My friend Craig asked if I’d like to take a basket weaving class. Underwater?, I quipped. I’m so funny. Sure! It was early (for a Saturday) and way down South, at the home of notable basket weaver and teacher Lisa Adkins. Our nominal fee would include all the supplies, instruction and lunch we could handle (she even made accommodations for my vegetarian palette). We would arrive in plenty of time to pick our seats. She’d previously exchanged some snaps with Craig, and we both chose a basket to suit our fancy. His would be a modified “picture” basket with a round spoke base, and mine? A wooden base Rainbow basket, which I also heard Lisa refer to as the “Happy Basket.” Gadora liked the organic nature of its shape. Unstructured structure. Let’s. Get. This. Started!
Lisa’s passion for basket weaving began in 2000. She has taught at conferences in North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. She has a garage full of reeds and canes she’d dyed herself and a plenitude of supplies: wooden bases, handles, scissors, buckets of water, etc. Our supplies were carefully arranged on a table with enough space to fit another 3 weavers (who were also fairly new to the craft).
Lisa came by to get me started: I’d start with my base. Each reed had a flat side (to face the inside of the basket) and a rounded side. She’d marked my base with 4 pencil marks, equally spaced, and I’d snug each reed into the base, about 1/16″ apart. There were 49 of them in all (an odd number so my pattern would emerge once I started filling in with the cane).
This process probably took about 30 minutes. This part was mindless, really, so I used the time to get to know my neighbors. All were returning students and all seemed happy campers with their baskets. Harley and Sassy, the home’s ardent 4-legged protectors, came by to sniff my biz. I was cool, they concluded, and I got back to squeezing my reeds into the small slit cut into the base.
Once all the reeds were set and spacing was just right, Gadora pulled each one out, dipped its tip in glue, and secured it back into the same place—taking care to wipe away any excess glue. Because the reeds were stiff, they tended to bend downwards (towards the side that had been shaved flat), so I used my water bottle to flatten it out. This pic is of outside of basket.
Now this is where some skill comes in… Buckets of water were placed in front of each weaver’s station. Lisa had put my cane (what would form the horizontal walls of my basket) in a pile on the floor. I’d need to pull one from the pile, place it in the water for about 30 seconds and start to weaving. The very first piece started from the underbelly, at one of my 4 marked pencil spots, so the little sticking-out piece would wind up on the inside of my basket, eventually. Lisa said go about 7 or 8 rows of over two, under one, keeping my reeds wet with an occasional spray. When I got to the end of a strip of cane, I’d taper the tip and snug it under, placing the tapered end of the next piece over it (but under that particular reed) so the transition would be seamless. Lisa, did I say that right? That reads very complicated, but in reality it was easy to adhere to Lisa’s instructions.
Once 8 rows were completed on the outside of my basket, I turned her right side up and “told” my basket how I wanted it to shape by gently shaping the reeds. Lisa handed me an apron, because from here on out, I’d woman-handle my basket very close to my person. The reeds could bleed, and it was definite I’d get wet.
Spritz and spray, weave cane over two reeds and under one. Use to the end, and begin again. Rinse and repeat, a dear friend use to say.
I’d weave my basket in my hands, and worked from the side that would eventually be the outside. At the point in which I wanted my basket to start moving upwards, I’d pull the cane a little tighter as I weaved it. Spray. Lisa would come by to check my progress. Admittedly, the whole time I’m weaving my happy basket, I’m thinking… what will I really use this for? I mean, really. Of late, I’ve adopted the attitude, “if you can’t use it for something purposeful, you don’t really need it*.” *The exception being my collection fancy shoes and some of the other art I’ve collected that doesn’t need much dusting.
We took a break for lunch, and enjoyed the niceties of new meetings in Lisa’s eat-in kitchen. Lisa’s house is filled with wares she’d made herself. Inspirational, really. The organic-looking onion basket (wish I’d taken a picture) hung by her sink. It was airy, and looked like an oversized cocoon filled with colorful onions. I. Want. That. Upon return to my work space, I enjoyed seeing the progress my fellow basket weavers were making.
About half-way up, I inquired: What if I do a “one over and one under” kind of weave, for a few rows? What would that do? Lisa said go for it! You can see where the transition happened, where two cane bits sit under the blue reeds (on the other side, it happened at the green reeds). While it might look like a mistake, I’m ok with this decision. I was just trying to mix it up, besides it’s my first basket for Pete’s sake! Tighter and tighter I pulled my cane as I weaved over two and under one. Spray. Pull it tight and push the horizontal cane as snug as I can to the cane below it.
We knew it was finishing time: to form the top I’d need to leave about an inch and a half of the colored reeds to moisten, and weave around the one beside it, then bend. Besides, the reeds were getting persnickety on the top, as there we very little space between them now to weave in. Earlier in the day Karen said I’d need good lotion for my fingers once done. Pshaw. She. Was. Right.
$39 dollars for my supplies, a simple lunch, nice conversations and 6 hours later, I have my first-ever basket—could not have been done without Lisa. What a fun way to spend the day! I’m kinda hooked!
Voila! Once the tips were trimmed, I stood back to marvel my masterpiece. (Remember to click on any pic, if you want to see it bigger!)
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BasketWeaving.com ~ Q&As for the beginner weaver…. (good stuff here!)
Basket Weaving Supplies ~ Home of quality basket weaving supplies, natch!
CaliforniaBaskets.com ~ specializing in Northern California Indian baskets … and possibly the MOST expensive!!!
Central Texas Basket Guild ~ “The purpose of this guild shall be to stimulate interest in and perpetuate the art of basketry.”
Dat So La Lee ~ The most famous basket weaver in the world?
The Country Seat ~ a list of basket weaving guilds and conventions…