Basket-making video posted

It’s high summer here now, but back when I shot this video of basket-making, it was still cool enough for long-sleeve shirts, etc.
Daniel has just finished editing the next installment, weaving a rectangular basket, part 1. There’ll be more of these, I’m finishing up handles and rims these days, between other stuff.

Baskets for sale coming up as well…

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

peeling ash splints

As soon as I got the bowl lathe done – we finally got real summer weather; mid-to-high 80s, humid. So I’ll wait some on the bowls. Back to doing basket stuff – soaked in water most of the day, easy to do in the heat.

I’m about as interested in amateur video-making as I am in performing home lobotomies. But I have tried a couple times to get one particular basket technique on video – peeling the splints. I had written about it before –  with still photographs – but you can’t get how this really works without either seeing it or doing it. 

You can peel the splints bit by bit, between your knees, working it with your fingers – inch by inch really. In the earlier post, I showed a wooden jig that you pull the splint through to do it quicker. I have no idea what it’s called. I have seen old ones in photographs, usually of Native basketmakers. The old ones are configured differently; but the function is the same. I made this one to be held in a vise; the old ones were held between the basketmaker’s knees. Think of it as a mini-riving brake – there’s a groove in the middle of this 2-piece wooden jig. The splint slides loosely through the groove. 


As I said in the earlier post, I soak the splint for a short while, score part-way through its thickness with a knife, and slide it up through the “brake.” Then pull the tabs apart, dividing the splint. Here’s a case where video really helps. You can’t believe how effective this is.  see how quickly you can pull the splint, dividing it into two perfectly smooth splints. 

[the video is one of those “press the button, walk into the scene bits” so wait a few seconds. then it’s over in a heartbeat. But then you divide the next splint, then the next…]



baskets continued

Basket bottoms. Two of our household baskests; c. 1987-90. The one on the left is a standard item; square bottom, round top. Ash with hickory rims; hickory bark lashing. The one on the right is our colored-pencil basket. Gets lots of use. A rectangular basket, all ash, rims either oak or hickory.

2 baskets

Here’s the bottom of the square one. Typical weave, resulting in openings between the uprights. Probably most splint baskets are like this.

open bottom

Here’s what I call a “filled” bottom – thin and narrow filler strips woven between the uprights.

filled bottom


The filled bottoms of baskets are made a few different ways. One is to make a round basket, with “spokes” laid out to form the bottom and sides. I do these with 16 uprights; laid out in 2 batches of 8 spokes. Here’s the underside of our laundry basket; showing this spoke bottom from below.

ash basket detail 2

Each upright, or spoke, is cut into an hourglass shape; so its middle section is narrower than its ends. This makes it easier to weave these things all close together. One spoke is cut in 2, down to the middle. This photo shows these first 8 pieces; the one my left hand is on has been cut down the middle to make an odd number of uprights.

first 8

I then take a thin, narrow weaver and start to weave these 8 pieces (9 really…) together.



Once the weaver makes a few trips around you get out to the point at which you can add in the next 8 pieces. I add these pieces one at a time, the weaver catches each one in turn and binds it to the section already woven. No need now to split one of these; things are up & running now. Around & around this goes, and you bend things upright after a certain point, to begin to form the basket’s shape.


setting in 2nd bottom


The other filled bottom is a rectangular (I guess it could be square too, but I always made then rectangles) bottom, with filler strips laid in between the uprights. In this case, there’s 3 different pieces to deal with – the short uprights, the long dittos, and the thinner filler strips. These are just a bit longer than the finished bottom of the basket. So I start with laying the long uprights down, with filler strips between them. Then alternate in the short uprights over & under the previous bits. It gets a little complictated – it’s like when I teach joinery and carving – now for 2 consecutive thoughts, and sometimes 3.

This photo shows the first 3 of each upright, with 2 narrow thin fillers between the long uprights (those that run across this photo horizontally) Then I add in each kind of splint in pairs, the longs/shorts/fillers- as the case might be. I always work out from the center. Easier to keep things even that way. Usually.



filled bottom

I’ve got the polished satin-y finish of the fillers inside the basket – they appear bright white in the photo. Remember, all this stuff is very wet as I weave it.

filled bottom 2

This is the finished laid-up bottom. Next is to tuck the filler strips in.

filled bottom before turning fillers up

I bend them back on themselves, and tuck them under the the 3rd upright -they have to go over the first two because of the weaving pattern. It just is. Then pull it tight, and trim it off just under the upright.

weaving fillers in

snipping fillers

I wove two bottoms like this, then piled up some weaving material; and will re-soak these and weave up the bodies next time I get the basket stuff out. Maybe tomorrow, it’s nice work for a hot day.


ready to weave filled bottom baskets