Three Techniques, Endless Possibilities
Basket weaving is an art that stretches back to the dawn of human civilization. Not only is it practical, but beautiful as well with its many intricacies and designs. Despite how elaborate many baskets seem, there are three basket weaving techniques that most weavers utilize in their work. While there are numerous other methods and ways of weaving, these three techniques comprise the cornerstone of the basking weaving hobby. The three techniques are called plaiting, coiling, and twining. Let’s take a look at each technique, how it’s done, and what the finished result will look like.
Before attempting to weave, however, ensure that you’re using the correct materials. Some plant fibers or bark may be brittle and prone to snapping, which will decrease the longevity of your basket (or give you a major headache during the weaving process). Traditionally, baskets have been made with strips of tree bark from oak trees or other native lumber in the area. However, reeds are a more popular choice especially today due to their abundance and flexibility. It’s also common to use thinner, sturdier reeds as “stakes,” or to create the frame of the basket. Flatter and often lighter reeds are used as “weavers,” or to create the walls.
If this is your first project, I recommend using a coil of flat reed, which you can find in any hobby store. Not only is it convenient and easy to work with, but it dyes well for customization purposes and is inexpensive. If you’re an interior decorator geek like me, you could also consider a rougher rattan or raffia. This creates a very boho-chic basket.
This basket weaving technique is easily the more recognizable of the three, and its fairly simple nature makes it a great choice for beginners. The plaiting technique involves crossing strips of material over and under each other, creating what resembles a “checkerboard” pattern. The plaiting technique is utilized in order to make flat wefts, which can then be used to create the bottom, sides, or cover of a basket. Here’s a sample of how to make an entire basket using the plaiting technique.
How to Plait
Consider what size basket you are planning to make. Also, take into account what shape you’ll want it to be. I recommend starting with a square or circle shape.
Using a piece of paper, cut out a general shape for the bottom of your basket. This will be a handy reference guide for later.
Consider how wide, or deep you want your basket to be. Keep a length in mind. I recommend using another piece of paper to create a template for what your finished wall will look like, and place it next to your base.
Take your material and measure out a piece that is A, as long as the bottom of your basket, and B, continues past either side of the wall of the basket. You can imagine your basket like a flattened out box. Your first weft will be as long as the base and the walls it will go up (in other words, the entirety of the basket). If you’re lazy like me, just cut out a really long piece.
Beware: there’s no going back from a piece that’s too short. Luckily with the plaiting technique, you can usually just pull it right out and slide another one in. However, some don’t get so lucky.
Use your first strip as a guide to cut out more strips of the same length. Cut out as many as you need to completely cover the width of your basket.
Repeat these steps to create horizontal strips that you will use to weave through the vertical ones.
Lay out all of the strips, vertical on the bottom, horizontal on the top. Consider where the base of your basket is. Don’t start weaving at the top left corner of all your material. You’ll do your first over-under where the corner of your base is.
At the corner of your base, put the vertical strip over and under the horizontal strip. Work these two strips going under and over until you reach the bottom corner of the basket.
Repeat for the rest of the base.
At this point, you should have a woven, flat base. Carefully bend your unwoven, “frayed” edges to give them the appearance of a wall.
Now, cut some additional strips to comprise the walls of the basket. You’ll use the same over and under technique. For circle baskets, use one strip to weave the walls into a uniform circle. For square baskets, take care to bend your reed at the corners and give the appearance of an edge. There’s a fantastic range of techniques for distinguishing between square and circle baskets, but if you’re a beginner, this will do for now.
At the top, or rim of your basket, you’ll want to fold the reeds and seal them to ensure your weave doesn’t come apart. There’s also a variety of methods for doing this. For beginners, I recommend using a nice quality wood glue, or even staples. You can also cut off any excess there might be. As an optional finishing touch, you can use one strip to create a handle, which you can attach with staples.
Coiled baskets utilize a thicker, sometimes braided reed to create the basket. This technique also involves sewing these coils together, either with thread or a smaller, more flexible reed or fiber. Historically, this technique was used to create baskets that could hold water, food, or fish. Today, it gives an elegant, rounded appearance to a basket with intricate detailing.
How to Coil
Coiling is an advanced technique that will require specialized materials, patience, and sewing skills. To see a great tutorial on creating a coiled basket, check out this tutorial from Youtube channel Craftiosity that uses colored raffia.
Twining is a technique similar to plaiting, but it builds upon it by weaving two or more strips through instead of one. This might sound like a pain if you’re used to working with flat reeds. Twining is most often done, however, with thinner, flexible fibers combined with flat reeds and other materials.
How to Twine
There are hundreds of variations using twining, involving the use of knotting, sewing, and other methods. Check out this technique in action from the Youtube channel Fibers and Design Weaving.
Putting These Techniques to Use
Basket weaving is an art that extends to almost every culture in humanity. Today, baskets are woven with artistic flair and modern materials that allow the weaver to manipulate color, texture, and feel. Knowing these three hallmark basking weaving techniques will enable you to explore the craft and design something unique and personal to you.