I Made a Basket

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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.

WP_20140702_001

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:

WP_20140702_002Once 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:

WP_20140702_003I 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:

WP_20140702_005After a few rows, I bent, tucked, and trimmed some of the thinner reeds that had made up the bottom of the basket, as the instructions dictated:

WP_20140702_006Eventually, 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:

WP_20140702_007To 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:

WP_20140703_002Using a thin reed, I snaked around the rim reeds and the reeds at the top of the basket.  Here’s where the screwdriver really came in handy.  I pulled the reed very tight and wet it periodically:

WP_20140703_003After criss-crossing around the handle and tucking in the extra bits, voila!, my first basket was nearly complete:

WP_20140703_005The follow-up involved trimming all the flyaway bits of reed from the basket, staining and sealing it using Danish oil from the hardware store, and trimming it a second time.  Then came the hardware:

WP_20140710_001A bit of drilling and a smattering of phillips-head screwdriver action, as per instructions:

WP_20140710_002And here it is!  The final product:

WP_20140710_004Now all that’s left is bulk-reed-monster vomit clean-up in the office….WP_20140703_001

 

 

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