Tutorial: Woven Willow Bird Feeders

Hello there!  I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend like I am!  Today’s post was originally going to continue my knitting series, except I got so distracted with another project (you’ll have to check out Instagram for my sneak peek of that project), that I forgot about knitting any swatches!  So sadly, that post will have to wait till another week, but an unexpected craft activity came my way this week which is what I’d like to share with you.

If you’re a regular reader of my nature blog you’ll know that I volunteer with the BCN Wildlife Trust at Godmanchester Nature Reserve.  Each week we have a group of 16-19 year olds come along and join us in some conservation work from clearing brambles, to building willow fences, to bird watching and fossil hunting.  This week they were cutting down some willows in the conservation area and as such, I was given the opportunity to craft!  The other volunteers and I have been discussing making little willow bird feeders with the group and with some help from them I learnt how to make a little basket for the fat balls I make for the birds!

So today, I thought I’d share with you a little tutorial for what I found was the easiest of these baskets.  All you need are 10-12 pieces of willow, not too thick and not too dry.  Length wise I found those about a metre to be most useful, but use whatever you’ve got to hand!  My tutorial is shown using multi-coloured pipe cleaners.  I think this makes a nice bright decoration and might be fun to do with children if they aren’t up to using willow.  I take no credit for the method, its basic basket weaving, but hopefully you’ll find my tutorial useful and interesting!

I’ll also give you a nice recipe at the end for fat balls that my garden birds absolutely love!

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Bird Feeding Basket Tutorial (using Pipe cleaners)

Step 1: Group 3 stems (of willow or pipecleaners or whatever) together (this is my bright green group).  Group another 4 stems together (my three purples and my single orange pipe cleaner, you’ll find out why its a different colour soon).  Lay them perpendicular to the first group to make a cross.

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Step 2: Take another stem (the blue one in my basket) and take it over the top of one group, underneath the other, over the top of next, under the next until you’ve finished it.  If like me in my pipe cleaner version you ran out after not very long, then just join another piece in.  If you’re using willow then select a long enough bit that you shouldn’t have to join another bit in!

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Step 3: From your group of four that you started with, take one on the edges (my orange one – now you know why I’ve got different colours), but only one end of it, not both ends, and weave it through the rest of its group – behind the first, over the second, under the third.  Continue in the same direction, moving onto the next group, weaving as you go – over the first, under the second etc.

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Step 4: When you run out, just join another bit in and continue with the weaving.  You should find that the weaving pulls the cross-wise stems up into a bowl shape, if it doesn’t, then try to shape it as you go by pulling the willow you’re weaving with a little tighter as needed

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Step 5: Stop when you’ve either run out of willow or its reached the size you want.  Twist or plait the remaining upright stems together to neaten them up and help it stay together.

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Step 6: Gather the stems together at the top and either tie it off with string, use a long bit of willow to twist round and hold it together, wrap the longest upright stem around the others or whatever is most convenient for you!

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And ta-dah!  You made a basket!  Either hang it as it is, use some string to hang it or use however you like!

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Easy Fat Ball Recipe for the birds

Ingredients: Wild bird seed mix, lard

Soften the lard (but don’t fully melt it), mix the bird seed in and mush it together.  Shape it as you desire (I made little hearts using a biscuit cutter as wedding favours).  Put it out in your basket for the birds to enjoy!

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I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial and post – I certainly enjoyed making them and writing about it for you!  Enjoy your weekend!

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