Dried Willows

Cultivated varieties of willow have been the basketry and furniture material of choice by basketmakers worldwide for centuries. There was a strong willow growing and willow basketry industry in the East and Mid-West United States in the nineteenth century. Willows are a strong and flexible material. The nature of willow to 'kink" gives tightness and resilience to the finished product. The ability to make strong willow baskets quickly and to exact dimensions filled the increased demand for functional containers during the Industrial Revolution.


Types and Lengths of Willow Available

The willows for sale have been imported from Europe. Four types of willow are available:

-- the brown rods are given an additional steaming to produce a deep brown color.

-- the rods are dried with the bark remaining which has a greenish-brown hue.
-- the rods are dried with the bark on and then boiled in tanks for several hours. The subsequent peeling result in a soft red-brown color.
-- the rods are peeled to reveal a white rod.

Rods are purchased by length. Three to eight foot rods in brown, steamed brown, buff and white are usually available for sale. Specific availability varies from time to time.


Full Length Willow Samples

Samples of full length willows of brown, steamed brown, buff and white willow are available for $15.00. This price includes shipping.

Designing a Willow Basket

A willow basket can either be made from one length of rods (such as four foots for a small basket) or from several lengths of rods. Careful grading is important in both cases, but especially in the first case. The thickest rods are used in the bottom sticks.

The stakes are thinner than sticks and the waling rods are usually thinner than stakes. Weavers in the siding will be thinner than walers and usually of medium material. The thinnest material may be reserved for the weaving of the base.

The longer the length of the willow rod, the thicker the individual member and hence the lesser number of rods per pound. There are approximately 90 to 100 rods or withies in a pound of four-foot buff willow and 30 rods in a pound of six-foot buff willow. One half to three quarters of a pound of willow is necessary for a medium sized basket. Four- to six-foot willow would be used in a medium-sized basket, with three- to four-foot in a finer basket, and six- to eight-foot willows in a large basket.


Use and Storage of Willow

Willows are worked in a damp condition which means that they must be soaked in cold water in order to make them pliable. After soaking, they should be covered in a cool spot to mellow overnight. Times for soaking vary according to the thickness and type of willow and your particular situation. The following soaking times are given as a guide:

Soaking Chart

White and Buff Willow

Up to 4 feet.................half hour
4 to 6 feet.........half to one hour
6 to 8 feet......two to three hours

Brown Willow

Up to 4 feet........two to three days
4 to 6 feet..........three to five days
6 to 8 feet.........five to seven days

Test: The willow is soaked enough when a butt end will kink at 90 degrees without breaking and the bark stays intact. Do not over-soak!

Prepared willow is velvety to the touch and has no greasiness. Prepared willow, not in use, should be kept covered as it will dry out easily. One should only prepare enough willow for a few days use and dry all unused willow. Willow should be stored dry and in a dry, dark place.


Retail Prices
There is a minimum order of one pound of any type or length of willow.

Brown willow (3 to 8 foot**) $18.00 per lb
Steamed brown willow (3 to 8 foot**) $19.00 per lb
Buff willow (3 to 8 foot**) $20.00 per lb
White willow (4 to 8 foot**) $21.00 per lb
White willow (3 foot) $22.00 per lb

** Please specify exact foot length of willow desired


Wholesale Prices
There is a minimum order of 10 pounds per individual item: e.g., 4 foot buff.

Price per Pound Brown Willow
Steamed Brown and Buff Willow
White Willow*
10 pounds of one kind $17.00 $18.00 $19.00

* Top price is 4 ft. to 8 ft. willows; bottom price is 3 ft. willows