How to Make a Grapevine Basket
This can be accomplished by visiting a community vineyard or do what my husband and I have always done; find wild grapevine growing on your woodland property or ask permission to get it from a neighbor's property. Usually, they're glad someone is willing to rid them of their possible nuisance. We've pulled down vines that have grown thirty feet up a tree. Some wild grapevine can be gray, pinkish and there's a reddish brown variety with lots of hair under the outer bark.
The only tools you really need are a good set of clippers and maybe a pair of gloves. After pulling wild grapevine down from a tree or even pulling it from the ground, snip off unwanted stems and leaves till you're left with a single main stem.
Keep Some Notches
Keep some notches on your stems. You'll use these later to secure your weaver stems when you're wrapping them around the basket. Also, keep your stems as long as possible.
TIP: There is no need to soak the grapevine. It remains pliable for a few weeks after cutting it.
Select Starter Pieces
Study the various stems you have to work with. Pick the straightest ones. You'll want to choose those for your six starter pieces. Try to keep them within a similar volume of bulk and cut them to about the same length. The older the stem, the heavier in strength and thickness.
Decide if you want a big or small basket. The length of the vine will determine the outcome. Sometimes the grapevine itself will determine whether you even have a choice in the matter.
Now you're ready to start assembling the basket. First, lay out three of the six stems next to each other. Begin interlacing with the first weaver stem using an over and under pattern across the three laid out stems. For the following stems, you'll need to weave those in an alternating pattern under and over. This secures all six pieces and will be the bottom of your basket. Don't worry that it looks gappy. Later on, you will go back and fill in the gaps with thinner and more flexible pieces.
When you're finished weaving the first six starter pieces, it will sort of look like a big spider with long legs and a checker board body. This will be the bottom of the basket from where you'll continue.
Tip: This clearly demonstrates by the length of of the spokes how big your basket will be.
Assembling The Base
Now I'm going to call the first six stems "spokes". The next step is to choose a long stem and begin weaving it over and under around the six starter spokes forming a circle around the checker board base.
Tip: It's a good idea to choose the longest grapevine stem available for the first weaver piece which assembles the bottom of the basket.
Process Building The Base
When you're building rows with the weavers, sometimes you'll end up with a gap that departs from the over/under pattern. Don't worry about it. In the final product, it won't be noticeable. The grapevine has a mind of its own resulting in a unique basket with a charming free-form quality. Go with the flow and keep going. Simply make things fit according to the twists and turns of the vine. You'll get a real feel for this the more baskets you make.
Tuck In First Weaver Stem
Now that you have weaved your first stem all the way around the base, you'll want to find a place to tuck in the end of it in somewhere. Often times, when you find a place to tuck in the end, it might still stick out. In that case, you simply clip it off for a smooth finish.
Time To Begin Working Up The Sides
Next, it's time to take another big step. You'll be able to pick up the skeleton basket without it losing its shape. Pick it up, then begin bending the spokes, working them gradually until they form a bowl shape. It helps to keep it upside down when you're forming the bowl. Use the weavers to help establish the bowl shape by pulling them tightly where you're bending spokes. This is when the notches can come in handy. Always remember to stop once in a while and center things to your liking.
Filling In Gaps With The Weavers
Tip for working with the unique qualities of grapevine: You might end up with gaps caused by natural bends along the vines as you're building up the sides of the basket. When that happens, simply fill them in when you come around with the next layer. Remember, it's grapevine, not perfection.
When Slip Ups Happen While Building Up The Sides
Once in a while, you may break the spokes while building up the sides of the basket. It even happened to me with the one I demonstrated with here. I just kept going, being careful not to break it off completely. After you build layers over the damaged spoke, it won't show and it won't even compromise the strength of the basket.The weavers will support it from above and below.
Clip Ends As You Go
Sometimes as you're building up the sides of your basket, you can't find the perfect spot to tuck the ends of your weavers so you simply clip the ends to blend them in as much as possible.
Tip: Make sure to clip the ends at an angle for a smoother finish.
Time To Tuck In The Spokes To Form The Rim
Once the sides are built up to a certain point, it's time to start tucking in the spokes to form the rim of the basket. Consider the fact that the spokes will serve to raise the sides somewhat more.
- Very important: Before tucking in the spokes, you have to choose the best two spokes you will want to leave out for the handle. They will need to be across from each other as balanced as possible. Remember, it's not going to be exactly perfect.
- The grapevine tolerates quite a bit of bending. Bend the spokes to begin intertwining them over and under one another. Always do this in the same direction. You eventually will push the spokes down and tuck them in somewhere along the sides. You'll probably have to do some guesswork. I know I keep repeating myself, but try to remember you're working with grapevine including lots of character with many twists, bends and notches.
Rim Tucked In
Now that the rim spokes are tucked in, you will be left with two spokes which will be the base for your handle.
Time To Work On The Bottom
Surprise, you thought it was time to build the handle, but it's the best time to fill in the bottom. This can take a while cause you have to weave each piece between each spoke all around the base beginning from the widest to the smallest circle. Chose the most flexible and slightly thinner stems for the best results. This is where it's easiest to break the weavers. To avoid that, support the stems with thumbs or fingers at the pressure points.
Tip: As you're finishing the bottom of the basket, stop every once in a while and set it down on a flat surface. If it doesn't want to sit straight, add pieces strategically for the best balance. You might have to wait till the very end and even clip off a thickness created by the character of the grapevine, especially where there's a natural bend.
Building The Handle
Time to build the handle: Start with a nice thick piece of grapevine and tuck it into the gaps along the handle sides as much as possible. Keep adding pieces, twisting the original spokes into the final handle design. Sometimes it's a good idea to integrate the added handle pieces along the rim of the basket.
When you're satisfied with the handle, take a final look at the entire basket. Check for stems poking out or bark that needs to be stripped. Afterwards, simply enjoy the results of your hard work.
Check The Final Product
Once everything is assembled, check it over once last time and clip off any ends that may stick out. The finished product is ready to be admired.