some basketry thoughts

I spent yesterday sorting basket splint leftovers. Prep for my Plymouth CRAFT workshop next weekend

I used to make baskets a lot, often a dozen at a time. Now, I tinker with them. I wish I had more time for them, they are something that really connects with me. I think I’m happiest making things to put stuff it, baskets, chests, boxes. Hmm, a theme. But the baskets – the scraps are godawful unruly. After sorting & weaving two baskets, there’s still scraps.


Pounding ash splints is so much work, I hate to throw any of it away. So I tend to save as much as I can, thinking – “well, I can make a smaller basket with the scraps.” Sure. But, I had a shelf full of bits & pieces, and was able to soak the material enough to unravel it, then sort it by width, thickness & length. Some goes for the uprights – these are heavier thickness, slightly wider. Thinner narrow stuff for the horizontal weavers. I wove one round bottom basket, and one rectangular basket. These will be the basic models the students will look at next weekend when I teach a 2-day class with Plymouth CRAFT. But I’ve been looking at lots of examples in preparation.

2 baskets

One thing basket makers know is “over one, under one” – that’s the most basic weaving when you are winding the body of the basket. But, to get that weaving to work, you need an odd number of uprights. Or some forethought. One way around it is to use an individual weaver for each row. So row one is over one, under one. Row 2 is under one, over one. and they alternate each row. This can be quite effective, a lot of Native baskets in New England are done this way. You can alternate wide & narrow weavers for very striking effects this way. But, it can be slow, and there can be some waste, when you have some longer weavers that you need to cut down to size.  Here’s a couple of mine done that way.

single weavers

small rect basket

A Native one we saw at Harvard’s Peabody Museum – made here in Southeastern New England:

local basket Harvard

Using a continuous weaver means you need the odd number of uprights. Here I used the most common method to create the odd uprights – I split (halved w scissors really) one upright, you can see it on the front side of this basket (2nd from left) – once you do that, you can just weave a spiral all around the basket, and each successive row will alternate from the previous row. Overlap a new weaver as the old one runs out, and keep on going. You need to taper the end of the weaver near the top edge of the basket, because the weaving is spiraling up the basket.

split upright

Some don’t like to split an upright. You can intentionally put a skip in the over one/under one, and go over 2, then shift this “over 2” one upright over each time around the basket. This creates a spiral winding around the body of the basket. some call this a “twill” but I think of a twill as when you weave the whole basket with over 2, under 2 and skip a step all around. Another day perhaps. 

twill or spiral weave

Another technique I learned was in the book Shaker Baskets by Martha Wetherbee & Nathan Taylor. The Shakers would start the weaving with a piece that laid in beside the uprights, then turned to become the first weaver. So one end of it acts like the odd upright, then when the weaving makes the first trip around, it weaves over itself. Then keep going. This is the one I use most often in square or rectangular baskets, in round ones, I split an upright. Hard to see in this photo, but there’s a very narrow upright right on the corner, that comes down and turns to our left to become the first actual weaver. There’s a single weaver that makes one trip around before it, just to confuse you. 

corner upright

5 thoughts on “some basketry thoughts

  1. Great information Peter. Thanks for this.
    Also , is there anyplace I can purchase ash or oak splints for weaving? I don’t have green wood like that at the ready down here in south Texas. But I would love to do some of this type of work.

  2. I use black ash splints and I corral the scrap a with clothespins- similar sizes together. I am kind of retired from weaving but I still enjoy collecting and teaching. I learned from Frances Keahne from Naytewash in Minnesota.

  3. Thank you for the great photos showing techniques for continuous weaving over an even number of uprights. I found your site by searching for information on splints in basket weaving, which I’m beginning to learn. I love your work!

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