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Weaving like a Basket Case

 
Posts: 12
Location: Oregon, Utah
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I have found myself in the outskirts of the city of Portland for the indefinite future, rather than where I expected to be, which was out in a rural part of eastern Oregon. So I had to improvise on my sustainable arts practices in order to continue working toward my goals of sustainable living.

Since I have chemical allergies, my ability to go out and about is fairly limited and employment opportunities are scarce. I would like to develop something that is a skill and potential source of income.

I decided to start making baskets. Again. The first time, I learned how to twist cordage out of plastic shopping bags and wind the coils in yarn, Hopi-style.

This time, I started with twisting cord from shipping paper and shopping bags, and ended up with a nice little key holder. Then I noticed some birch trees across the street that had dropped a lot of withes. Those have made three other little baskets for me. I gifted the one with a handle to some friends for Christmas. The basket was a hit with their kids: it immediately got tried out as a helmet and a bear crib. I'd say that is a successful present.

For the future I'm thinking of produce baskets for markets, but not sure where to collect materials or what materials to look for, for larger baskets.

I'd be happy to read any suggestions for what plants do well that might be growing in my neighborhood, or what recyclable materials I could try next.

Thanks for reading and looking.
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Little key tray: shipping paper, shopping bags
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Sponge tray: birch withes
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Handle basket: birch withes
 
master steward
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I don't have any ideas right now for sustainable materials--weaving is not something I've ever done! But, I wanted to say that your creations look AMAZING! Thank you for sharing them .
 
master steward
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Oh wow, those are brilliant.

I too have chemical sensitivities and have turned to crafting as a source of comfort and income.  I'm more yarn based, but I hope to learn basketry soon.  

common theads has some instruction on how to gather basket making material from Himalayan blackberries.  I'm keen to try it this summer.  I wonder if other invasive species would make good baskets - it certainly would be a good selling point.
 
Faye DancingCloud
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I don't have any ideas right now for sustainable materials--weaving is not something I've ever done! But, I wanted to say that your creations look AMAZING! Thank you for sharing them .



Thanks, Nicole!

I think the third one has been the tightest weave, so far.



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Faye DancingCloud
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R Ranson wrote:Oh wow, those are brilliant.

I too have chemical sensitivities and have turned to crafting as a source of comfort and income.  I'm more yarn based, but I hope to learn basketry soon.  

common theads has some instruction on how to gather basket making material from Himalayan blackberries.  I'm keen to try it this summer.  I wonder if other invasive species would make good baskets - it certainly would be a good selling point.



Thank you! I know I won't always have time to reply to everything, but I'm basking in the warmth.
Ha. Basking.

Blackberry vine is on my list, now that I've found my knife! I tried weaving with some English ivy, first, after I soaked it, but it still wouldn't bend. Typical for a first attempt. There will be more.
 
master pollinator
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Very cool.  I've been wanting to try basketry but have not gone beyond gathering some Cattail leaves and drying them.  Cattails are usually pretty easy to find in ditches or around ponds.  I think any kind of thick long grasslike plants might work.  Also pine needles.
 
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Hi
I do basket weaving for a hobby and really anything that won´t fall apart or change shape too much works. Old newspaper and clothing scraps work well when folded enough they are very strong. Some natural materials are yucca leaves (the plants can grow almost anywhere), willow, the inner layer of maple tree bark and reedy water plants that feel leathery when they are fresh. I havent tried black berries because of the thorns but when anything woody is used its best to soak it overnight in hot water and then twist it in your hand, not bending it, before weaving so the fibers are disconnected a bit and can bend better. sometimes cooking\boiling the material in a pot helps if its too old and you have a tall enough pot to put over a fire. A good one is grass but its more of a sewing project than a weaving one is very heavy and it takes ages. Its very strong though and you can make a basket to carry really heavy things. If you damage it than it changes shape instead of pieces breaking off. Willow is the easiest to grow and use but I dry it out over winter or it gets loose after woven.
 
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Here in Maryland, Wisteria is a great source.  It grows vigorously enough to be considered invasive (at least that asian variety does), and it sends runners along the ground that are great for baskets right away - I used them in winter, no soaking required, and the baskets have held up well.
Next up - Kudzu. Wish me luck...
 
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What about grapevines? We have wild grapes all over the place here. We have wild blackberry and raspberry shrubs around here but I agree about thorns.  
 
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Lina Joana wrote:Here in Maryland, Wisteria is a great source.  It grows vigorously enough to be considered invasive (at least that asian variety does), and it sends runners along the ground that are great for baskets right away - I used them in winter, no soaking required, and the baskets have held up well.
Next up - Kudzu. Wish me luck...



kudzu!. What a wonderful idea. I love it when something that folks do not want in their yard could actually be made into something useful. Since it is a fast growing perennial vine that is highly invasive in the south folks should be able to get it for the asking, perhaps even be paid to eradicate it for free!. Talk about win-win! I heard that the roots are edible, but I suspect they are not really good or folks would fight over them.
 
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@Taryn Hesse - Thanks for this hint: "when anything woody is used its best to soak it overnight in hot water and then twist it in your hand, not bending it, before weaving so the fibers are disconnected a bit and can bend better." I need to prune my grape vine. Maybe my bathtub will be good for something other than storing my friend's incubator.

@r ranson - thanks for reminding me about Common Threads. My library system now has a copy, so I've requested it. Since cutting back Himalayan is on my ToDo list, maybe I can find a way to use the Himalayan stems to protect some trees I want to plant from the deer. Maybe I could do it as a spiral so there would be a narrow passage for me to get in to do any care that's needed? I've got some bamboo that needs thinning that could be used as the vertical supports? I love the way Permies dot com gets me thinking outside the box!
 
gardener
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Something I put on another thread that I'll add here: Growing Large Gourds as storage containers  There's more on that thread about this, pictures and commentary.

There are people growing melons, cucumbers and squash into shapes by putting plastic forms over the fruit when they are small, and allowing the fruit to ripen in the forms. When you remove the forms, you have shaped fruit. I want to weave baskets that are pretty, and put them over gourds of the right size, so the gourd grows into the basket. When harvested, dried and cut neatly, you have a lined basket. I think that might be a VERY neat item for a permie type to sell. We have got viney stuff, we can grow gourds. I'm putting in corkscrew and weeping willows for artwork reasons, and bought seeds for bushel basket gourds to do this with. Also have seeds for a few other smaller types of gourds. I think that is a NEAT upgrade for a basket! I wonder if the baskets could be made from gourd vines weave them over the winter, set them out to get gourds over the summer. Not sure how sturdy they would be.

And I LOVE the idea of using the invasives. I have amok honeysuckle, grapes, and trumpet vines, at least on my property. Oh, and Vinca that is a serious trip hazard, and ivy and Virginia creeper going up the trees. Cat briar, blackberries and poison ivy if I'm feeling brave!

I could see a problem (or maybe a feature) of using the invasives to make baskets. Some of them root for a long time after cutting. If you made a basket and set it outside, would it grow now invasives? Would it root so it didn't blow over in the wind? I can see this being both good and bad. If you chose your species well, pretty flowerpot holders that won't blow over is a neat idea.  And a variant on that, the willow fencing that you grow by weaving the cuttings together would be neat if you wove baskets into it either out of the growth, or out of cuttings that you then weave into the fence so you have places to hang things like flowerpots grown into the fence. planting rowdy flowering vines in the flowerpots that would complement the willow fence would be a LOVELY effect! I'm visualizing nasturtiums right now in a willow fence. That would be neat! If you do this, my price for the idea is take me pictures, I want to see!! :D

And R Ranson: Thank you for the link to Common Threads, I just ordered a copy :)
 
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I have done yarn weavings but my ideas for your lovely baskets have to do with marketing them. I am sure that a local cooperative or natural foods store would love them! Of course you would have to able to produce them! After you have sold to them take a few photos and contact a Whole Foods buyer.They sell this in two places in their stores: with floral/holiday display and near their beauty and bath products.Good luck and have fun with them!😀
 
pollinator
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Hmm... bindweed? I never thought of using it for baskets, but we do have plenty of it.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Cindy Skillman wrote:Hmm... bindweed? I never thought of using it for baskets, but we do have plenty of it.


I don't think bindweed by itself would be strong enough, but if you put it where it will wrap around something stronger that can then be woven, it would add a cool texture to the basket.
Unless you have industrial strength bindweed, in which case, I retract my comment :D
 
Cindy Skillman
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LOL Yes, I was thinking about weaving it over an armature of willow or alder... young birch or aspen, maybe... or perhaps using it as a wrap to bind thin canes together for a tea pot handle, etc. I’m not sure whether it gets brittle and weak once it dries. It’s pretty ropey when I pull it out. (Repeatedly, over-and-over-and-over-again, never-endingly)
 
Pearl Sutton
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Do you know the song "This is the song that never ends..."? Sing it when you pull "this is the vine that never ends..."  :)
 
pollinator
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
I love it when something that folks do not want in their yard could actually be made into something useful. Since it is a fast growing perennial vine that is highly invasive in the south folks should be able to get it for the asking, perhaps even be paid to eradicate it for free!. Talk about win-win! I heard that the roots are edible, but I suspect they are not really good or folks would fight over them.



Josephine Howland wrote:
What about grapevines? We have wild grapes all over the place here. We have wild blackberry and raspberry shrubs around here but I agree about thorns.



Just this past fall, I worked at removing bittersweet and porcelain berry vines from our fruit trees, fences, and other places we'd rather not have them...
Rather than have to fill a barrel and cart it away, I stripped off the leaves and made wreaths as I worked.

I started with a stout piece and coiled it for a couple of turns, then began wrapping. As I cut away more vines, I tucked one end into the wreath and continued wrapping.
I tried to keep the little tendrils intact, since they're pretty, and made a few wreaths with the wraps in both directions, which also looked nice and a bit fatter.
Since the vines were as fresh as possible, they worked well without many vines snapping, and I also found that some gentle "cracking" of the vines would correct a wreath that was a bit oval instead of round.

Next year, I'll be working on an area full of grapevine and Virginia creeper... more wreaths!!!

I've seen some amazing baskets made of pine needles, one of them tiny, the size of a thimble!
So many interesting materials with colors and textures out there... our black raspberry canes are a pretty dusty pale purple color, I'll have to see if pulling through a leather glove would make them safe...and not rub off the color?
 
Josephine Howland
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I was just thinking about Birch yesterday. We have so many damaged birches from the heavy snow. We already had to cut some because they made our driveway impassable. Their young branches would make lovely baskets. I was going to use some of the small sticks (miniature logs) to sell online for home décor. Did anyone see the add from Anthropologie where they were selling a bundle of small birch (logs) for $39.99?
 
Cindy Skillman
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Holy smokes! I wonder if they sold any. I can see, actually, people with ornamental fireplaces doing that—not many birch trees in Florida, for example. My mom always wanted a basket of birch logs by the fireplace. We got them when we visited grandparents here where I live now. Not everyone who wants pretty logs has that option.

We had a storm like that one you describe 5-6 years ago. There are still aspens bowed almost to the ground. They never recovered. I pulled ours’s tips out of the snow but I couldn’t do the whole forest. The snow never melted that winter. We had four feet not counting drifts and after that it just kept piling up. That’s a huge amount for the Black Hills. I can see how you’d be looking for birch projects. Some people just take off the bark and sew it into baskets (assuming large enough wood, of course). That makes some nice, useable containers.
 
Josephine Howland
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Cindy Skillman wrote:Holy smokes! I wonder if they sold any. I can see, actually, people with ornamental fireplaces doing that—not many birch trees in Florida, for example. My mom always wanted a basket of birch logs by the fireplace. We got them when we visited grandparents here where I live now. Not everyone who wants pretty logs has that option.

We had a storm like that one you describe 5-6 years ago. There are still aspens bowed almost to the ground. They never recovered. I pulled ours’s tips out of the snow but I couldn’t do the whole forest. The snow never melted that winter. We had four feet not counting drifts and after that it just kept piling up. That’s a huge amount for the Black Hills. I can see how you’d be looking for birch projects. Some people just take off the bark and sew it into baskets (assuming large enough wood, of course). That makes some nice, useable containers.



They Sold Out! That's the crazy part! Then they were selling plastic logs for a ton of money as well. They were longer logs to put in a floor vase? Then they had some 4 0r 5 foot long branches, walking stick lengths for $24 each! Birch is kind of our pioneer plant here. It's mostly grey birch and not the paper white. We literally have hundred of them. They have been working on taking back our pasture for years. I was thinking that if I sold them, I would mention that they were all from storm damaged trees and no healthy trees were damaged to make their décor? Obviously we have some beautiful birch clumps that are tall and healthy that we wouldn't touch, but these are fairly young and lesser trees. They are all over our area in the White Mountains bent over touching the ground. We've had 12 feet of snow so far this winter, with another 2-3 months left. We guess we will surpass 14 feet of snow.
 
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