Over Two, Under One: Basket Weaving With Reeds

If you like working with your hands, basket weaving can provide you with beautiful objects for your home, to give as gifts, or to sell.

| January/February 1983

  • basket weaving - illustration of Japanese weave
    (Fig. 4) Separate the spokes with Japanese weave. Follow a patter all the way around where you go over two reeds, under one, over two, under one.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - wrapping a side handle
    Wrapping a side handle.
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - completed two handle basket, filled with orange yarn
    The end result of a successful basket weaving project. This version has two side handles.
    Photo by John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - illustration of the triple weave procedure
    (Fig. 6) The triple weave. Lay three No. 2 weavers behind three consecutive spokes and mark the first spoke with a twist-tie.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of pliers bending side spokes
    (Fig. 5) When the bottom is the size you want, you're read to weave the sides. Use pliers to help bend side spokes up. Pinch firmly, then, with your hand, gently push the spoke away from you.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of beginning weave for the base
    (Fig. 2) Begin to wind the "button" over arm A. (Fig. 3) Turn the cross counterclockwise so that arm B is up, and weave the long strand over arm C. Continue weaving and turning so that you always weave over the arm at right.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of the step-up
    (Fig. 7) A step-up is used to make each row look complete in itself. To achieve this effect, end the first row of rust with the weavers coming from behind the three spokes to the left of spoke 1.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - first row of border
    Finishing the first row of the border.
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - illustration of base spokes
    (Fig 1.) Punch holes in four base spokes and thread four others through.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - completed one handle basket, filled with apples
    Reed basket with a single handle
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - adding a new reed
    Procedure for adding a new reed once a basket weaving project is underway.
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - second row of border
    Working the second row of the border. You'll want to pull the first two spokes out about two inches so the last two will be easier to interlace.
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - gathering wrap on side handle
    Completing the gathering wrap on the single handle. Run your awl carefully through the handle, put the end of the weaver through from right to left, and cut it off flush with the handle.
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - beginning the side
    Beginning the side in triple weave. Take the left weaver in front of the next two spokes to the right and, at the same time, over the top of the other two weavers. Now, run it behind the third spoke and back to the outside.
    John C. Keys
  • basket weaving - illustration of row two border weave
    (Fig. 10) Row 2: Bring each spoke in turn in front of the two spokes to its right, while holding down the spokes that are sticking out to the front. Then run each spoke to the inside, going under the loop formed by the first row. (Under one, over two, under one, over two)
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of row one border weave
    (Fig. 9) Border Row 1: Working to the right, bend down the first spoke and take it behind the next one, and out. Repeat this procedure with each spoke, interlacing the last with the first and going from the inside to the outside.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of spoke pinching
    (Fig. 8) To make the four-row trac border, soak the spokes for ten minutes, then crimp them close to the weaving so they bend to the right.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of row three border weave
    (Fig. 11) Looking down into the inside of the basket, hold three spokes straight out. Attach twist-ties at the bend of each of the first two spokes. Then bring the left spoke over the two right ones, and push it down under the third. Continue taking each spoke on the left over the next two to the right, and down.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of U-shaped reed side handle
    (Fig. 15) If you prefer a basket with two side handles, cut a pair of 15" lengths of No. 8 reed, then taper and cut each end on a slant.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of tapered ends of handle
    (Fig. 12) In order to be able to insert the handle easily into the basket, each end must be tapered. Shave the inside of the handle ends — starting three inches from each tip — to about half their thickness.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of procedure for wrapping single handle
    (Fig. 13) To make a rope wrap for a basket with a single handle, run a long, pliable No. 2 weaver under the border, from the inside to the outside, at point A. (Fig. 14 Keep the first loop that goes through the basket as far to the left as possible, and add the subsequent wrappings to its right, filling the space between the first loop and the handle.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • basket weaving - illustration of procedure for wrapping side handle
    (Fig. 16) To wrap each side handle, run a long, pliable No. 2 weaver under the border from the inside to the outside at point A.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • basket weaving - illustration of Japanese weave
  • basket weaving - wrapping a side handle
  • basket weaving - completed two handle basket, filled with orange yarn
  • basket weaving - illustration of the triple weave procedure
  • basket weaving - illustration of pliers bending side spokes
  • basket weaving - illustration of beginning weave for the base
  • basket weaving - illustration of the step-up
  • basket weaving - first row of border
  • basket weaving - illustration of base spokes
  • basket weaving - completed one handle basket, filled with apples
  • basket weaving - adding a new reed
  • basket weaving - second row of border
  • basket weaving - gathering wrap on side handle
  • basket weaving - beginning the side
  • basket weaving - illustration of row two border weave
  • basket weaving - illustration of row one border weave
  • basket weaving - illustration of spoke pinching
  • basket weaving - illustration of row three border weave
  • basket weaving - illustration of U-shaped reed side handle
  • basket weaving - illustration of tapered ends of handle
  • basket weaving - illustration of procedure for wrapping single handle
  • basket weaving - illustration of procedure for wrapping side handle

Everybody loves a basket! And whether you're using that woven container to tote vegetables from the garden, display fruit on your kitchen table, or just stash away an unfinished needlework project, you'll find that your satisfaction in the task is doubled if the basket is one you've made yourself.

Many types of material are suitable for basket weaving, 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. 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 underbark 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. The sizes range in diameter from No. 0 at 1/64" (used for making miniatures) to No. 12 at 3/8" (used for sturdy handles). As a rule, the spokes — which are the ribs or framework — of a basket should be two numbers coarser than the weavers... which are the flexible strands that are woven over and under the spokes.

Reed is sold in one-pound bundles priced at approximately $5.00 to $7.00 each. It can be purchased either from craft stores or through such mail order suppliers as H.H. Perkins Co., the Cane & Basket Supply Co., or The Earth Guild.



On Nature and Bristles

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. To sort out the No. 5 (1/8") reed that's generally used for the basket spokes, leave an entire bundle in warm water for five minutes. Because the spokes must be firm and strong, you can then discard any that feel spongy or soft. No. 2 (5/64") reed is often selected for the weavers. All but the most brittle of these can be used. Do save the more pliable ones for starting the base of the container, though, as that's where the coils are tightest.

You'll have to use care not to soak too much reed at a time, because if the material is kept wet for too long, it becomes "hairy." Although some reed is naturally bristly, prolonged soaking will bring out these whiskers in droves! It's best to leave the selected strands in water for just ten minutes or so before using them, and then keep them under a damp towel as you work. [EDITOR'S NOTE: According to one authority, adding a teaspoon of glycerin to each quart of soaking water will help prevent fraying.] Any hairs that do show up on a finished basket can be burned off with a propane torch or over a gas stove, but do be sure to wet the container first and then move it rapidly over the flame or your masterpiece might catch fire! (Don't use a match or candle for this purpose. Either one gives off carbon, which will blacken your basket.)






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