by Scarlett Lovitt
One of today’s biggest home decorating trends is that of handmade decorations. These accent pieces are deemed even more appropriate when they’re something made by the homeowner. And despite what many people have heard, the ancient art of basket weaving isn’t a craft that’s so easy anyone can do it.
Basket weaving takes manual dexterity as well as an artistic sensibility. A weaver must know the qualities of each material she uses, and what kind of basket will be formed.
After all, just because something is a natural material doesn’t mean it’s going to end up looking like every other natural material. That’s like saying that a bamboo rug looks just like a Flokati rug made of sheepskin.
No, everything material is different, and down through the centuries the techniques for creating baskets have adapted as well. Today experts generally agree that there are four basic basket construction methods, with variations practiced all over depending on local conditions and materials.
Coiled: A coiled basket is created when strands or rods are stitched with a thin, flexible element into a spiraling round or oval form. This form has many variations on stitches and embellishments. Its typical materials include straw, pine needles, willow, palmetto, yucca, sweetgrass and other grasses. Stitching materials can be such things as raffia, horsehair, ash woodsplint, palmetto, or skeined willow.
Twined: A twined basket uses two or more flexible elements to encircle another base element. Some variations include twining tightly row upon row or crossing the warp, leaving an open warp, twining plain or on the diagonal, wrapping the warp, among others. Materials range from cedar bark, day lilies, elm bark, rabbit brush, reed and roots to cordage and waxed linen.
Woven: A woven basket is made of two kinds of elements, rigid spokes as the warp and more flexible elements as a weft. These baskets can be made of almost any kind of natural plant material, such as willow, paper, reed and many more.
Plaited: A plaited basket involves weaving like elements together. These elements are woven together at right angles, whether vertical or horizontal, closed or open.
Craft stores often have kits for making baskets on your own, but basket weaving has long been a social event as much as a useful craft. If you are interested in learning more about how to weave your own baskets for use in home decorating, you can:
* Sign up for a class at a local art school, college or community recreation center (and pay no attention to anyone who teases you about enrolling in “Basketweaving 101”).
* Join a basketry guild if there’s one in the area.
* Check with local craft stores to see if there are workshops offered in basket weaving.
* Ask a skilled neighbor or local artist to teach you how to weave baskets (and be sure to offer a gift of money, time or skills in exchange).
To get ready for your classes, read several books and/or articles about the basic techniques of basket weaving. Decide which type of basket weaving interests you most. Browse web sites on basket making for ideas, techniques and patterns.
Next, assemble the basic tools of basket weaving. Watch out, though – basket makers LOVE tools and each has his or her own favorite devises. At the very least, you will need a tool kit that includes a measuring tape, water bucket, scissors, awl, knife and clamps.
Finally, set up a cozy spot in your home where you can weave your basket. Consider this to be your personal time for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.
Weave your first basket, and don’t be dismayed if it doesn’t look like the baskets of someone more experienced than you. All it takes to become a master weaver of beautiful, useful baskets is practice, practice, practice.