As much of the UK has found itself back in full lockdown, I thought I would share a little basketry tutorial, for you try out.
Earlier this week, I made a little coil basket out of dried leaves from our garden. This technique is really simple, you don’t need any special equipment (well, just a needle with a large eye) and you can use a variety of different materials.
If you’ve never made a basket before, then this is a great one to start with!
I gathered some Great Wood-Rush leaves from our garden, back in the summer and dried them out to store for the winter. These are brilliant plants for several kinds of basketry, because the leaves are incredibly strong.
It’s quite possible that you might have some growing near you. It likes to grow in shady spots, in acidic, damp habitats. We have masses of it growing on our land, amongst our trees. It’s the perfect spot, as we live very close to a peat bog and have a garden full of willow.
If you do have some growing in your garden and want to dry some, gather the leaves into small bundles with a rubber band and hang them in a dry, well ventilated spot. I have hooks all the way up our stairway, for this purpose.
Leave them for 2-3 weeks and then wrap them in paper to store until you want to use them.
Only ever take a few leaves from each plant, so that you can maintain the health of the plant. They usually grow in a dense carpet, so you will still get plenty to use.
If you don’t have any Great Wood-Rush, you can still follow this tutorial. There are all sorts of plants that would work well. Crocosmia, grows in many gardens and it’s leaves should lend themselves nicely to this project, long grasses could also be plaited for use. If you don’t have access to any plants, you could use raffia or even strips of fabric. Your fibres just need to be strong and flexible enough to plait, so experiment and use what you have.
If you are going to use leaves, I recommend that you dry them first, because of shrinkage. When they are nicely dried, you will need to make them moist again! The best way to do this, is to wrap them in a very damp cloth overnight.
Now that you’re leaves are ready, let’s make a basket!
Start, by making a long plait with your chosen leaves/fabric strips. Depending on the thickness of your materials, you may want to layer them up. Great wood-rush, is not very bulky, so I have used 4 leaves to each section of the plait.
Gather the ends together with a rubber band for now or just tie with a little twine.
Start to plait, just as you would for pig-tails, in your hair.
When one of your sections is running out, you will need to feed in more leaves/fabric. Always do this when you still have a couple of inches left and stagger the sections, so that you don’t need to do them all at once (that would make a bulky lump in your plait!).
I like to feed in to a section, as I bring it to the middle of the plait.
Leave an inch or two sticking out – you can trim it off when you’ve finished plaiting.
How much plait you’ll need, depends on how big you want your basket to be. The good news is, that you can always add more to your plait, as you go along. So just make an estimate and extend it, if you need to.
When you have finished plaiting, gather the ends together with another band or twine, to stop it unraveling.
Now you can tidy it up and get rid of all of those unsightly ends.
Get a sharp pair of scissors and cut the ends away, as close to the plait as you can manage.
Now that your plaiting is done, you can start to coil your basket. On this occasion, I used some strong cotton thread, as I happened to have been given some, in exactly the right colour. At some point, I will try using some strong plant fibre for this.
Knot the end of your thread, making sure to leave a trailing end of a couple of inches, that you can weave in later.
Leave an inch or two of your plait trailing, before you start to coil. You will weave these ends in later too.
Using your needle and thread, coil your plait, stitching together as you go. Try to stitch into the weave of the plait where you can, hiding the stitches as much as possible.
The shape and size of your basket is up to you. Stop to look at your work regularly, looking at it from all angles. I think that baskets are very tactile, so feel it in your hands and let your senses and creativity guide you.
My first plaited coil basket, was a cone shape because I like the idea of hanging it and I think that shape lends itself well for that purpose. A bit like a stalactite hanging down from a cave.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I made a tiny basket, because I only had a short amount of time while my kids were eating lunch and there was enough light to do the photography!
The great thing about coil basketry, is that as well as being accessible to everyone, you can make all sorts of baskets with it. You might add a handle or two, you could make a bottle shape, a bowl. The possibilities are many and varied, so see what you come up with.
When you feel that your basket is complete, you will need to finish it off.
Tie off your thread and weave the end into the weave of the basket, cut the remaining end close.
Now, cut off any remaining plait at the rim of your basket, leaving about two inches to weave in. Unravel this part of the plait and use your large eyed needle to weave each individual leaf into the basket. When it feels secure, cut any remaining little ends close.
Weave in any other ends of thread, that you have acquired during the basket making process and cut close.
Now all that remains, is to unravel the other end of the plait, at the centre of your basket. Take some time over this, to make sure that it looks tidy. This process, will fill in any little hole that might be at the very centre of your basket.
At this point, your basket should be looking nice and tidy and be ready for use.
I hope that you find this tutorial helpful and enjoy making your own plaited coil basket.
All you have to do now, is decide where to put it and what to fill it with!