The Basics of Basketmaking

Throughout the world and for centuries baskets have fulfilled a variety of needs from transportation to storage. Using materials that are readily available, baskets can be made easily and quickly.

The basket making process can be enjoyed by all. Students can learn the basics of basket weaving and explore the diversity in history by creating their own baskets.

Materials

Baskets are made from a variety of materials including leaves, branches, grasses, and bark. The basket maker also needs tools like awls, planes, and knives to shape the material.

Many of these materials are native to our region. Lola Thomas harvests willow branches and cattail along riparian areas to make her baskets.

The materials used for coiled baskets vary depending on the type of design desired. Some examples include bear grass, alder-dyed Woodwardia fern, five-fingered fern, and wolf moss-dyed porcupine quills.

In addition to the raw materials needed for making baskets, the basket maker needs a tub or box for soaking fibers and sewing tools, such as blunt tapestry needles and thread.

Baskets were often intricately designed with a variety of patterns, colors, and shapes. They were used to store food, carry goods, and hold gifts. They were also a symbol of family crests.

Patterns

There are many different patterns used in basketmaking, and they can be adapted to create a variety of shapes. Some of the most popular include the three-rod wale, twill, and plaiting.

A twill weave involves weaving two horizontal weavers over and under the vertical stakes in sequence. Repeat this pattern until the desired size and height of your basket is achieved.

Another common basket weaving pattern is the continuous weave, which uses reed to create a round shape. This is an easy pattern for beginners to master.

Reed, which comes from the stems of certain plants, is a strong and flexible material that can be woven to create intricate basket designs. It is also available in a range of colours and can be paired with other materials to produce unique and decorative pieces.

Weaving

Basketmaking is a complex and difficult process. It involves a lot of handwork, so it’s important to take breaks, stretch your hands and stay hydrated during the weaving process.

The basic structure of a basket is made up of rigid rods (the’stakes’ material) around which thinner, flexible rods are woven (the ‘weavers’ material). This allows a wide range of patterns to be created.

To start the base, Barb selected five 22″-long and eleven 17″-long spokes from a half-inch flat reed (Photo 1A). She marked their centers on the rough side with a pencil.

Once the spokes were trimmed, she placed them in a basin of water and soaked them for several minutes. This helped them retain their positions and avoid cracking.

Once the reeds were damp, she bent them toward the center of the basket and held them in approximate position with clothespins. She then used a 1/4″-wide flat reed to weave the sides of the basket.

Finishing

The finishing process used in basketmaking focuses on ensuring that the basket is durable and will stand up to use. This includes wrapping and sewing the core material to give it a smooth rim and ensuring that the end of the basket is tapered in a pleasing way.

The materials used in basketmaking include a variety of plant fibers such as cane, grasses, reeds, and raffia. Other materials may be required depending on the type of basket to be made.

Before weaving, the fibers are soaked or dyed. Tools such as saws, awls, planes, and knives are also needed to prepare the materials and work them.

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