Basic Beginner's Guide to Basket Weaving
Basket weaving is an ancient craft that uses naturally grown materials and a few very simple tools.
Basket weaving is a great hobby that can add charm to your house and your own personal touch when you use the baskets you make as a gift.
Outlined below are some of the basic things you need to know to get started.
Tools of the Trade
Only a few simple tools are necessary in basket weaving.
- Good strong scissors and a sharp knife are needed for cutting and pointing the osiers.
- Side cutters work great for chipping off ends.
- A pair of round-nosed pliers are valuable for kinking the stakes before bending them, particularly when the angle has to be sharp.
- A bodkin isa pointed metal tool in a wooden handle. It is very helpful, both for making a space between woven work and for pushing a rod in position after the gap has been made. But, if necessary, you could use a good strong knitting needle instead of a bodkin.
Other useful items while working include a measuring tape, protective waterproof cloth to work on and clothes pins work great to hold your work if you get interrupted.
If you decide to go on to more advanced basket weaving, a rapping iron for pushing down the weaving rows would make a welcome addition. There are also specially made work boards to hold your baskets at a convenient angle to work on.
What are the Basics?
The principles of basket weaving are the same whether you work with willow or cane so that there is very little difference in the two techniques.
Young willow shoots are called osiers and are cut into rods of various colors and sizes to be used for basket making. They are prepared in a surprising number of different ways, some are cut when very thin, some allowed to grow thicker; some are stripped of their bark, some dried, some boiled, some steeped in water, some split. The result is that there are many weights available, suitable for both light and heavy work.
There is also an attractive range of natural colors too - from a gleaming white, to a more golden tan to a rich dark brown. Of course, though many people prefer to keep the natural country look, there is nothing to stop you from painting your baskets in bright colors.
Discover what types of basket weaving material your craft store stocks. Remember that for many articles you can, if necessary, substitute cane for willow and the results will be perfectly satisfactory. In general, willow osiers are somewhat heavier and thicker than most cane, so be careful to check that you have the right weight for the work that you intend to do.
For example, it would be pointless to try to make a substantial pet basket in a light cane because it would have none of the necessary body and firmness for such a shape. You would have to use much heavier material. On the other hand a small decorative table basket could be made in a lighter willow or cane without ill effects.
Most craft stores these days carry synthetic cane and this is a useful substitute for natural materials for some smaller items. Also, unlike willow and cane it does not have to be soaked and kept damp to make it flexible.
Stakes & Weavers
In all basket weaving you work with two basic weights. A heavy, thick osier or cane is used for the stakes, which form the skeleton and structure of the basket or container.
In one piece of work you may use more than one thickness of stake, heavy for the bottom of a basket and slightly lighter for the sides, for example.
But both of these will be thicker and stronger than the rods that will be used for the actual weaving. If the material you buy is graded by a number, then the difference between the stakes and the weaving rods is usually at least two sizes. The weaving rod is often referred to simply as a 'weaver'.
Soaking & Dampening
Both stakes and weavers should be soaked thoroughly before using to make them easy to manipulate and to prevent them from breaking or cracking badly. After soaking for half an hour or so take the rods out of the water and wrap them up in a damp cloth for another short period of time.
Osiers that you intend to use for stakes should be kept straight during this process but weavers can be soaked in coils of about 3 yards long and only straightened out before you use them. You will find that, as you work on your basket making, the osiers may dry out too much, so have a damp cloth or sponge and bowl of water handy to remedy this.
It will also be necessary at some stages in the work to soak a half-finished piece. This would commonly be necessary when you have made a basket base and have inserted extra stakes (known as bye-stakes) into it and are then going to bend them up at right angles to form the skeleton for the basket sides.
It is obvious that the bottom of these stakes will have to be very malleable and damp so that they can be kinked with pliers and bent up without breaking. Extra dampening may similarly be necessary when you are about to bend down the ends of the stakes to make a final top border to your work.
Really traditional basket weaving is made with willow or cane throughout, including the base. There are various ways of starting a base depending firstly on whether the shape is going to be oval, round or squared off. Another consideration is whether the item needs to be dense and close for hard wear, or it is intended to be more decorative than sturdy, in which case it can be more open.
The thickness of the rods to be used will also affect whether the design is intricate or simple. But in practice almost all versions start with stakes being arranged in some form of cross formation.
One set may be inserted into another set that has been split open for a few inches to hold it. Or the cross can be bound and woven with rods to keep it in place. The difference between oval and round bases is established at this very early stage by the number and arrangement of stakes in the cross.
Figure 1 shows a selection of different woven bases. Figure 1A is circular and shows how the bound method is worked. Figure 1B is an oval bound version. Figure 1C is oval and uses the slit and slot technique. Figure 1D is a more complicated round openwork center that uses lighter weight rods.
If you study these diagrams, you will see that after the first step, when the centerpiece is made and secure, the stakes are then fanned out into evenly spaced spokes for the weaving to be worked on. It is also necessary sometimes to add extra spokes to prevent the spaces from getting too big.
How to Weave
The simplest form of weaving in making a basket is called randing, as is shown in Figure 2, and is just under one stake, over the next, under the next and so on.
If you are working around continuously, you will have to have an odd number of stakes to make the pattern come out in the second row as the reverse of the first, as it should.
If you are working on an even number of stakes, you must use two separate weavers. After working the first round, start the second weaver in the space to the left of the starting point of the first weaver and work around. Then use the two weavers alternately to make the pattern work out correctly.
Randing is often used for large areas of weaving but is often broken up at intervals with pairing rows that can add some of the strength and security that it lacks itself.
This is a weaving method that uses two weavers together, twisting around each other. As shown in Figure 3.
A very strong weaving method that is used at intervals to control the shape of the basket and often at the top, just under the border. It is also almost always used at the beginning of the sides of a basket after the base is finished. Here waling sets up the stakes into their right positions and when used this way is called upsetting. Three rods are used and the method is shown in Figure 4.
The borders can be the most noticeable features of basket weaving. Basically a border is a method of tidying off the tops of the stakes securely when the weaving is finished and they can simply be bent down and tucked in. But more complicated borders can be very dramatic. The dense braided ones are the most difficult to master and the most rewarding when you have.
Figure 5 shows a border that goes to the other extreme, a lacy open work pattern that is very simple but, of course, not suitable for hard wear. The mat was worked on double stakes and these are cut off tat this stage to leave just 3" to form the border. Then the whole piece was soaked. The right stake of each pair is curved around and down to the right and inserted along the side of the left-hand stake of the next pair. All the right stakes are ached in this way and the remaining left ones trimmed to the length shown.
One last important hint: Always lean on the side of over-estimating the length of stakes you will need. In basket weaving you can always trim off the excess, but it is much more difficult to add on!
Thanks for stopping by & Happy Crafting!
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Dawn