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Beginner's Guide to Basic Basket Weaving

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Dawn is a Canadian crafter skilled in textile work, weaving, and toy making, among other arts. She especially enjoys weaving with straw!

How to Weave Your Own Baskets

How to Weave Your Own Baskets

Basketweaving is an ancient craft that uses naturally grown materials and a few very simple tools. It is a great hobby that can add charm to your home and your own personal touch as gifts. Outlined below are some of the basic things you need to know to get started.

Basket-Making Tools You Will Need

Only a few simple tools are necessary:

  • Good, strong scissors and a sharp knife are needed for cutting and pointing the osiers.
  • Side cutters (aka diagonal pliers) 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 is a pointed metal tool with 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 include a measuring tape, a protective waterproof cloth to work on, and clothespins to hold your work in place if you get interrupted.

If you decide to go on to more advanced basket weaving, a rapping iron for pushing down the weaving rows will be useful. There are also special basket-weaving work forms to hold your baskets at a convenient angle to work on.

Basket-Weaving Materials

The principles of basket weaving are the same whether you work with willow or cane, so there is very little difference in technique for these two materials.

Willow Shoots (Osiers): Size and Color

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 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 golden tan to a rich, dark brown. Of course, although many people prefer to keep the natural country look, there is nothing to stop you from painting your baskets in bright colors.

Willow vs. Cane

Remember that 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.

Synthetic Cane

Discover what types of basket weaving material your craft store stocks. Most craft stores these days carry a synthetic cane, and this is a useful substitute for natural materials when making some smaller items. Also, unlike natural willow and cane, synthetic cane does not have to be soaked and kept damp to make it flexible.

Many people like to collect a wide variety of baskets.

Many people like to collect a wide variety of baskets.

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, and a lighter stake is used for weaving. These are called "stakes" (the bones of the basket) and "weavers" (the filling).

In other words, in one basket, you will use more than one thickness of stake—heavy for the basket's bottom and slightly lighter for the sides, for example. The material you use for the bottom and the bones should be thicker and stronger than the rods you use for the actual weaving.

If the material you buy is graded by 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 the Stakes and Weavers

Both stakes and weavers should be soaked thoroughly before use to make them easy to manipulate and prevent them from breaking or cracking when they bend. After soaking in water for half an hour or so, take them out and wrap them up in a damp cloth until you are ready to use them.

Osiers that you intend to use for stakes should be kept straight during this process, but weavers can be soaked in coils that are 3 yards long and only straightened out just before you use them. You will find that as you work on your basket, 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 is 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.

Of course, 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 be necessary when you are about to bend down the ends of the stakes to make a final top border for your work.

There are many different types of baskets, each with its own purpose.

There are many different types of baskets, each with its own purpose.

Making the Basket's Base

Really traditional basket weaving is done with willow or cane throughout, including the base. There are various ways of starting a base depending on whether the shape is going to be oval, round, or square. Another consideration is whether the base needs to be dense and close for hard or heavy use or if the basket is 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 baskets 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.

Different Ways to Make a Basket's Base

Different Ways to Make a Basket's Base

The illustration above shows a selection of different woven bases.

  • A is circular and shows how the bound method is worked.
  • B is an oval-bound version.
  • C is oval and uses the slit and slot technique.
  • D 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 a Basket: 3 Different Methods

Randing, pairing, and waling are three different weaving methods. Each is described and illustrated below.

An Example of Randing

An Example of Randing

Randing

The simplest form of weaving in making a basket is called randing and is just: under one stake, over the next, under the next, and so on.

If you are working around continuously, you will need 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 strength and security to the finished basket.

Example of Pairing

Example of Pairing

Pairing

This is a weaving method that uses two weavers together, twisting around each other.

Waling

  • A very strong weaving method that is used at intervals to control the shape of the basket.
  • It is often used 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.
  • The stakes are set up (when used this way, it is called upsetting). Three rods are used.
Example of Waling: Here waling sets up the stakes into their right positions and when used this way is called upsetting. Three rods are used.

Example of Waling: Here waling sets up the stakes into their right positions and when used this way is called upsetting. Three rods are used.

Border Treatments

The borders can be the most noticeable features of a basket. 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 and eye-catching. The densely braided ones are the most difficult to master and the most rewarding.

The illustration above shows a border that goes to the other extreme—a lacy openwork 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 at 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.

Last Tip

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!

© 2012 Dawn

Comments

Teliya gayler on September 01, 2020:

❤️ this website

Ruth Graham on July 27, 2020:

that's really great thanks

gloria hare on February 15, 2020:

I found a vintage basket with 4 handles, any idea how it would have been used?

ok, i guess on March 29, 2019:

hmmmm ok, i guess

junkrat on February 14, 2019:

nice info

Surat on September 29, 2018:

Which thread or sutli

Brenda B on September 21, 2018:

Thanks for sharing. This was helpful.

A video demonstrating each skill/technique would be greatly appreciated. Some of us learn better visually.

Also there was no diagram 4 .

Again, I really appreciate those that share.

12345678 on March 25, 2018:

what kind of matirial

Ana on November 27, 2017:

Thanks it was very helpful

Rae on November 11, 2017:

Thank you so much for sharing these basket weaving basics. I am just starting. I love baskets and am thinking that I may enjoy it as a new hobby and to create my own decorations in my new home.

These tips are so helpful! If I do well from your instructions, Ill definitely be back looking for your book of patterns.

Joy on September 07, 2016:

Is it possible to learn practical from the source