It Was Harder Than We Thought

My grand-daughter Kayla made it over on Sunday for our much-anticipated “play-day” in the art studio. We had fun. I showed her how to make origami boxes, we chatted a bit, and then we settled in for the “main event”. Basket-weaving. Yep, we did it. She really enjoyed it and plans to make more baskets. As for me… well, yes, I enjoyed it, and I did end up with an actual hand-made basket. I’ll say this, though. It was a lot harder than we thought it would be.

Before I share our photos, let me give you a link to Basket Weaving Supplies at V. I. Reed and Cane, Inc. This is an online resource for all things related to basket-weaving. Although we purchased our “beginner’s kits” through Amazon, they came from this supplier.

We did read through the instruction sheet in advance, and I made sure we had the necessary tools. Although the raw materials — reed, cane, handle — are included in the kit, there are other things required. We needed a yardstick for measuring, heavy-duty kitchen shears for cutting, string, clamps, and an awl. Fortunately I had everything we needed in the studio.

The first step was to soak the basket material for at least 20 minutes to make the cane and reed more flexible. We then began following the instructions to form the basket with eight long reeds crossed over each other. We were making small baskets and using the most basic “under and over” weaving. To do this, it’s necessary to cut one spoke down the center so that instead of sixteen radiating spokes, there are actually seventeen.

One thing that would have been helpful, I think, would have been watching a video before we began.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think to do that. A quick search shows that there are numerous tutorials available, so if you decide to try basket-weaving, I’ll definitely encourage you to watch an online video or better yet, if you can find one, a live demonstration before you start.

The directions we received with our kits were obviously enough to see us through the project, but there are some aspects of basket-weaving that really can’t be well-explained with an instruction sheet. We found it difficult — all right, impossible — to really distinguish the smooth side from the rough side, and we felt a lot of difference between thoroughly wet materials and material that was beginning to dry.

The instructions really couldn’t tell us all the things we needed to do. Should the weavers lie flat against the spokes? Exactly how far down should that center cut go? How tight should we pull our spokes? Are we supposed to press each row down against the previous row?

For us it was a trial-and-error process despite doing our best to follow along with the instruction sheet. In the end we succeeded, but more than once we had to try a step a few times before figuring it out. As we became more familiar with what we were doing, the process got a bit easier. We each spent some time un-doing and re-doing parts of the baskets.

I found adding the rim the most challenging part of making my basket. Even with clamps to hold the outside and inside rims in place, it was quite tricky to “lash” around it with a thin strand of cane. After Kayla completed her basket, I set mine aside. I definitely needed a break. The following morning I completed sewing the rim.

My First Basket

Of course we documented the process, so here are photos from our afternoon of basket-weaving:

 

Quite a day! Of course Flower Child joined in the fun.

When we finished our baskets, we still had quite a bit of material left over. I gave it to Kayla to take home, and I’m sure she’ll be playing around with it. Had you asked me yesterday if I’d want to do more basket-weaving, I might have said, “Probably not.” After finishing my basket this morning though, I’m thinking that, yes, I might be willing to do this again.

This first time was definitely a learning experience, and it really was a little harder than I’d anticipated, but it was a fun project, and it’s nice to have a basket — a real basket — to show for our time. I will proudly display it and say, “Look! I made this.”

Has anyone else done basket-weaving?

26 Comments

  1. I have only made one basket, but I did it with a friend who had plenty of experience. So she was able to help me in the moment, demonstrate, explain, etc, which saved me from the frustrations you faced. Also, we use different materials — our baskets were made from reed-like material that was round, so I didn’t have to worry about which side was up and so forth. I agree with you that it is more complicated than you might imagine and a little guidance is helpful in getting started.

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    1. Yes! I don’t know why I didn’t think to at least watch a video or two. It just never occurred to me. Now that I’ve made it through the first basket and the frustration has eased a bit, I think I might want to try doing it again. I’m going to learn a little more first, and then Kayla and I can plan another basket-weaving day.

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    1. Thanks so much. It doesn’t look too bad — except for my rim. That was so hard! It was really awkward trying to keep it in place (both inside and outside) while sewing with the cane. Using clamps helped, but also got in the way. 🙂

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    1. We love playing in the studio together. There are so many fun projects to try. We’ve done book-binding, acrylic pouring, origami, and now basket-weaving. Oh, a bit of crocheting, too. I always look forward to our play-days.

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      1. It’s the greatest part of having an art studio! I have all kinds of art supplies, so anything (almost) is possible. We’re also planning a play-day with several young children — Kayla will be bringing her step-daughter, and an artist friend will be bringing her three children. We’re looking for a good “kid-friendly” project now.

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  2. My mother used to work at a 4-H camp, and one of her classes taught basket-weaving. One year when I had to stay with her at the camp for an extended time, she showed me how so I could help teach the class. Our baskets were small. We used round reeds, rather than flat. And it was a hands-on demonstration in each case. But our weavers were school-aged children, so we intentionally kept the project short, simple, and rather “point and click” for beginners. I still have three of the baskets I made sitting around the house today. And I can testify that it is a rather satisfying feeling to complete one and be able to actually use it. Glad to hear you had fun with it. ^_^

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    1. Yep, having something I can actually hold in my hands and put to good use… all the while saying “I did this!”… that’s definitely a satisfying feeling. I think I do want to try it again, still using a very simple pattern. I know I’ll never look at a basket again without thinking of the work that went into it.

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      1. That’s very true. They are a lot of work even for small ones. And I do recommend starting with 2-3 short, simple projects until the general “how-to” of it feels intuitive. Then tackling bigger projects won’t feel so long or clunky. The small baskets that I kept are used for holding my keys (and masks nowadays) on a table near the front door, some small snacks on the kitchen counter, and a handful of beaver “chips” gnawed out of trees at that same camp following a night hike to watch the little guys build their dams in a flooded part of an overgrown forest trail. Basket-weaving is also a very satisfying craft because of the texture of the natural fibers, I think. The reeds can be dyed with natural or other types of dyes, too. 🙂 Just don’t aim for perfection. Baskets are one of those things that if they sit unevenly or the rim weave pops out, you just tilt it against something or stick it back in. LoL … They look better when they’re “wabi-sabi” in my opinion. Individual personalities and handmade comfort quality can go a long way with them, just like with hand-thrown pottery and “painterly” paintings.

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      2. Thanks for the encouraging words. I don’t feel quite so bad about my crooked rim now. 🙂 I’ve been browsing a bit at basketweaving.com, and we’ll definitely do another beginner’s-level project. Nothing too fancy at all. I will say my basket does have a bit of personality, so that counts for something!

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    1. Oh, yes. “Sit-Upons”. I actually made on a few years ago. That was one craft project I was actually able to do, even as a child, so I think making them is a lot of fun. It would be difficult today to find enough newspaper. 😦

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    1. Oh, I’m not crafty! Not at all. I can draw and paint somewhat, but anything to do with cutting, pasting, or handiwork (like basket-weaving)… forget it. I’m awkward, clumsy, and unable to use tools like rulers and scissors. But I’m willing to try anything once, and my grand-daughter really wanted to do basket-weaving. I figured as long as we had a kit with instructions maybe we could do it. It was fun, but it was hard for me.

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      1. It’s always fun to do art with the grandkids, but it can be challenging sometimes, too. They don’t always want to listen. 🙂

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    1. Once I got settled into the “under and over” weaving, it was a bit relaxing. The rest, though, was challenging. I would like to try it again though, and I am very proud to have a basket that I made myself.

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