Beginning the basket/cradle

Today was basket weaving, or more accurately, cradle-weaving. The project is a woven cradle for the Old House in Cutchogue, Long Island. I’m using white ash splints I pounded off a log some time ago. I soaked them in water for a while, then began “dressing” them. Sometimes this means scraping the splint by pulling it under a heavy slojd knife; like this:

Other times it’s peeling them apart. Score across the splint, bend the “tab” back to begin to divide it, then pull. Here’s an old, brief clip:

Once they are cleaned up, I cut them to the widths I need. Sometimes just a pair of scissors is all that’s needed. The uprights are heavier; both thicker & wider, than the weavers (horizontals). I had measured and photographed an old woven cradle at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, that was the basis for this one. I started in with the base woven like a large placemat. Below I’m adding in the short uprights:

Then measuring to arrive at the right size base. My uprights were a little wider than those on the old cradle, so I used slightly fewer of them, but just stopped when I hit the right dimensions.

I need lots of weavers for this project. I made a slitter for slicing the weavers. I’ve never seen one of these tools in the flesh, so I made this one up. It has a series of X-acto knife blades embedded into the end of a narrow pine offcut. Then I screwed a cap of oak to the end grain to keep the blades from slipping:

Then I pull a splint across it, slicing the ash into weavers. I’ve rarely used such a tool, I usually just use scissors. But this basket requires a lot of weavers…

 

Because I’m pretty new to using a tool like this, I don’t really quite “have the technique” yet. Here’s a short view of the action

 

It’s always cumbersome getting the big ones going. They want to flop around a lot…I keep it moist, and bend each side as I weave around it.

After a while, it begins to take shape and I can coerce each “wall” upright, then weave around & around.

It’s beginning to hold its shape on its own.

I weave with a continuous spiral around the basket; here I’m overlapping a new weaver under the end of the previous one.

Next up is figuring out how to weave the hood; I’m splicing in 9 side uprights so they’ll reach across and loop over the top. The long bits to my right form part of the hood at one end of the cradle.

I got this far & quit to take Rose to her violin lesson. Tomorrow I’ll pack these rows down tighter (after they dry overnight) then add a few more to bring the main body of the cradle to its finished height. Then tackle the hood.

two white oak baskets

Look what fell in my lap – a great white oak basket, from Kim L, via Martha. thanks to both.

basket from kim side

It’s a large, heavy-duty basket. All white oak. Some things about it remind me of the Taghkanic baskets from eastern New York. Very thick rims, large stout weavers and uprights. The bottom seems different from what I know about those baskets, but my knowledge is limited to the book Legend of the Bushwhacker Basket by Martha Wetherbee and Nathan Taylor. It’s about a foot high to the rim, and about 17″ in diameter. Here’s some views:

basket from kim top

basket from kim

The double-woven bottom is reinforced with added splints that are then slipped into the weaving on the sides of the basket. That might be why this basket is still around. Very tough.

basket from kim bottom

While we were out at Bill Coperthwaite’s place, I noticed a nice white oak basket there too. I got to look at this one with Louise Langsner, who made a slew of white oak baskets over the years, before switching to willow…this one seems to have had a lid that would have fit inside the small rim woven above the actual rim. It’s hard to see, but every upright has been split so the lashing can be very closely spaced.

white oak basket top

Here you see the bottom is filled in with extra splints. Makes me think sewing basket, or something like that. When a basket’s bottom is filled in like that, little things don’t get lost out the spaces in between the weaving.

white oak basket bottom

One of our stops on the mini-tour was Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. We saw some Shaker ash baskets there, and a nice large round white oak one too, but no photography allowed. Drat.