Fitching with Steen H. Madsen

This June I visited Lakeshore willows a second time.  I had the honor of meeting and working with Steen Madsen, a basket maker and internationally renowned expert in primitive crafts.  Steen lives in Denmark, but was visiting Lene to run a four day workshop.  Unfortunately I could only make two of the four days, but in that short amount of time I learned more than I ever have before making baskets. 

When Steen teaches, he allows his students to pick what they would like to work on.  Most of the people choose to work on square baskets, but I went for something a little different.  I have always admired a very open weave basket that I now have come to learn, may have originated in Scotland.  The basket called a "Cran" was used in weighing and carrying herring.  The baskets had to be very precise because they were used as the measurement of the herring, and how a fisherman would get paid.  For my purposes I wasn't there to learn the exact historical measurements, but rather the technique called "fitching"   

I figured it would be toward my advantage to work on something with a round base, because that's what I've had the most experience with.  Much to my surprise, I learned in much greater detail the process of working a round base then I ever have before. 

Steen was wonderful for explaining exactly why certain things are done.  Basketry is one of the oldest crafts known to man and over the years "Rules of Thumb" have been developed.  This was the first time those rules were ever explained to me, and most of the other students in the class as well. Steen was very good at explaining each step and entertained us all with sweet singing of Danish songs that were made to remember the basic rules.   

I also learn new little details like this little "staple" pictured above.  It was a technique used to end the bottom row of waling before you added stakes and fitched the sides.  Again this was an instance where Steen explained two different ways to complete a task.  Both ways being new to me.  

Needless to say I was in basket making heaven.  In only two days I felt way more confident in my skills then ever before.  I'm just sad that I had to miss the last two days.  But I know I will make every attempt to work with Steen again, even if that means traveling to Denmark ;)   


This small basket was my first "practice" basket for the fitching.  Now it has been designated as my new basket making "tool box" - it fits all my tools perfectly.  

It was also a great chance to practice another roped handle, which I was very pleased with how it turned out.  

Sandra KehoeComment