I enjoy handcrafts and especially enjoy baskets – they are useful and beautiful, and when not in use are perfect visual art for my country décor. This Kentucky Berry Basket kept my hands busy and I love the finished basket!
I haven’t made baskets for years – no good place to work, too busy… but a recent ankle surgery gave me incentive to ‘do something’. The nice thing about basket making is you can do it in stages, starting and stopping whenever you wish. The only thing needed is a good sized space where you can work. Basket making is wet, so choose an area that can take it. I worked on my dining room table, using a bath towel to catch the worst of the drips.
This is a pretty basic plain-weave reed basket with a beautiful carved wooden handle.
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The pattern and supplies are available at the basketmakerscatalog.com website.
Supply List to make a Kentucky Berry Basket:
Choose the “Kentucky Berry Basket” and Quantity 1, then hit ‘Calculate’ for a materials list. You can also buy materials locally if you prefer. I found the pattern from GH Productions to be very clear and easy to follow.
- Scissors or shears for cutting reed
- Measuring tape
- Razor knife or carving tool
- Basketry ‘packing tool’ or bone folder (I used an old metal awl), to help keep the basket evenly woven
- Spring-style clothespins or twist ties (clothespins work better)
- Large container to hold water
Step 1: Cut your stakes (they will form the base and sides of your basket) to length, soak the reed a couple of minutes to make it pliable, and weave the base. At this point, the most important thing is to get the base centered and the weaving even. Note that reed has a ‘smooth’ and a ‘rough’ side; be sure the smooth side will be the ‘outside’ of your basket.
Step 2: “Upset” (bend up) the stakes so you can weave the sides of the basket. Cut the weavers to length per the pattern, and weave each row individually, starting ‘outside’ a stake and ending ‘inside’ a stake. This makes an invisible but strong overlap. Start each row on the opposite side of the basket from the prior row.
Step 3: Continue weaving, packing the rows nice and tight, and measuring every few rows to ensure the basket is the same height all the way around. Here I used a piece of scrap reed as my ‘measuring stick’. You will need to soak your basket again from time to time, so the reed stays pliable – otherwise it can break, wasting all of your work.
You also want to pay attention to the shape of the basket and the evenness of the weavers and stakes; just adjust as you go.
Step 4: I used a piece of reed tied in a circle to be sure I knew where I was going for finished basket circumference; it matters because of the pre-formed handle (what a bummer to get to the top and find your handle won’t fit…).
Step 5: For the last row on this basket, cut down the weaver slightly to make it narrower; this is because we will be using a rim filler, and need to make space for it. The rim filler is useful for baskets with a carved handle that goes on both faces of the basket, like this one does.
To finish the edge, the stakes that are on the outside of the final row will be bent over the weaver and tucked in on the inside of the basket. The stakes that are on the ‘inside’ of the final row are simply cut off even with the top of the basket.
Here is a look from the inside: the stake has been bent over the top weaver and tucked in (cut to length so it doesn’t show); you will cut the two stakes on either side flush with the edge.
When you complete the edge, add the handle. You will work this particular handle into the weaving on both inside and outside of the basket. You will cut or tuck each of the stakes, as illustrated in this picture.
Note the notches in the handle cut to fit the rim.
Step 6: Fit the rim to the basket, using half-round reed; you will soak the thicker rim material longer than the weavers. Carve it at the overlap, so the thickness of the rim is the same all the way around. Cut and carve as directed by the pattern; fit the inner and outer rims so the overlaps are on opposite sides of the basket (for strength) and use plenty of clothespins to be sure they are nice and tight to the basket edge (it will matter when you lash the rims on). You may need to adjust how far to tuck the handle down into the basket so the rim fits properly.
This photo shows the inside rim fitted in place; you can see how the rim stands up above the finished edge of the basket a bit.
Here you can see both inner and outer rims, and the rim filler (a piece of round reed) in between. It certainly gives a nice finished edge.
Step 7: Lash the rims onto the basket using a long thin piece of reed. I happened to have some quarter-round on hand, but you can use flat reed as well. Be sure to keep it moist and pliable as you work. The most fussy part is to keep it from twisting as you work. Lash the rims on as tightly as you can, but don’t pull so hard you break your lashing reed (I did, and had to start over). Finish as directed in the pattern, gently shape the basket and rim, and set it aside to dry completely. You made a basket!
Guest Contributor: Aunt Mare
How did you learn basketry?
Years ago, I was taking tole and decorative painting classes from a lady who was interested in several crafts and loved to teach. She did a series of basket classes, also lampshade making (and painting), framing your pictures, all sorts of things. I miss her!
What other hobbies do you have?
Cooking, landscape gardening, reading, crochet, sea kayaking . . .
What is your favorite storage tip for your craft and hobby supplies?
A place for everything, everything in its place! I hate to rummage for supplies when I’m ready to get a project going. It’s worth the effort to organize and find a home for it all.
When you’re in your creative mood, do you listen to music? Watch TV? or prefer quiet? If you listen to music, what type? If watch TV, what types of shows?
I like quiet, and I like music. That means mostly ‘quiet music’ and I have several Pandora stations set up for different ‘quiet music’ types depending on what I want to hear. We recently installed a Sonos system in our home, which I love — it pipes the music of choice into the room(s) of choice with the touch of a cell phone.
How often do you start a new project?
It depends on what else is up and it’s seasonal. If it’s summer, I’m more likely to be doing something in the yard than a craft project. I always have a crochet project going for ‘small, keeps my hands busy’ work when traveling. Basket making means a couple of days when I can have the dining room table tied up, so it might happen if my hubby is away on business.
I eagerly look forward to reducing my work and volunteer load to give me more time to enjoy creating, in the garden and with crafts. Right now my big project is designing a major kitchen remodel, which is taking a fair amount of my ‘free time’.
Check out Aunt Mare’s knee scooter basket!
Check out all of the basket weaving projects on Create Whimsy.