Here we go Cabrillo! It's a thrill to be teaching workshops in my community this summer. This space will be an active resource and archive for my students and anyone interested in learning a little bit of what I know about making. You can download documents, discover artists and resources and subscribe and add your own comments! Before I start I want to share some resources, people and places that have inspired and supported my journey.
Basket Resources (in process):
- Jim at the Caning Shop and everyone else there as well!
- Deborah Valoma and her gorgeous book 'Scrape the Willow until it Sings', about her friend, basketry icon, Julia Parker
- Tim Johnson, artist, basket-maker
- Joe Hogan, master basket-maker
- Interesting article on baskets around the world
- Contemporary Basketry Blog by Carole Ekert. I've been lucky to be featured on this blog a few times. So full of inspiration.
- Annemarie O'Sullivan, an amazing artist! Inspired so many baskets.
Last night we had a go at twining. What is twining [besides a confusing and fun way to spend 3 hours!] In basket weaving, the warp refers to the passive, usually vertical element. The weft is the active element that intersects with the warp. The weft is usually horizontal in basket weaving. Sometimes I will also call them ribs (warps) and weavers (wefts).
We will worked with open plane twining, leaving space between successive rows of wefts. We changed the shape of our baskets by changing the space between the rows of wefts. We also explored what happens when warps, the vertical element of the basket, or ribs, are paired and then separated, then paired again. This also changed the form of the basket.
Instructions for 8" Onion Basket: [Process pictures coming soon!]
Cut 10 pieces of round reed at 40” and 2 at 10 feet. (these instructions are for #3-#4 round reed. You can make this basket smaller or larger with different diameter round reed. Smaller baskets are more easily made with smaller diameter reed but one can experiment to see what happens.)*
Soak your reed in warm water for 10 - 15 minutes and then pull it out and let it rest for 5. As you wait you may want to cut and soak some extra long pieces, extra weavers, for later.
Mark centers of the 40” pieces (or not). Lay 5 vertical spokes over 5 horizontal spokes.
Lay the two 10 foot weavers diagonally sandwiched between the two groups with the ends extending one inch in the southeast corner and the long ends in the northwest corner. (The one inch ends will be trimmed later)
Crimp the long weavers close to the base. Include one in with the north group of spokes. Take the other long weaver to the right, going over the north group, under the east group, over the south group, and under the west group. Do this for 3-4 rows.
Bring the long weaver from the north group to the front. Twine over two spokes at a time for two to three rows. This will form the base of your basket. When the base measure 3 ½ to 4” in diameter, begin to twine around single spokes moving out from base about 3/8”. As you continue, spaces between rows should be about ½”. Begin tugging the spokes to the left to make the basket “cup”. You can also hold your basket, bottoms up, against your belly to allow the spokes (ribs or warps) to fall vertically downward. Twine 6-7 rows or until desire height switch back to twining around pairs of ribs. This will cause your basket top to dramatically narrow. Make two passes around the top of your basket, twining around pairs, pushing your weavers so successive rows are right on top of each other, making a more solid rim. This levels off the top of the basket and gives it a more finished look.
Drop each spoke behind the one to the right and out. Holding 2 spokes in your left hand, take the furthest left spoke, drop it over the two spokes right next to the basket and hold it there. Now pick up the next spoke to the right and begin again. When only two spokes are left in your hand, push the first two spokes up a little, and drop the last two spokes into the loops made by pushing up on the first two spokes. Repeat this as many times as you like.
Use a 4 foot piece of #3 or smaller. Bring up loops at an intersection of weaving leaving 4-6 spaces between handle ends. Wrap (twist) each end back across the handle. Stick ends inside basket and trim.
Wet basket and squish to a pouch shape.
Note: All weaving is done working on the outside of the basket, weaving to the right. Keep basket very wet while weaving to avoid breaking spokes.
*Material notes: Since reed is a natural material, each of the strands will have its own unique character. After you've soaked a bunch of them in water (the first step in the basket-weaving process), you'll find that some lengths are very strong and sturdy, others feel as soft as cooked spaghetti, and still others snap all too easily. Do save the more pliable ones for starting the base of the container, though, as that's where the coils are tightest.
Many types of material are suitable for basket weaving, [we are using due to is accessibility and general uniformity] but one of the best is reed. Strong, pliable, and light, reed comes from the core of the long shoots of the rattan palm, which grows in the tropical forests of many South Pacific islands, Northern Africa and Asia. These shoots reach lengths of 200 to 600 feet as they trail over the floor of the jungle or hook onto other trees and plants. And once the thorny outer bark has been removed, the smooth, glossy under bark is stripped off in specific widths to be used for caning chair seats and such.
Beneath this layer is the actual reed — the core of the vine — which is harvested and machine-processed into round and flat strips of different diameters and widths. (Resource: MotherEarthNews.com)
Pine needle Baskets
Next up, the first kind of basket I learned to make was a pine needle basket. Like a lot of things the hardest part is the start. It's a basic coiling method. Once the base it established we will use the interlocking stitch to secure pine needles together in the form of a small round basket.
Coil containers use a flexible 'coil' which begins from the center at the bottom of the basket or sometimes around a round wooden or bark disk. The coil is spiraled outward and upward, placed on top of the coil in the previous round, and fastened to former rounds by some stitching material.
We are using pine needles, Ponderosa Pine to be precise, locally sources by a friend in Berkeley CA. Three or four pine needles (each of which contain 3 long leaves) will make up our 'coil' and waxed linen will be used for stitching.
It can take up to 10 hours or more to complete a small (3 inches approximately plus or minus in size) pine needle basket. Be patient. Take your time. Breathe.
Preparing pine needles: Typically pine needles are gathered, dried prior to being rehydrated and cleaned. To rehydrate your needles put them in a just steaming pot of water. The pot should be large enough that needles need not be bent to fit. Allow needles to soak for 30 minutes. Remove needles and place in a plastic bag or towel to rest before use, about 5 - 10 minutes.
Cleaning your needles: With your fingers, remove the paper membrane and bulbous cap from each pine needle. Be careful not to completely remove all the binding from the top of the needle. Leave just a little bit so the leaves of the needle are still connected.
Starting your Basket: The start is always the hardest part. Sometimes we have to try and try again. But it will get easier. Find some waxed linen and stretch it from your nose to your outstretched arm, about 3 - 4 feet. Cut. Begin by wrapping the waxed linen around the top end of your needles as in diagram one, leaving a little of the tip top of your needles exposed. It is important to wrap down-under-away-up-and toward you. This will mimic your stitching motion. Going in reverse can lead to trouble!
Carefully wrap down the needles for 1/2 - 3/4 inch. Then grasp the wrapped needles with your thumb and finger and bend it around into a tiny hoop or donut with a tiny lentil or sushi rice size hole in the center! The exposed tip top can be place under the wrapped area of your needles. Then do a forward stitch, wrapping around the tip top to secure the tip end, and return to your previous wrapping to fill in towards the forward stitch. Wrap over your exposed end and continue in a counter clockwise direction until you've wrapped about a 1/4 way around past your now secured tip-end. You should now have a secure donut, Start, round! Get ready to stitch.
Thread the free end of your waxed linen through your needle, pulling it through only about 2 inches. Hold your start so the loose pine needles point in a counter clockwise direction. Wrap one last time, going through the hole, behind, towards you and back towards the hole but this time lift up the wrapped end of the pine needles and locate the waxed linen thread closest the the wrapped side of the pine needles. Wrestle your needle under the lose needles, under the thread pointed away from you. See the photo above. Repeat this action with each wrapped thread one full rotation to 'sew' the first coil to your Start. Continue this process until your coil has grown to quarter size.
Next you will modify your interlocking stitch by lowering the tip of your needle to not only go under the thread as before but also wiggle your needle in between the needles. Halfway in between is best. No more, but you may do less. This will snug the successive coils together. Be careful not to skip stitches and try to establish even spacing between your stitches. You may need to push your stitches along so they line up the side of your basket. They will likely go at at a gentle diagonal. See how the stitches line up in the image at the top of this section.
Rising up! To begin the make your sides of your basket, place your active coil on top of, rather then next to, the coil below. You can control the arch of your sides by placing the coil at a gentler angle, to the side and up. Placing on top immediately can make your basket more like a cup or jar than a gently arching basket.
DO THIS!!! KEEP YOU BASKET AND NEEDLES MOIST AND HAVE A SPRAY BOTTLE OF WATER NEAR BY.
DON'T DO THIS!!! DO NOT TRY TO ADD NEW THREAD AND NEW PINE NEEDLES AT THE SAME TIME! IF YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF BOTH, DO THE THREAD PREMATURELY, CUTTING THE EXTRA, THEN SECURE YOUR NEW THREAD WITH 4 - 5 STITCHES BEFORE ADDING NEW NEEDLES.
To add beads of embellishments thread them onto your thread resting on the outside (or inside) of your basket.
ADDING THREAD: When there is about 3 inches of thread left, stitch through so it rests on the outside. Then take your new thread and stitch it through so it picks up where the last one left off. Be careful not to lose a stitch by looking at the outside of your basket. Later you can snip your lose ends.
ADDING PINE NEEDLES: When there is about 3 inches of pine needles left, clean the tips of 3 or 4 prepared needles, loosen the last 2 stitches to create a void under your active coil. Grasp the tip of your new needles and push them into the void. Carefully re-tighten the loosened stitches and resume coiling around in a counter clockwise direction.