Willow placemats

During the 1930s, homes were being built at a rate of knots all over the United Kingdom. People were moving in droves out in suburbia and into lovely new semis and detached properties, where the kitchen, as now, was the heart of the home. People wanted to create their own warm and friendly 1930s-inspired country kitchen and dining space, and part of that period look was achieved with willow weaving, a popular craft in this decade.

Basketry crafts are so lovely as the home decor, so you can find professional willow weaver who can design a fantastic willow placemats for you, or you can search for them in antique and vintage sales and antique shops. Or you can choose to have a real fun and pleasure to make them on your own.

Material you will need (per placemat):

  • about 30 willow rods, for weaving (depending on the size of your placemats), plus 6 rods for the base
  • large container, for soaking the willow (this could be done in the bath tub)
  • secateurs
  • ruler
  • bodkin (a pointed handtool, not the sewing variety)
  • cutting mat

How to make it:

1 Put the willow in a large container of water and leave to soak until supple – this usually takes about the day.

2 Using secateurs, cut six willow sticks from the butt (thick) end of the willow to make a base for your placemat. The length of the sticks will determine the size of your placemat, so cut accordingly (the recommendation is 30 cm).

3 Using the bodkin, and leaning on a cutting mat if you wish, split a hole in the middle of three of the sticks. The hole should be just big enough to pass your other three sticks through. With the bodkin still through the three split rods, insert the three other sticks vertically through the holes to create a cross formation. You now have  the base around which to weave the rods.

4 Take two rods and put the tips (the thin end) into the base sticks from the left-hand side. Push through until around 5 cm are poking through on the right. Where the sticks cross, start wrapping these two rods around the centre in a clockwise direction. This will form the centre square.

5 Continue wrapping one rod under and one rod over the first side of the cross. When the rods meet, cross the bottom rod over the top rod to hold it in place. Now the bottom rod is on top and the top rod is on the bottom. repeat this process until you have gone right around the cross three times.

6 Now spread out the six base sticks to make 12 spokes and continue weaving the rods over and under each spoke until you have made a large circle for your placemat. Weaving the rods in pairs will give a strong and balanced base.

7 When you get towards the end of a rod, simply add a new one underneath the old one and continue weaving. If the rod you are using finishes on the butt end, start with the butt end of the new piece; similarly, a tip end should be continued with the tip end of a new piece. When you get within three or four rows of completing the mat, finish your  weaving with the tip end of the willow and tuck it under a spoke.

8 Now you are going to make a border to finish the mat. Add in the butt end of a weaving rod at each spoke by placing it under the spoke. Now put it on top of two spokes, then under one spoke, working each spoke around the circle this way in a clockwise direction. Finish each rod underneath (which will be the bottom on the placemat). Repeat this process at every spoke in the circle. Trim any excess willow  underneath with secateurs, always cutting at an angle for a lovely finish.


4 Responses to Willow placemats

  1. Alex says:

    Hi there,

    You say that 30 rods will be needed for this project, my question is how many placemats will that make if they are 30cm in diameter as suggested?

    Alex 🙂

    • tamara says:

      Hi Alex,

      I should apologize because haven’t mention that the material on the list is per placemat. I’ll correct it immediately.

      The final size depends also on the thickness and length of the willow rods. The picture 4 (from the top) is about the right thickness for the given size. You can see that pictures I put in the text shows different placemats and they look slightly different, although the technique is the same.Those pictures can give you an idea about finished item based on the material you have.

      Thanks for comment.


  2. janet Alty says:

    I was looking for a picture to show the finishing stage as that seemed a bit tricky. Otherwise very helpful, thank you.

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