
7. Curve stake 3 slightly, bend it over stake 1 and 4 and bring it to the back between stakes 5 and 6.
8. Bend stake 2 above stake 3 to the front between stakes 5 and 6.
9. Bend stake 5 to the front. It should be placed next to stake 2. Stakes 2 and 5 are your second pair.
10. Bend your stakes 1 and 4 (your fist pair) over stakes 2 and 5 (your second pair) and bring them to the back between stakes 6 and 7.
11. Bend stake 2 above stake 1 and 4 (your first pair) to the front between stakes 6 and 7.
12. Bend stake 6 to the front. It should be placed next to stake 3. Stakes 3 and 6 are your third pair.
Continue on to plait with the pairs as if they were single stakes. Your pairs will become groups of three. In the next step you will drop the shortest stake (first stake 1, then 2 and so on…) and continue on to plait. Your plait will have 3 stakes next to each other on the inside and 2 stakes next to each other on the outer side. (You can see that on the right side of picture number 13.)
(I did a little variation of this plait with my cornucopia, and did not drop the shortest stake.)
13. If you reach the beginning of your plait again, you have to insert the ends of your stakes into the plait. (You can see how in picture 13.) Just follow the natural progression of the stakes and thread the news stakes next to them.
Cut off the projecting stakes with your garden shears.
It takes a while to practice the braided border of a basket. There is a saying, that a basket maker needs to weave a rim at least 6 times to master it. I am nowhere near that and tricked a little. But I quite like the finished result. 🙂 (And who is going to look that closely anyway, right?!)
This Willow Cornucopia is the perfect decoration for Thanksgiving and Harvest Time. Just decorate it with little pumpkins, some dried wheat, nuts and pretty autumn leaves. If you want to know how to make your autumn leaves last, look at this entry!
You can also use round reed (available here*) instead of willow for this craft!
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