I tend to not be much of a TV watcher, let alone a reality TV watcher. But in 2009, when I was living in the UK, I became obsessed with a reality TV show … Victorian Farm. (Yup, I just gained about 100 nerd points).
Victorian Farm follows three Brits for a year while they attempt to live life Victorian style. From brick making to hay harvesting, lambing to life in the dairy, it really is a DIY/history nerd’s dream come true.
In one of my favourite episodes, Ruth learns about basketry. An incredible basket maker shows her not only how to make the most beautiful basket, but one that is so sturdy she can stand on it!
Ever since, I’ve been dreaming of making such a basket. And while I’m a long way off, today was a good first start, and appropriately done on a rainy Sunday, bringing waves of nostalgia for Britain…
- #2 reed (1.75mm). You’ll need 16 spokes that are 26″ long, 2 spokes that are 13″ long, and a bunch of long weavers (keep reading for an explanation)
- Warm water and something to soak the reed in
After calling several craft stores in and around Toronto, I had the epiphany that I should google “basketry supplies Toronto” (d’uh!), and amazingly the first place that came up happened to be less than a block from where I work! For anyone looking for supplies in Toronto, I highly recommend Bamboo Bazaar at Davenport and Symington. Lovely service, great supplies, and for me at least, the perfect location!
How to do it!
I borrowed a basketry book from my favourite Toronto craft store (Wise Daughters) and made my first basket using instructions from there. The book is called Wicker Basketry by Flo Hoppe, and is full of not just great instructions but helpful pictures to follow as well. I’ve only done the one basket so far, but highly recommend it!
- When you’re making your baskets, you use reeds in two different ways. Your spokes run vertically on your basket and create the structure for your basket. These should be sturdy. Your weavers are the strands that run horizontally (the ones you weave!). These should be more malleable. Every piece of reed has its own quality. You’ll be able to tell which are sturdier and which are floppier by soaking them. Place just the ends of your strands in hot water and separate out the ones that go floppy like spaghetti from the ones that have more rigidity to them.
- Cut up your pieces. As mentioned above, you’ll need 16 x 26″ spokes and 2 x 13″ spokes (remember these are the more rigid ones!) and then a whole bunch of long weavers (the floppier ones).
- Soak the spokes so that they lie flat.
- We’re going to start with the base. Because this was my first basket, the book suggested an interwoven base. To begin, separate your 26″ reeds into groups of four and mark where the centre is. Overlap the sets of four to make a small square in the centre. Look at the picture to see how they should overlap (which sit in front and which are behind).
- A word about soaking. Soaking your reeds is really important to make them easier to work with. Finding the right balance of moisture for your weaving is tricky. I was told before I started to not soak too many reeds at once, or for too long, but had no idea what that meant. I wound up soaking the weavers one at a time, as I needed them, for about 5 minutes each. My recommendation? Play it by ear.
- Now it’s time to start weaving! Beginning at 12 o’clock, weave clockwise going under the first group of four, and over the next. Continue for four rounds.
- Then alternate the pattern. To transition, keep your strand behind the top 2 groups of four and then continue on for four more rounds.
- Next, we’re going to weave in groups of 2 instead of four. Starting with your second group of four, start separating out the strands into groups of two. I fretted about making sure they were evenly spaced at the beginning (which I found hard), but it all just worked out in the end. So don’t fret!
- As you start to weave with groups of two, you’re going to stick another pair of spokes in (the two 13″ ones). This creates an odd number of spokes, which is important later. See the photo for how to add the spokes in.
- The pattern of “over, under, over, under” is called randing. Keep randing, trying to keep the weave as tight as possible. Because there are an odd number of spoke pairs, the weave will automatically alternate, creating this beautiful pattern.
- You may have already come to the end of one of your weavers. When you add another one, just over lap the two weavers a wee bit and keep going. Come back later and trim them back.
- For this basket, we’re aiming for a base of 4″, so once you get to that point, you want to start building up the sides of the basket. Basically, just start pushing the spokes into a vertical position. I found it helpful to weave with the spokes facing the floor. Keep on going until you have about 1″ of siding done.
- Next comes weave style #2 – slewing! Slewing is the same as randing, except that you’re doubling up the weave. Add a second weaver, and pretend that the two weavers are one.
- Continue alone until you have 6 rows of slewing done. Then go back to randing (1 strand) for another inch or so. Look how much great work you’ve done!
- Last but not least comes the border. This one is called a “trac” border. Basically, you fold over one set of spokes and weave them through 3-4 spokes (over, under, over, under) allowing any excess length to flop into the inside of the basket (we’ll trim off the ends later).
- Do this all the way around.
- Trim off any extra bits, and you’re done! Hurrah!
This was a simple, easy, cheap and totally satisfactory project. Like knitting and crocheting, it’s all about getting the pattern down, and once you have that, you can weave while listening to podcasts, watching your favourite show, or chatting with a friend. I’ve been catching glances of my wee basket all day, and think I may be hooked.