Most stems, twigs and even sturdier branches can be bend into shapes. It takes practice and more than a bit of patience. The main idea is to slowly manipulate the branch without breaking it.
These techniques work on any size branch. Obviously you will need more force to bend a branch rather than a twig and will need to cushion the stem with the palm of your hand rather than your thumb or burn the branch rather than just use the heat of your hand or wire the branch rather than use glue to secure, but it is still the same basic idea. I used sturdy grape vines to make this basket.
Start by snapping a twig. Is it brittle or supple? Brittle branches or twigs should first be soaked in warm water to make them more pliable.
Supple branches (such as flowering stems) can be manipulated as is.
If you want the manipulated branch to keep it's shape it should not be too green. As a rule: if sap runs from the branch when you bend it, it needs to mature or dry out. A moist branch will not keep the shape you bend it into as well as a slightly dry one.
Snapping a twig at an angle without breaking it:
Use your thumb or finger as a supporting cushion. Gently snap the twig. Make sure you do not break the twig.
The lower bark should still be intact. This way water will still be transported up the stem to the leaves.
This tiny twig wedge will prevent the cut twig from springing back once cut and bend into an angle.
Make a deep cut in the twig.
Gently bend the twig open
Insert the wedge into the twig.
Use your thumb as a supporting cushion. Gently snap the twig. Make sure you do not break the twig.
The lower bark should still be intact keeping the twig at an angle.
It is also possible to manipulate thicker branches but you will have to wire and train, cut and wedge, weigh it down or burn it with a flame.
Bending, Spiralling, Curling and Straightening twigs:
I am using cherry stems for this part of the tutorial
Pull the stems from the cherries.
Set the green stems aside to dry slightly
When the stems just begin to brown they are ideal to manipulate into shapes
A gentle bend:
Gently start to bend the twig. Cushion the stem with the pad of your finger. Go slow.
Secure the stem with glue.
To bend it into a circle continue to slowly bend the stem from tip to tip. Roll the stem as you go and secure the ends.
A sharp bend:
You will now use heat to bend the stem. Hold the stem where you want it to bend between your fingers to heat it slightly. If you are bending a branch you might have to heat it with warm water or a flame.
Slowly start to bend the stem.
When the tip and the stem meet secure it with glue.
Bending a big spiral:
Slowly wrap the the stem around a dowel stick. Hold the stem in place for a few seconds with your fingers and release.
Bending a tight spiral:
Wind the stem around a wooden skewer. Because the skewer is quite thin start with a very wide angle
Slowly wind the spiral tighter.
Release your hold and remove the skewer.
Lengthening the spiral:
Pull the spiral for a long spiral
Straightening a stem:
Curvy twigs can also be straightened
Hold the stem firmly between your fingers and pull down.
Work your way from the top to the bottom as if stretching the twig.