Basketmaking, chair seating and willow work

Willow basketmaking techniques – exploring fitching with Mary Butcher

Ref: SLW09533


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About this course

Fitching is the weave usually used in openwork baskets, often for fishing or agriculture as water and soil can escape. It is also used by many traditional and contemporary makers, producing aesthetically pleasing, light and strong baskets.

Course Description

Fitching is necessary for good open work in basketry. This course introduces this skill to those without previous experience to the art of fitching and those who have fitched before to increase their understanding of the weave. You will learn how to use it tightly and with regularity, to give beautiful baskets of a light appearance even when very strong. Those with no experience of fitching will learn the essentials of the weave, suitable joins and ways of keeping the rows regular. Those who have some existing skills will perfect fine detail. Fitching in British basketry has unique features, unlike in Europe and elsewhere, and there are also many traditional British baskets that use this weave.

Everyone will start with a round basket to learn the weave. You may then work to your individual preference and designs, after discussion with the tutor, making the functional or contemporary baskets of your own choice. The course will be taught by demonstration, either individually or to the group as appropriate, and with class discussion of work in progress and a study of available examples.

The aim is for you to gain new or improved willow skills and also learn something of the history of this traditional weave, and leave sufficiently competent to continue working at home.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • The cost of the willow supplied on the course is included. However, an extra charge may be payable for large or multiple items, this should be paid to the College Craft Shop if requested.

What students need to bring

  • Please wear covered footwear in the workshop - this is an essential health and safety requirement.
  • All necessary tools can be borrowed from the tutor so it is not necessary to buy anything before the course. If you have any of the following they would be useful: Any basketry tools including secateurs, sharp side cutters, a small hammer, a small quantity of string, a good penknife but not a Stanley knife, a measure, a few clothes pegs, a spray bottle for water, an old large cloth for wrapping damp baskets, an apron

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Basketmaker's bodkins
  • Available from tutor:
  • Specialised side cutters can be bought from the tutor

Student review

"I have to say that experiencing being taught by Mary Butcher herself was not only a pleasure but very informative and extremely well paced. Of course the whole setting at West Dean is wonderful, the gardens/landscape a delight, the building full of atmosphere, the workshops/facilities top notch, the staff friendly and polite, the food excellent, what more can one say.. a most enjoyable day, thank you."

Sophie, 2019


Mary Butcher

Mary Butcher is a basketmaker, exhibition curator, writer and teacher. She held a prestigious crafts residency at the V&A's Sackler Centre in 2009. Recent exhibitions include 'This Beloved Earth', The Barony, West Kilbride, Scotland, 'Basketry Making Human Nature' at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich 2012, Re-Making the Past from the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and tour, 2014 (a study in Bronze Age Creativity) and 'Dimensions' in Denmark, 2016. She received an MBE for services to basketmaking in 2012 and one of two Crafts Skills Champions Awards in 2013.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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