Natural Materials

Straw, rushes and other organic materials were used to weave baskets and thatch houses.

Baskets were once commonly used throughout the countryside and they were made in a variety of shapes and sizes for all sorts of uses in the home and on the farm. Wickerwork baskets were generally constructed of willow rods. Salix Viminalis was commonly known as sally while better quality varieties such as Salix Purpurea were known as osiers. Many farmers grew sally rods to make their own baskets of green or unpeeled willow. Baskets were also made of straw, rushes, heather and briar.

Thatched house on seaward side of the road near Kinnadoohy, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, 1966.


Thatched roofs, once common throughout Ireland were, like baskets, made of natural materials. Different techniques were used to attach straw or flax, marram or rushes, into a series of bound layers to form the thatch. Thatchers only needed a few tools of simple design, usually made by the thatcher himself, or by the local blacksmith.

Thrust thatching was particularly common in the east of the country. In this method small bundles of straw with knotted ears were thrust into the old thatch using a small fork known as a spurtle. It is a method which was not as common nationally as scollop thatching by which the straw was attached to the roof with straight willow or hazel rods which were in turn secured by hairpin-shaped ‘scollops’ - pointed, slender, pliable twigs.