Today, I thought that I would show you how to make a coil basket from old t-shirts, as part of my Making Hard Times Good Times project.

The cost of living crisis is going to have a huge impact on families like mine, who struggle to get by at the best of times. I think many other families will find themselves struggling for the first time too, as businesses struggle to keep up with the ever rising costs.

I know that our home will be cold and damp this winter and spending will be restricted to the bare essentials. Presents for Christmas and birthdays will have to be made from what we have to hand. This won’t be a first for my family and at times like these, I like to treat it as a game. A challenge for our creativity and resourcefulness.

Some of my fondest memories, are of lean times – foraging for food together, making beautiful and thoughtful gifts to surprise each other, long walks, evening games and a home full of handmade decorations.

Crafts have helped our family through some tough times and my children are experts at making use of all kinds of things, in their arts and crafts.

So I’d like to share some tutorials with you, over the coming weeks, for things that you can make with materials that you might have lying around, in your house. I will offer alternative materials where I can, as I know that all households are different.

They will be things that you can make for your home, your children and as gifts for family and friends. Making something with your hands has a huge power to lift your spirits and make you feel more positively about yourself and your situation.

So, let’s get started!

Coil basketry is a wonderful introduction to making baskets. The only tools that you will need to make a coil basket like this one, are a pair of sharp scissors to cut the jersey fabric into strips and a chunky needle, such as a tapestry needle.

I always have a stack of t-shirts-leggings etc, waiting to be turned into something else. Clothes in our family get handed down, for as long as possible, but once they get too stained or damaged for me to fix, they go to the craft pile.

If you don’t have any unwanted jersey, you can still use this tutorial to make a basket. I am a firm believer, that there is always something around that you can use, to make a basket! So I tried a few experiments with waste from our recycling bins and craft stash.

Below you can see (from left to right) honeycomb paper, wrapped with strips of popcorn bag, used kitchen foil, wrapped with strips of fruit nets, supermarket veg bags, wrapped with yarn scraps and strips of newspaper, wrapped with strips of a pair of kids cotton trousers. I’m sure that you could find all kinds of other combinations in your house, and of course, there are always plants!

 

how-to-make-a-basket-out-of-junk

For this tutorial, I will be using old baler twine for a core material and a pair of kids leggings and an infant t-shirt to wrap.

We have a mountain of this baler twine in the derelict barns here, which won’t be used for its original purpose. It’s great to put it to good use.

That’s the other good thing about lean times, it makes you so much more aware of waste and of the resources around you, that often get taken for granted.

Begin by cutting your chosen wrapping material into strips. I cut my jersey into roughly 2cm wide strips, but it doesn’t have to be precise and it also depends on how big you want your basket to be. Choose a size that seems to fit nicely to the scale that you’re working to.

Place one end of your wrapping material about 1 1/2 inches from the end of your strips of core (as in the 2nd photo below).

 

making-use-of-old-tshirts
how-to-make-a-basket-out-of-scrap

Now wrap around the core, working towards the near end, for about an inch (2.5cm).

Bend the wrapped section around, so that the core ends are now held with the rest of the core material (as in the 2nd photo below).

Continue to wrap around the core material for 1-1 1/2cm.

how-to-start-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-start-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-start-a-tshirt-yarn-basket

Now, thread the wrapping fabric, through the centre of the loop that you have made.

Continue to wrap and then pass through the loop every few stitches, until you have gone all the way around the loop.

There is no right or wrong amount of times to wrap between stitches. As a guide, the closer together the stitches are, the firmer (tighter) your basket will be. I often vary the amount of stitches as I work, to keep it pleasing to the eye and you can create some interesting patterns this way, if you choose. 

how-to-begin-coiling-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-start-coiling-a-tshirt-yarn-basket

When working with plant fibres, I have only ever needed to use a tapestry needle as I work. I have found that fabrics (such as the t-shirt jersey) work so tightly, that it is easier to create a hole, before passing the needle through.

This is easily done with the unhooked end, of a small gauge crochet hook or paint brush handle (or something similar that you have to hand).

Push it through, where you want the stitch to go, wiggle it around in a circular motion and then take it out, ready for your needle and wrapping fabric to pass through.

I found that this quickly became a part of my working rhythm and didn’t slow me down.

On the second round, your stitches should go through the previous round of coiling and not through the central loop.

how-to-make-a-coil-basket-with-tshirts

Adding in more core material is simple. Stagger the ends of the lengths, so that the core doesn’t all run out at the same time. When one length of core runs out, simply add a new one with the others and wrap around it, to hold it in place.

Adding new wrapping material can be seen in the three photos below.

First place the end of the new piece with the core fibres.

Then, use the strip of jersey that is running out, to wrap around the new piece of jersey. Just once or twice will do.

Lay the end of the old piece with the core fibres and then wrap over the top of the join with the new strip of jersey.

In this way, all of the ends are wrapped inside as you work and you won’t have anything to weave in at the end.

how-to-make-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-add-more-yarn-to-a-coil-basket
how-to-add-more-yarn-to-a-coil-basket

Continue to work in this way, until your base has reached the size that you require.

You will want to start building up the sides, level with the point where you first started coiling around the central loop (as shown in the first photo below).

Push up the area that you are wrapping firmly, with a finger underneath and increase the tension in your stitches, to pull the sides up.

I like a gradual rise, so to achieve a bowl shaped basket like this, only raise each round of coiling by about a 45 degree angle to the previous round.

turning-the-sides-of-a-coil-basket
turning-the-sides-of-a-coil-basket

It’s up to you how high you want the sides to go and might also be dependant on how much scrap material you have.

When you feel that you are ready to finish, you will need to start preparing half a round before your finish point.

The finish point should be level with where you first started to raise the sides, so that your basket is an equal height all the way around.

Prepare by cutting away some of the core material, to stagger your finish. I think this is the trickiest part of a coil basket, so take your time and don’t be afraid to unpick and either remove or add more core, to get a smooth gradual finish.

When you get to the end of the core, stitch three or four times, with no wrap in between.

how-to-finish-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-finish-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-finish-a-tshirt-yarn-basket

Use your crochet hook (or similar, if you have needed one while coiling), to open a pathway through the last few stitches.

Pass through with your needle and wrapping fabric and pull nice and tight.

Now you just need to cut the wrapping strip close to the stitches, so that the end cannot be seen.

You have completed your t-shirt yarn basket!

There is so much that you can do using this technique. A different shape at the centre can create oval and rectangular baskets, handles can be added, the rim can be shaped in to create a more rounded basket. You just need to use your creativity and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

As I always tell my children, we wouldn’t learn anything without making mistakes! ou it was simple. I hope that you enjoy making them. I think they make a nice introduction to coil basketry.

how-to-finish-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-finish-a-tshirt-yarn-basket
how-to-finish-a-tshirt-yarn-basket

There is so much that you can do using this technique. A different shape at the centre can create oval and rectangular baskets, handles can be added, the rim can be shaped in, to create a more rounded basket. You just need to use your creativity and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

As I always tell my children, we wouldn’t learn anything without making mistakes!

how-to-make-a-basket-out-of-scrap-shirts