A quick guide to understanding basketry

July 29, 2015

When metalware and pottery were scarce or expensive, basketmaking was an essential skill. Modern practitioners see basketry more as a form of artistic expression, a perfect marriage­ of­ creativity and practicality. It's a great hobby to take up and can also be great for a gift for friends and family. Here's a quick guide to help get you started.

A quick guide to understanding basketry

A versatile hobby

The basic techniques can be easily adapted to whatever materials are locally available, and an endless variety of basket shapes and sizes can be created to accommodate almost any need that may arise.

  • A soft, lightweight straw and willow basket can serve for gathering eggs or for holding bread.
  • A large twined basket is ideal for holding garden vegetables or may even be used as a laundry basket.
  • An open weave cane basket makes a good strainer while a tightly wrapped coil is an almost watertight container.

A brief history on basketry techniques

  • Basket-makers of the past often specialized in just one technique and handed down their secrets from generation to generation.
  • Their modern counterparts explore a variety of approaches and strive for imaginative combinations of colour, texture and form.

Materials are everywhere!

Basketmakers of the past took advantage of the wide availability of materials, combining everything from wire to string and feathers with the more traditional items such as stalks, rushes and grasses used in basketry. You can get pretty creative by using any material you find fit.

  • Craft shops supply imported and machine-milled reeds of uniform size and flexibility, which makes them easy to manipulate.
  • There is an almost limitless supply of free basketry materials growing in the countryside.
  • Tall grasses and reeds from swampy ground, honeysuckle that has overgrown its boundaries and wiry vines pruned from a tree or bush can all make beautiful, serviceable baskets. Next time you decide to make a beautiful basket, step outside for nature's bounty.

Basketry is an old art form, requiring few tools other than a sharp knife. Consider these tips to learn more about basketry before you begin the craft.

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