8. The Handle
This handle is, to me, the most basic and elementary type of bow handle for willow baskets. Most bow handles have the same basic principles: A thick willow rod functions as the bow (though, in my case, I’ve used centre cane) and then covered with two groups of weavers. The tip ends of these weavers are then tied up in one of several different methods to form what is commonly referred to as an ear. These ears are the things that connect the handle to the basket, though other types of bow handles have different methods of connecting to the basket. I am working on an online course about handles, and it’s likely that the first lesson there will be about bow handles.
Preparing weavers for the handle
The length of weavers necessary for these types of handles should be roughly the length of the handle bow, plus 1 or 2 feet (30-60 cm). But, I would sometimes prefer not to prepare weavers in advance. Instead, I would use the leftover willow cuts from the border. If I find that these willow rods aren’t good for me, I would simply wait to make the handle. There is no obligation to do it right after finishing the basket. You can leave the basket to dry and make the handle at some other time.
As you approach the top of your basket, remember to insert two thick pieces of willow where you want your handle to be. These willows should be as thick as the handle bow itself. In shorter baskets, we might introduce the placeholders right after weaving the upsett. Insert the placeholders to the left of their coupling stake, unless, of course, you are left-handed, and you weave towards the left. If you forget to put the placeholders in (as I often do), that’s not the end of the world. It just means you’ll have a harder time making the handle.
How thick should the handle bow be?
It depends on the look you want for your handle. The bigger the basket is (or the bigger the handle is), the thicker the handle bow should be. If the proportion of the handle and the basket don’t match, it might look a bit awkward. As a general guideline, I would say that 8-12 mm is a proper thickness (about half an inch). But, of course, it can be a lot more, or a lot less if you use two handle bows together (which, by the way, is an excellent solution for when you don’t have thick enough willows).
How deeply to insert the handle bow?
The deeper you insert it, the better its grip and stability will be. Just don’t were yourself down inserting it. Remember to make the cuts on the inside of the bow, or else they will face the outer side of the basket, and it wouldn’t look as neat.
Whether you’re using one very thick rod or two “normal-size” rods together, it might be more effective to place them in between two stakes. These two stakes will be woven as one, together with the placeholder/s between them, while weaving the basket. That way, the entire space between those two stakes will be left open for the handle bow.
Inserting the weavers
Once we’ve secured the bow in its position, we can insert the weavers. But how exactly? I feel like I haven’t explained it all too well in the video.
In this type of handle, where we thread the weavers towards the inside, it’s best to insert them at the left inner side of the bow. That way, we’ll be leaving more room at the front of the bow for the other group of weavers coming from the other side. You can see in my demonstration that there isn’t enough room for the weavers to finish up neatly. They come from the right side of the bow, and it doesn’t look good. Ideally, we want them to cover up the front side of the bow as they make their way down and through to the inside of the basket.
Adding more weavers
When coiling our weavers around the handle bow, it’s quite likely that we’ll discover that more weavers are needed. Now, there is no need to do as I did and open up the whole thing to add more weaver. You can simply add more weavers (one at a time, of course) until you cover up your handle bow. Don’t worry if you have small spaces left on the top side of the handle. It’s actually not possible to cover up the bottom and the top side of the handle to the same degree. The thicker the handle bow is, the more evident it becomes.
As I stated in the video, it isn’t crucial to fold the weavers downwards as you tie them together. It’s ok to leave them facing upwards, though I myself would probably never do this. It just doesn’t feel secure enough to me.
These are the next tutorials I recommend for beginners to watch:
"Introduction to waling" and "basic French randing" in my "Weaving Techniques" course.
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