Backyard to Basket in 6 Simple Steps
April 29, 2017
For the last 10,000 years or so, people around the world have been collecting local plants and materials to weave baskets with. Although respect and popularity for the craft has diminished sharply in the past 100 or so years, it is one of the oldest continuously used skills humanity has.
There is a Japanese maple in my backyard that was in need of trimming, and I felt I could use another basket in my collection. I spied a bit of honeysuckle vine in the back that could be used as well.
Ideally, I’d have collected and cleaned the branches I planned on using the year before, to let them dry out first. Then they would be soaked in water for an hour or so before use. One advantage to taking these extra steps is that there is less change in the diameter of the material used over time. Baskets made with “green” materials tend to loosen some as they dry, although not always noticeably so. I was not feeling particularly patient, so I opted not to wait.
There are many different types of baskets, but I lump most of them into one of three categories: Coiled grass/needle, lattice, and wicker. Coiled grass baskets are made with a long coil of grass or pine needles sewn together, and lattice type baskets are made with flat materials such as palm or strips of reed. Since the starting material is round branches, a wicker style would be the easiest to make.
To visualize the pattern, imagine spokes on a wheel. The weavers are woven over and under the spokes. An odd number of spokes ensures that the over and under pattern alternates.
Select the spokes (staves) for the basket. They should be long enough to reach from edge to edge of the finished basket, and flexible enough to form the intended basket shape. Clean off any excess material such as leaves (and bark if desired).
Divide the spokes into two even groups. Add one additional spoke (half the size of the others) so that the number of spokes is odd.
Tie the two groups of spokes (and the end of the additional spoke) together perpendicular to each other.
Weave a thinner, more flexible material called a “weaver” back and forth along the spokes in a spiral. The amount of tension in the weavers determines if the basket is flat and wide or tall and narrow.
Add additional weavers by starting to weave them in before the previous one runs out. Continue until the basket is finished.
Admire and take pride in your accomplishment! In a tradition going back over ten millenna you have fashioned a native textile container using locally sourced materials. You’ve made a basket from your backyard!