Jan 13, 2021
6 mins read
Gathering and Processing Ivy
So excited to share this wonderful weavable wonder!
I decided to choose the beautiful Ivy for our first project. It really is such a good plant fibre to get to know what with Ivy's diverse uses and abundance.
Where to look for Ivy -
My favourite place to gather ivy is along stone walls. Often you'll find long stretches covered with vines, vines which tend to get removed every few years by the council as ivy can cause structural damage when climbing walls. You just need to make sure you get there before they do and put the vines to good use!
If you can't find ivy growing on walls then vines dangling from trees can be great for weaving too. Just be careful as ivy likes to grow on dead branches/trees and its far too easy to pull them down onto your head when collecting the vines!
Ivy also likes to grow through the soil doing it's job of holding things together! Especially on slopes. I usually avoid gathering vines that grow through the soil as they need a lot of cleaning and also I've heard they tend to carry more lal beasties. Plus it's always best not to disturb the soil when we don't have to!
When to gather -
Essentially you can gather Ivy at anytime of year, though I would avoid disturbing the plant before and during flowering season. It's nectar and pollen is one of the few food sources about for insects so late in the year! (September - November)
Another thing to bear in mind is whether you're wanting to strip the bark off to reveal the Ivory colour underneath (will do a post on this later in the year) This is far easier to do in the Summer as the sap is flowing between the Ivy bark and the wood.
I personally find Winter a nice time to gather as all the leaf harvesting has come to a stop. Leaf gathering takes the priority in the summer and autumn months as you only tend to have a small window when leaves are at their best for gathering!
How to gather -
Once you've found a good patch of ivy, search for the long and unbranched vines that are free hanging from the wall/tree. Some vines will just snap off if you pull them and others you will need your handy pair of secateurs.
It's nice to collect a range of different sized vines as they will be useful for different parts of the basket when it comes to weaving. Really thick gnarly vines can even be used as beautiful wavy frames and handles.
When you've gathered a good amount of vines, you then need to remove the leaves. Some people are sensitive to the Ivy leaves so its not a bad idea to wear gloves for the entire process if you're worried about this! To remove the leaves, run the vine through your hands and the leaves, rootlets and and little side branches should easily come off. Don't worry about removing every single one, it's quite sweet if once woven up into a basket there's a few of the beautiful little leaves left on!
One little coiled vine :)
The last step is to coil the vines up ready for storage, carefully as to not kink them in the process! When we come to weave we're going to put these coils in a bucket to soak so don't make your coils any bigger than your bucket!
Once you have brought your beautiful Ivy harvest back home, you ideally want to hang your coils up somewhere airy, warm and dry.
Easy way to do this is to run a piece of string through the middle of your coils and hang in small bunches above head bashing height.
After two to four weeks your vines should be nice and dry and ready to prepare for weaving but don't feel you need to use them straight away. I've personally found if you keep them dry and out the way the vines should keep for at least a year after harvesting.
Photo below is a mixture of Brambles, Ivy and Jasmine drying above the fire with their hanging monkey guardian :)
The night before you want to use your vines place them delicately into a bucket and fill with warm water. It's really important at this stage when they're completely dry to be as gentle as possible! If you roughly shove them into the bucket you'll find that when you come to weaving the next day they'll be horribly snappy!
The vines being hollow and filled with air will try and escape out of the bucket so make sure you put either a lid or a damp cloth on top to keep them under the water.
In the morning you'll need to take the Ivy out of the water and let it rest for an hour or two in a damp towel, then you're good to go :)
One thing to bare in mind is that plants have a mind of their own and there are so many variables such as thickness of vine, temperature, water type etc. which play a part in how long your vines will need to be soaked. If they don't quite feel flexible enough just keep checking until they do!
One of the beautiful bonuses of this process is that the water left from soaking the vines also makes a banging detergent as the ivy contains a high amount of saponins. For more info on this look up Ivy leaf detergent.
Although Ivy is not as strong as some other weavable plants such as Bramble and Willow, it can still be tangled, by itself or combined with other plants to make some rather lovely functional and beautiful baskets!
Random weave - This is a beautiful basketry technique which we'll cover in February. It's great for using those slightly less uniform and branchy pieces of Ivy. It's also a great style for when you don't have the patience for the vines to dry and want to weave them up straight away!
Twining - Either entwined with itself or with other plants twining is one of my favourite uses for this vine. With such a massive variation in the size of the vines its possible to make both cute little fairy foraging baskets to human sized foraging baskets!
Coiling - Thin Ivy vines make a good core for coiled basketry.
Below are a few photos of different styles of Ivy baskets.
Faerie basket of twined split and peeled ivy
Miniature frame basket - The beautiful white colour is the split and peeled ivy. Combined with Willow bark and Bramble vine.
Random weave ivy with a touch of willow bark for colour.
Frame style baskets, Ivy and bramble woven around Willow to make a strong functional baskets.
In the next post I'm going to share with you a step by step tutorial on how to use Ivy to create a frame basket. To join in with this there is a few other things you will need to collect!
What materials you'll need -
30-40 nice long ivy vines, more if they're shorter.
2 pre-made same sized hoops.
6-10 ribs... always safe to make a few extra ribs in case of accidental snapping! To make the ribs, find a way to keep the branches in a U shape whilst drying. once dry they will be set to this shape. see photo below.
Hoops and ribs can be made from whatever long branchy material you have available such as -
It's also possible to use thicker vines as hoops and ribs. Brambles, Honeysuckle, Clematis, Ivy and Jasmine are lovely and add nice shape and colour, just make sure to only use the studier vines as they are being used to make the bones of the basket.
Pre-made ribs of various woods.
In terms of tools yours hands, a pair of snippers and string/clips are all you need !
Happy gathering :)