Baskets were used by our ancestors from the cradle to the grave. Findings of woven twigs pre-date any fragments of woven cloth and even certain forms of pottery. Before the potter's wheel was invented, basketwork was used as a mould for clay objects.
The convenience of the throw-away cardboard box and the ubiquitous plastic carrier bag have made people dispense with their old shopping basket, although with the present focus on recycling, the basket is coming back into fashion.
"Prayer baskets" were made in early Christian communities such as on Iona - maybe here on Enlli too. They believed it important to discover a rhythm of prayer as they worked, so baskets were woven simply out of reeds as the monastics framed their prayers, the simple manual task assisting to bring focus to the praying heart.
The withy beds here on Ynys Enlli were planted in order to supply willow for making lobster pots. This was replaced by cane, which is slightly easier to use, and then by today's netting and metal frame lobster pots. The withies are now managed as habitat for wildlife and areas of mature or overgrown willow are coppiced on a rotational basis in order to encourage fresh growth. This is ideal for basket making and winter is the time to harvest it , as the rods are more pliable and less likely to snap when the "sap is down". I now tend to use a mix of island willow and imported willow from the mainland (Conwy, Llyn and Somerset!)
Baskets have been used for every conceivable purpose; as containers for gathering and storing, for carrying and hauling, for living and sitting on, for travelling in and with, and for holding food - and even water. Basketwork has produced fencing and fish traps, huts and hats, chariots, chairs and clothing, cradles and coffins. They're are increasingly being used in our household, in various shapes and forms!
Daisy (asleep in Celyn's basket!)
The basic procedure of making a round basket: