Geekery can take on many forms. I participate in tabletop role-playing games, draw science-fiction and fantasy fanart, and analyze the utopian worlds of cartoon ponies, as some examples. I’ve come to realize that my itinerant obsessions with arts, crafts, and do-it-yourself projects probably fit into the general “nerd” category as well, especially when much of my creation is inspired by geek-related things. The weird looks I get when I explain to people that, yes, I scrapbook, remind me that some arts & crafts are just a few neurons’ links away from pocket protectors, thick glasses, and pants worn high on the hips.
Today’s arts & crafts geek-out: HAND-MADE BASKETS!
Last summer I became enthralled by the prospect of making baskets. Don’t ask me how or why; I need not explain these things. I borrowed basket-making books from the library, scrolled through instructions and tips online, and chatted with a basket-maker at the local Renaissance Faire. Alas, winter hit before I could get through everything that came first on my project list, and the thought of weaving wet reeds with chapped hands in my frigid apartment [ahem] chilled me to the bone.
What surprised me when I finally picked up the project after a long hibernation was how fast and easy it was. I wove an intermediate-level basket in about 5 hours, with perhaps 2 hours of prep time and another 2 of staining and hardware installation. Like many arts & crafts, I found the experience calming, satisfying, and fun.
How does one make a basket, you ask? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
I began by purchasing instructions and materials online from Baskets of Joy. I knew I wanted to make a picnic basket as a [very-belated] wedding gift, which is why my first basket was intermediate level. Turns out the risk paid off! (Whew!) The bulk materials were shipped to me in a dubiously damaged box barely containing some loose contents, but I was otherwise pleased with the quality of supplies received.
Once I had cut bulk reeds to the lengths designated by the pattern, it was time to soak ’em in a tub of water. I gathered a sharp pair of scissors, a marking pencil, a tape measure, clothespins, and flat-head screwdriver. I used an illustrated how-to book to make sense of the intermediate-level instructions. The first steps were to weave the bottom of the basket on each side of the handle using two sizes of flat reed, like so:
Once the bottom of the basket was complete, I repositioned the reeds, aiming for specific dimensions. Thin, round reed was used to bind the bottom of the basket. This helps build a foundation from which to build upwards with fresh flat reed:
I periodically wet the pre-soaked reed with more water using a sponge, especially before bending up the reeds that would make the foundation of the sides of the basket. Water-soaked reeds bend and flex, whereas dried reeds crack and break:
Eventually, I wove my way to the top, finishing the edge by cutting the tops of every other spoke and tucking the others down into the interior of the basket. A flat-head screwdriver makes a handy pushing/wedging tool in weaving:
To finish the rim of the basket, I carefully placed thick oval reed on the interior and exterior of the basket, round sides facing away from the rim. These were held in place with clothespins, with a thick piece of seagrass tucked between the two layers to finish the very top of the rim: