How to Make a Paper Basket

Learn how to make a paper basket from recycled materials.

| April/May 1998

A good basket may be one of the most utilitarian and universal containers in human history. From cradling babies to Sunday picnics, these simple, handy containers have been a part of almost every culture. They are, perhaps, one of the most enduring forms of folk art. Basketmaking is still practiced today as much as in ancient times; the patterns and weaves have changed little over the years. Only the materials used to make the baskets has changed. In the past, if you lived near a creek or river, your baskets might have been made of willow or reeds. Near the mountains, pine needles might have been your choice. A city girl might have used scraps of cloth to make her baskets. Whatever materials our ancestors chose, their baskets were more than art: they were meant to be used. Yesterday, as today, baskets represent the heart and soul of folk art. A need is met-with both an intimate understanding of the environment and the desire for a thing of simple beauty.

Although basketry is still popular, most of us don't have ready access to willows or strong vines — without getting arrested! Sure, we could go to the craft store and buy them. But somehow, that's not as satisfying as gathering our own materials. It all comes back to the folk art idea. Something as personal and basic as a basket should reflect our environment. It should speak of our culture and tell future generations who we were.

And who we are is right in front of you, or rather it's in your hands. It's paper — magazines, newspapers, boxes, and bags — we're drowning in the stuff, and it's not going away. Paper is the single largest product of our culture. It's cheap, it's plentiful, and it's durable. Forty-year-old newspapers have been unearthed in landfills, neatly folded and ready to read. Paper is the willow and reeds of our culture. Let's stop fighting it and start using it. Making a paper basket with recycled materials, like grocery bags, is a great place to start. So let's learn how to make a paper basket!

A good first project to demonstrate the power of recycled paper bags is a garden basket. Garden baskets are handsome, easy to make and decorate, and chances are you have everything you need on hand. Although crafted of recycled brown paper grocery bags, they are extremely durable and can withstand being soaked and muddied over and over. I've discovered through experience that these baskets will withstand at least one full summer of rain and mud and, I'm ashamed to admit, one full winter of ice and snow. Just wash them off, reshape them a bit, and set them on a flat surface to dry. In fact, I'll venture to guess these baskets will outlive us all to be haggled over by yuppies at a farm sale. (For photos of the basket-making process, click on the Image Gallery link above.) Here's what you'll need:

  • scissors
  • white glue
  • brown paper grocery bags
  • brass brads or buttons
  • thread stapler
  • assorted scraps of ribbon, paints, stamps, raffia for decoration

For the smaller basket, you will need six paper bags.

First, carefully open the grocery bags at the seams. It is easiest to open the bottom first, then the back seam. Cut off the ragged edge lengthwise along the fold line.
5/27/2018 12:49:31 AM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to make my own – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha. Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

4/3/2012 3:58:03 PM

I've written up my corrections here:

4/3/2012 3:56:32 PM

I've written up my corrections here:

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard