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Learn the answers to the FAQs that Sarah Hatton receives about her business, growing and weaving willow and being a basket maker.

About the Craft and Techniques

I’m based in Caerphilly in South Wales. My workshop is at my home, and I grow my willow a short walk away.

Additionally, I run all my courses at Nantgarw China Works Museum, which is only a 10-minute drive from my home and workshop.

My mum asked me to attend the RHS Show in Cardiff, where I had a go at making a willow flower. Amazingly, I discovered that you could take a bundle of sticks and weave them together to create a flower. Subsequently, I realized that you could grow sticks and intertwine them to make functional, strong, and sustainable baskets of all shapes and sizes.

I started weaving in 2008. Subsequently, I setup Hatton Willow in 2012 and quit my job in IT in 2015. Then, in 2016, I partnered with Melanie Bastier to establish Lily Willow Coffins.

I am now a willow grower, basket maker, coffin maker, chair seater, willow sculpture and willow weaving teacher.

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” – William Shakespeare

There are so many types of baskets! I primarily focus on stake and strand baskets and frame baskets. Frame baskets are usually good for beginners because I make and dry the frame in advance. This way, you just have to add ribs and weave around them. I use a lot of different types of weaves, including English rand, French rand, waling, and slewing. You can double up these weaves or use different colored willows to add interest.

Growing, Coppicing and Preparing Willow

I grow my own willow organically on a section of 5 acres of land. I have 6,500 willow stools with 26 different varieties.

It gives me a fantastic array of willow with a variety of height, colour and thickness.

I coppice my willow between January and March every year. Coppice means to cut the willow down low to the floor to stimulate the growth.

It is cut in Winter when the leaves have fallen off and the sap is down within the plant.

I mainly grow Salix Purpurea which comes in many varieties as these are the best willows for basket making. There are 300-400 varieties of willow and I grow 26 varieties for their colour and size. They can grow between 3ft and 16ft in one year and are coppiced every year for up to 30 years.

You can weave with fresh willow but as the willow grows it shrinks by around 50%. This means that you would usually leave it around 3 months to dry and then resoak it to make it pliable. Buff and white willow has to be soaked in water for between ½ an hour and 3½ hours. Brown willow needs to be soaked for between 1 and 8 days. The willow also needs mellowing after soaking before weaving. Some varieties of willow need longer soaking time than others.
Sarah Hatton Willow

Questions answered by Sarah from Hatton Willow on all things willow. Including willow growing, basketmaking, weaving sculpture and replacing chair seats.