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Basketmaking 101

Imagine bringing home a bounty after a trip to the neighborhood farmer’s market, piling those fresh fruits and veggies in baskets you yourself have made using twigs, branches or other items found in the great outdoors. What a wonderful way to celebrate the bounties of nature!

Basket weaving is a classic art form, one that has been around as long as containers were needed to hold things. They can hold everything from food items to baby Moses, whose famed trip down the river in a basket made of rushes is one of the Bible’s most memorable stories, closely followed by the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, which began with bread and a few fish found in a young boy’s market basket. Basket making is the oldest of all crafts, followed by pottery, and pieces of both turn up in archeological digs worldwide.

While early remnants of baskets have been discovered that date back thousands of years, the weaving techniques of days gone by remain virtually unchanged today, with different patterns reflecting the origins of the baskets as well as those who crafted them.

Traditionally there are four different types of basket weave styles: coiling, plaiting, twining, and weaving. Woven baskets are usually made of wicker and rattan, and they are the most common among basket styles, but twining is an easy technique ideal for beginners and is also fairly popular.

A rudimentary basket is something that can be made at home quickly and easily, and as your skills improve, you will likely find yourself exploring new materials and weave patterns, unleashing your own inner artisan and crafting baskets that you’ll display with pride.

To get started, just head into the backyard or your expanse of farm and gather up whatever you can find. Twigs and branches will be the perfect base for a charming basket that can hold decorative items, potpourri, farmer’s market finds and so much more.

Live Greener. Live Smarter. Live Better! Time to Get Back To Basics!

Making Your Own Twig Basket

This is an example of twining, a basket-making technique that is also used in crafting traps, fish nets, and simple shelters.

Gather together twigs, branches, palm fronds, vines, willow, or bamboo – whatever your backyard or surrounding woods have to offer.

If you want to get started immediately, be aware that there may be problems with fresh materials. If you use green items to craft your baskets, the twigs and branches might dry and shrink over time, resulting in a loose weave and misshapen vessel. To prevent this, it might be a good idea to let the items you gather dry for a few months, just to ensure that the basket you create now is the one you will be using for years to come.

If you are using dried branches and vines, soak them for a few days to restore their vitality and flexibility before getting started.

To begin, select a number of branches of about the same length to form the structure of the basket.

Place four or five twigs side by side, and place four or five more over the top of them in an X-shaped pattern. This is the base of your basket.

To begin the weaving process, work a branch between your fingers until it is pliable and will bend easily without breaking. Then bend the weaver branch into thirds, looping the first bend around one of the four sections of twigs, beginning to weave around the center where the twigs cross. Work in a clockwise manner, over and under, until the short end is used up. Spread out the branches that formed the original X-shaped base as ribs to give the basket form. Thread the long end of the weaver through the ribs, tucking it in when you reach the end of the process.

Prepare a second weaver and secure the end of it into the base of your basket where you’ve begun the weaving process, and continue on as before, weaving the branch in and out between the ribs of the basket base.

Keep branches as tightly woven as possible in order to give the basket a secure structure, and shape the basket as you go by pulling weavers tighter to create an hourglass, oval or round shape or by leaving them loose for a more open effect. You can also create a banded effect or design a pattern by using branches of different colors as weavers.

When the base branches are nearly covered and the basket is the depth you were looking for, tuck as many of the weaver ends as possible into the structure of the basket so they’re inside rather than out. Trim the rib tips and any other ends that don’t look as neat as you’d like, and voila—you’ve made your first basket!

The same weaving techniques can be used with many other basket materials, resulting in different looks and strength levels.

Making a Reed Basket

Reeds, cattails, or rushes can be used to craft this basket, and by doing so, your basket celebrates traditional Native American basket weaving techniques that continue to be found throughout the United States. The techniques used to craft this reed basket are similar to those used to make the twig basket, but a loose weave at the base allows for a square or rectangular basket rather than a round one.

Begin by laying out your base, loosely weaving five strands of reed with five strands across, creating a pattern similar to a checkerboard, leaving a space about equal or slightly less than the width of the reeds between them. Make sure that your rows are parallel and evenly spaced to yield the best results. The result will be a square basket. For a rectangular basket, add additional reeds to one side of your checkerboard grid.

Bend up all the reeds on the outer edge to create a box effect. On one side of the box, split the center reed from the tip to the base of your basket structure. Secure the tip of a weaver reed snugly in the split, and weave around the base, keeping the weaver as close to the base as possible. Hold it in place with a clothespin if needed to help you develop the basket’s shape as you work. Add new weavers by tucking the tapered ends into existing weave, ensuring that the end of the weaver is inside the basket.

When you’ve completed about three or four rows or weaving, create feet and give your basket depth and dimension by pulling gently on first the corner reeds, then the second and third reeds, starting on one side and working around the basket. The process creates an arch on each side, creating corner feet.

Be sure to keep reeds close to each other as you work by packing them down after they’re woven, working to gently remove gaps without disturbing the structure.

When the basket has reached your desired height, it’s time for finishing touches.

Trim the ribs of the basket to about one and a half inches, ensuring that they’re even on all sides. Bend them gently toward the inside of the basket, securing them by tucking them under a row of weave using a slender screwdriver or other tool. If the reeds are too stiff to bend, soak them for a time to restore flexibility.

To finish, there are many options, from lining the basket with muslin or burlap, covering the top edge, or lacing a rounded reed to the top, using twine or soaked willow branches to secure it place. As your basket skills develop, you will discover new ways to create a more refined basket, including adding handles and other essentials.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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