Stake and strand

Stake and strand is a traditional European basketry technique for working with willow.

It describes the way in which the basket has been constructed; the weave consists of strong sticks (in the base) and uprights (in the sides) over which thinner rods are woven. It is a fairly fast way technique. This was the main method used in the basketry workshops that sprang up to service the rural industries. Most baskets that were made in quantity were woven in this way because it was efficient and cost-effective.

The parts of the basket

Stake and strand baskets are made from the base up with the border made last. Handles, lids and latches are worked at the end.

The base is made first and separately. The base dictates the eventual size of the basket and the weight of willow used dictates the strength.

Each of the different base shapes are woven in a specific way.

The base may be:-


This base begins with a set of stout sticks that are tied into a square with the weaving rods, this is called ‘tying in the slath’.  As the weaving progresses the sticks are spread out to form a circle and a base is woven that is slightly domed. The doming or ‘crowning’ creates tension that will take the weight of the contents of the basket.

The first stages in making a round basket base, tying in the slath

A round base with several rounds of pairing weave using two sets of ‘pairs’


This base is more difficult to make in that it tries to buckle when it is being constructed. There are several weaving strokes that help to overcome this; the base may be woven with alternate rows or bands of paring and reverse pairing or it may be paired around the narrow ends and randed on the long sides. An oval base also has a domed or ‘crowned’ form that adds to the strength of the finished basket.

Oval base viewed from underneath the basket

 Both round and oval bases are often made by a method known as ‘underfoot’. The advantage of this is that the hands are free to work and it is very fast, though the maker must work bent double.

Weaving an underfoot oval base

Square – square-work includes oblong shapes:

A square base is traditionally made using a screw block. (two lengths of wood held together by bolts). Heavy sticks are held vertically in place in the gap between the pieces and the base is woven across the sticks using finer willow.

Other shapes; for example a D shape (for bike baskets). A thick willow rod is used for the frame of the D. Baskets  without a base such as a fish trap that starts with a funnel, are also made using the stake and strand method.

Staking up and the upset

 The sides of the basket are formed by attaching the stakes or uprights to the base. In the case of round and oval bases this is done by inserting the rods by the butt (thick) ends, which have been prepared by making a  slype (slanting cut) on the end, into the gaps in the weave.

Stakes or uprights being inserted either side of the base stick in a round basket

In the case of square work or a D shape the rods must be knocked through the thick side sticks by making a space for them with a bodkin.

Once the stakes have all been attached to the base they are ‘upset’ by ‘pricking up’ using a knife or bodkin to kink them upright at the edge of the weave of the basket base.


Stakes are ‘pricked up’ using a knife

The upset is the name for the first few rows of weaving which is done using a waling weave. This strong band sets the shape and the flow of the sides.  A further band of waling is usually found at the top of the basket just below the border, for the border to be laid down onto.

Siding weaves

The side of the basket is generally woven in finer willow using one of a variety of weaves. Slewing is often used for speed. English or French randing are also possible siding weaves.

Oval basket with English rib randing as a siding weave and a central handle

Siding weaves: four sets of French randing in brown willow separated by bands of waling in buff willow

The border

The plain rod border is the one most commonly found on English willow baskets. It is worked using the uprights or stakes that come up from the side of the basket; these are bent  or ‘pricked’ down and woven along in a pattern that forms a strong edge to the top of the basket. 

The first few rods are ‘pricked down’ to begin the border. The siding weave on this basket is three rod slewing.

The border is made wider or narrower by incorporating more or fewer rods in the pattern. When completing the border the last few rods are threaded away following the pattern.

Other more decorative borders such as plait or trac borders are found on baskets used in the home or on shopping baskets.


Central handle:
A roped bow handle is usual for a round basket. This goes from side to side of the basket. A solid handle bow is inserted beside stakes on opposite sides and forms the core. Willow rods inserted into the basket next to the bow on each side are wrapped around the bow several times and then over the border in a pattern that can vary from a plain wrap to a herringbone design. 

Alternatively a basket may have:

Side handles:These are made from 2 cranked (twisted) willow rods. They are wrapped around the border and sit above the border or sometimes side handles are made before the border is put on. In this case they sit horizontally and sometimes include a brace that stops them being pulled up when the basket is carrying weight.

A side handle woven from two willow rods. These are ‘cranked’ to make them pliable enough to make the tight turns required

The cover or lid

Covers are often found on square/oblong baskets. These are made using a screw block in the same way as the base though the sticks are often lighter and there may be one or two more of them. The lid may be hinged onto the basket using twisted willow rods or leather straps and sometimes there are latches and fastenings as well. Partitions, which are made like small bases, may be inserted if there is a need for them.


Lid on a basket by Roy Youdale


Square picnic basket with side handles, hinged lid and partition by Mandy Jones

see also