How to weave baskets?

The Art of Weaving in Grass

©Heini SchneebeliClosely-coiled grass and reed baskets are commonly made for a variety of purposes such as the storing of grain and other foodstuffs in the homestead, including liquids like milk and beer. Many were decorated with intricately woven and embossed patterns. Baskets like these often formed part of the dowries brides brought to their new homes. Different materials were used for different basket types, for example, coarse thatching grass in the making of large grain baskets. Sisal is sometimes employed for durable baskets like the Swazi titja (or sitja) that traditionally were given as gifts and are said to symbolize a long and productive life. Beer pot lid.Basket makers generally coil and sew their baskets simultaneously, gradually ‘growing’ the structure until the desired shape and size has been achieved. The materials used to make coiled baskets vary from place to place, and in the past often depended on function. Ilala palm fronds (hyphaene coriacea) commonly used to over-sew the baskets coiled from grass ropes (rhynchelytrum setifolium) in present-day KwaZulu-Natal have a waxy surface that makes this material ideal for weaving watertight containers. There are several ways to start a basket depending on the materials used and on regional variations in coiling styles. Some baskets have a four square or double chequer base, while in others the base is first knotted. Baskets can also be coiled from the beginning. This method is called umqolo in isiNdebele. ©Heini SchneebeliGrass ladle
Period: 19th Century
Material: Rattan, wire
Length: 30 cm
Woven grass ladles like this one play an important role in the preparation of home brewed beers made from a combination of grains, mainly maize, millet and sorghum. Produced by women, who also make beer strainers (izikhetho) and sleeping mats, they are used to skim off any residual foam just before the beer is consumed. This home-brewed beer, which is consumed on festive occasions like weddings and celebrations in honour of the ancestors, is ‘shared’ with the ancestors by deliberately spilling small quantities from the clay pots in which it is served for communal consumption. Although functional, ladles like this fine example actively exploit the decorative potential of the weaving techniques used in their production.

By Professor Sandra Klopper

Basket Weaving Resources, Techniques, and more!

Based on the carbon dating performed on the oldest known basket, the practice of basket weaving has been used in cultures all over the world for at least 12,000 years. There are a multitude of uses for baskets, ranging from table top decorations to traps meant for catching fish, and they play a prominent role in some religious ceremonies. In fact, during WWI and WWII baskets were used to contain the food and supplies that were dropped down from aircraft to the troops. Baskets made for purely aesthetic reasons incorporate intricate patterns, striking colors, and often more flexible fibers. On the other hand, baskets intended for utilitarian purposes, like the gathering of food, are crafted using stiffer ribs and thicker fibers for increased durability.


While the oldest known basket is estimated to be approximately 12,000 years old, it is speculated that basketry has been practiced for much longer than that. Unfortunately, the natural fibers used to make baskets are difficult to preserve, which makes it hard to define exactly how old the craft is – if not impossible. Although Native American cultures are most predominantly referenced when the topic of basket weaving is discussed, the art of basketry has been practiced in many other cultures around the world, as well. For example, baskets have played an integral role in both China and Japan, where they are used for both aesthetic and utilitarian purposes, like fishing, funeral basketry, and food storage.


There are many types of natural fibers that can be used to weave a basket, like various kinds of tree bark. For example, grasses, bamboo, vines, oak, willow, reeds, and honeysuckle are all commonly used materials for weaving. When choosing a suitable material for basketry, the flexibility of the fibers is the most important aspect. If the material is too brittle, it will not be able to flex enough to be woven into tight coils and through small spaces. However, it is important to note that stiffer fibers are also used in some techniques to create a frame, or the ribs, for the basket.

Basic Process

The basic process of basket making involves carefully weaving strands of fiber over and under each other to create a round shape. A simple coil basket starts out as a thick piece of fiber that is shaped into a basic coil while a thinner, flexible fiber is woven around it. Wicker baskets are more difficult to master. They start out as a series of stakes, also known as spokes, which radiate from the bottom of the basket – these are used as the supporting frame. Then, a series of strands are woven over and under the spokes to create the sides of the basket.

Terms and Techniques

There are four different types of basketry methods: coiling, plaiting, twining, and wicker. Some of the terms that are specific to basket weaving include loops, twining, ribs, and spokes. It is common practice to lash the rim and wrap the handle of the basket to give the finished product a more polished look, and to protect the owner’s hands from sharp protrusions. To start the upward weaving process in wicker basketry, many basket makers will “upsett” the spokes, which involves carefully bending them upwards from where they meet in the center.

  • Basket Weaving for a Living (PDF) – Read through a personal story about one family’s roots in basket weaving, as well as a brief explanation of how a basket is constructed by hand.
  • Facts about Oakwood Baskets (PDF) – Learn about the history of using white oak as a basketry medium, including the preparation that the wood has to undergo prior to being woven into a basket shape.
  • Black Ash Baskets – Check out a brief explanation that details the tradition of using black ash as a basketry medium in Native American cultures, as well as a list of other informative links about basket weaving.
  • Traditional Basketry in Native California (PDF) – Discover the deep roots that basketry has in California by reading about the history and uses of basketry by Native Californians.
  • How to Construct a Basket (PDF) – Learn how to make your own basket by using this comprehensive guide to basket weaving.
  • Cahuilla Basketry – Read about the importance of basket weaving within the Cahuilla culture.
  • Basketry of the Pomo Indians (PDF) – Learn about the materials, techniques and patterns that are characteristic of traditional Pomo basketry.
  • Pomo Utility Baskets – Look at pictures and read about the differences that make utility baskets used for gathering, cooking and the storage of goods different from other types of baskets.
  • Appalachian Basket Weaving – Find out why basket making became popular again during the Craft Revival period.
  • Native Basketry in Canada – Read about the history and prominence of making baskets for decorative and utilitarian purposes in Canada.
  • History of Traditional Basketry (PDF) – Check out a brief overview of basketry that includes history, picture examples, and common terminology.
  • Kentucky Basket Weaving (PDF) – Learn more about the complex art of basket weaving in this in-depth explanation that includes the uses, various techniques, materials and care of baskets.
  • Virtual Basket Weaving – Create your own basket patterns using this virtual basket weaver.
  • Basketry of the Northwest Coast – Become familiar with the different types of baskets that were commonly used by native tribes along the Northwest Coast.
  • Basket Weaving Tutorial – Follow along as this picture tutorial shows how to make your own basket in ten steps.
  • Introduction to Wabanaki Baskets (PDF) – Look at examples of Wabanaki basketry and learn about the history of each basket.
  • Basketry Methods (PDF) – Check out a comprehensive look at the different fibers and techniques that can be incorporated into basket weaving.
  • Introduction to Plant Fibers (PDF) – Read about how various fibers are used in both decorative and utilitarian applications.
  • Traditional Japanese Basket Making – Learn about the history of using bamboo fibers in Japanese basketry.

Natural Basket Materials – Using Plants For Woven Baskets

Weaving baskets is making a comeback into fashion! What was once a necessary activity has now become a craft or hobby. Growing and harvesting plants for woven baskets takes a little know how to do. Plants that can be woven must be durable, flexible, and plentiful. There are many wild plants from which to choose or you can grow your own natural basket materials.

Harvesting Basket Weaving Plants

People from around the world have been weaving baskets from plants for thousands of years. Modern basket weavers use some of the historical techniques, combined with fresh, contemporary designs. The first thing you’ll need to get started are basket weaving plants.

Grasses and reeds are excellent, but there are many vines and even trees from which to harvest materials as well.

It may be necessary to play around a bit and check plants throughout the year for flexibility. The plant’s ability to bend will change over the year. Many harvesters recommend winter since there is less foliage to get in the way of flexible stems and much of the plant material has already dried for you.

As long as the plant bends easily and is not too green, it should work well for weaving. Depending upon the material, you may want to harvest it green because it is easier to work with or you may need to dry your natural basket materials. Experimentation is a good practice to use for learning the technique.

Plants for Woven Baskets

In the eastern part of North America, splits from ash and eastern white oaks were the predominant basket materials. Other trees used include birch, willow, cedar, hickory, and poplar. Wild vines may be particularly useful too, as they have a natural bendiness. Examples are:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Wild grape
  • Coralberry
  • Wisteria
  • Bittersweet
  • Virginia creeper
  • Passionfruit

The leaves of many larger bulb and tuber plants can be used. Iris leaves are a very good basket material. Beargrass and reeds have also long been used for this.

Preparing Basketry Materials

It may take a little trial and error to properly prepare and store basket material. Most plants need to be dried and then moistened and wrapped in a towel overnight. Some plants are better to use while fresh and green when they are most flexible.

Every plant is different to work with. For instance, honeysuckle must be boiled and then allowed sit for a day or two. Other vines need to be peeled while tree bark needs to be prepared by scraping and soaking.

It can take a lot of effort to prepare your own basket weaving materials, but you will have a variety of textures and tones available to work with.


Madeira Island: basketryOverview of basketry on Madeira Island, Portugal.Contunico © ZDF Enterprises GmbH, MainzSee all videos for this article

Basketry, art and craft of making interwoven objects, usually containers, from flexible vegetable fibres, such as twigs, grasses, osiers, bamboo, and rushes, or from plastic or other synthetic materials. The containers made by this method are called baskets.

The Babylonian god Marduk “plaited a wicker hurdle on the surface of the waters. He created dust and spread it on the hurdle.” Thus ancient Mesopotamian myth describes the creation of the earth using a reed mat. Many other creation myths place basketry among the first of the arts given to humans. The Dogon of West Africa tell how their first ancestor received a square-bottomed basket with a round mouth like those still used there in the 20th century. This basket, upended, served him as a model on which to erect a world system with a circular base representing the sun and a square terrace representing the sky.

Like the decorative motifs of any other art form, the geometric, stylized shapes may represent natural or supernatural objects, such as the snakes and pigeon eyes of Borneo, and the kachina (deified ancestral spirit), clouds, and rainbows of the Hopi Indians of Arizona. The fact that these motifs are given a name, however, does not always mean that they have symbolic significance or express religious ideas.

Sometimes symbolism is associated with the basket itself. Among the Guayaki Indians of eastern Paraguay, for example, it is identified with the female. The men are hunters, the women are bearers as they wander through the forest; when a woman dies, her last burden basket is ritually burned and thus dies with her.

Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today

Though it would appear that basketry might best be defined as the art or craft of making baskets, the fact is that the name is one of those the limits of which seem increasingly imprecise the more one tries to grasp it. The category basket may include receptacles made of interwoven, rather rigid material, but it may also include pliant sacks made of a mesh indistinguishable from netting—or garments or pieces of furniture made of the same materials and using the same processes as classical basketmaking. In fact, neither function nor appearance nor material nor mode of construction are of themselves sufficient to delimit the field of what common sense nevertheless recognizes as basketry.

In this discussion the word is taken to mean a handmade assemblage of vegetable fibres that is relatively large and rigid, so as to make a continuous surface, usually (but not exclusively) a receptacle. The consistency of the materials used distinguishes basketry, which is handmade, from weaving, in which the flexibility of the threads requires the use of an apparatus to put tension on the warp, the lengthwise threads. What basketry has in common with weaving is that both are means of assembling separate fibres by twisting them together in various ways.

The one (and only) big problem I have with being a DIY blogger is the fast accumulation of, for want of a better word, stuff. In every single thing I own I see an endless potential for a project. Crafts materials quickly stack up. It’s the life of a hoarder with a cause which goes directly against my ideas of a beautiful, clutter-free home.

So, as I gather up more and more materials, I need to find more and more attractive ways of hiding them and this is where I come into my element. Making my own storage is always the best option for me. In my small home office, creating bespoke solutions maximizes the small space and gives me more room to work (or just fill with more stuff), so it’s usually my first port of call.

Square woven baskets are easy to make, durable and look fantastic, so I made this trio of baskets in various sizes for my latest attempt at controlling the clutter. -Fran

Click through for the full how-to after the jump!


– Basket cane/reed

-Metal ruler




1. Soak the canes in warm water for about an hour then drain, and hang to remove excess water.

2. When there is no visible water left on the canes, cut into similar length strips. The amount will depend on the size of the basket, but you always need to work with odd numbers of horizontal and vertical canes. My middle-sized basket has 7×7 canes. The length of the canes will determine the height of the basket, so it’s always better to over-estimate.

3. Take half of your canes and secure them to a surface with tape or a heavy book. Try to imagine a square made from the other seven canes laid over the middle of these. Tape at the edge of this square.

4. Start weaving the first of the remaining canes in. You want all the canes to be the same way around. Work with the natural curve of each cane so that the ends curl up towards you.

5. Take another cane and alternate the weave to create a classic basket weave.

6. When you’ve finished weaving in all of the canes you should be left with a square right in the middle of all your canes.

7. Test the cane to see which way it bends. The wrong way will split the wood but the right way will create a smooth bend as shown below.

8. Lay the canes so that you can bend them up towards you without splitting. Work around all four sides, bending the canes over a straight edge to get a clean line.

9. I’ve found there are two ways to weave the sides in: One at a time using clothing pegs to hold the canes in place or weaving in three canes at once. I’m going to show you the latter because I think it’s a little bit quicker and easier, and who doesn’t want that?

Starting on one side of the square, weave in a much longer length of cane (this has to go all the way around the basket) keeping the pattern of the weave and ensuring that you can bend the cane up towards you.

10. Do this with another three long lengths of cane.

11. Bend all three together at the very edge of the last cane that they are woven into.

12. Continue to weave all three canes through the second side. Remember to keep the weave consistent at the corners.

13. Fold and weave through the third and fourth sides until you’ve reached where you started.

14. Trim down the excess cane to around two inches and weave the ends into each other.

15. The basket is taking shape now. Weave in the next canes one by one until you’re happy with the height of the basket. You need to have a least three inches left on the “spokes” to bend them down into the basket, so bear this in mind when you’re creating the height.

16. Fold over the outer spokes (the ones that are on the outer side of the last cane) over and into the basket. Tuck these away under the third cane row down. To make this easier, trim to size and use a butter knife to lift the third row and slot the spoke underneath.

17. Do this for every outer spoke. This will leave every other spoke free. Run one last length of cane around the middle of the basket and peg into place.

18. Bend and tuck all of the remaining spokes over this cane and under the second row down.

19. Position the ends of the cane underneath a spoke to create a neater finish to your basket.

I made two more baskets. A smaller one with 5×5 spokes and a larger basket using 9×9 cane spokes. These baskets were filled unsurprisingly quickly, but luckily I have a lot of cane left over. I’ll definitely be making some more.

Over Two, Under One: Basket Weaving With Reeds

Finally, let any wetted reed dry thoroughly before you put it away. Otherwise it’ll likely mildew.

Weaving in the Round

The basic round basket we’ll describe here is made with what’s called separate base construction, which simply means that the bottom is woven first and then more spokes are added to make the sides. Japanese weave is used for the base, and triple and chasing weaves for the sides. The border is a four-row trac, and the handles have a rope wrap.

You’ll also need diagonal cutters, needlenosed or round-nosed pliers, an awl (bone is best), a knife, a tape measure, twistties, a plastic dishpan, an old enamel pan (one that you don’t mind staining), a towel, and powdered dye (I used rust and evening blue).

Preparing the Reed

Once you have all your materials together, carefully cut all the outer bands of a No. 2 bundle, but do not cut the bands that hold the smaller groupings of strands together. Gently pull out one long strand at a time, roll it into a six-inch coil, and wrap the end two or three times through the center to hold it.

With a number of coils ready, fill the enamel pan with eight cups of water and the whole package of rust dye. (Leftover mixed dye can be saved for later use.) Bring the water to a simmer, then drop in three of the coiled strands of No. 2 reed. Let them dye for three or four minutes, turning them frequently. When the color looks dark enough (remember, it’ll become lighter again as it dries), remove the strands and rinse them thoroughly in cold water. If the reed doesn’t look dark enough after it’s been rinsed, put the strands back in the dye for another few minutes. Do be sure the material is rinsed thoroughly once it’s dyed, though, or the color will run during the soaking process and stain the whole basket. (It’s best to soak each shade of dyed reed in a separate container.)

Next, prepare the package of blue dye in the same manner as you did the rust. The blue color takes longer to set, so allow eight strands of No. 2 to simmer for five to six minutes this time. Again, rinse the reed thoroughly when you’re done.

From the Bottom Up

To start the base of the basket, cut eight 7 1/2″ spokes of No. 5 reed, and soak them in warm water, for five minutes, along with a handful of No. 2 reed. Then, with the awl, punch a hole in the center of each of four of the spokes, carefully making the holes large enough to thread the other four spokes through.


Now, take a long, pliable No. 2 weaver and fold it at a point 20 inches from one end. Hold the spoke cross with an arm we’ll call “A” at the top. Slip a weaver over that arm with both ends to the back and the short end of the weaver on the left. Take the long weaver down behind the next arm, “B,” located clockwise from “A”. Hold it snug but out of the way so you don’t cross over it on the next step. Then draw the short weaver behind “A,” up over “B,” and under “C” (the arm opposite “A”).

Next, turn the cross counterclockwise so that “B” is up. Hold the short weaver tight but out of the way, and bring the long weaver in front of “C” and behind arm “D” (which is opposite “B”). Turn the cross so C is up, and take the short weaver in front of D and behind A, this time holding the long weaver out of the way. Go on to repeat this maneuver, weaving and turning the cross, until there are four rows on each arm … front and back.

At that point, leave the short end under A, and — working with the long end of the weaver — begin to separate the spokes with Japanese weave: over two spokes and under. Always keep the same surface facing you, and weave in a clockwise direction.

Your first few rows of Japanese weave will probably look a bit square. This situation is quite common; it’s the result of not separating the spokes enough. Don’t be afraid to pull and tug on both spokes and weavers to remedy this. They’re very strong and can take a lot of stress. By the time you’ve completed about half an inch of weaving, the spokes should be splayed out evenly like those on a wheel.

Check your work as you go to be sure the base spokes are lying straight (the weavers should do all the bending). The rows of weaving should also be very close together; when a strand goes over two spokes, pull it in toward the center of the base from the back before bringing it up to the front again. When a weaver passes under one spoke, leave enough play so that it doesn’t bend the spoke. And, again, draw the weaver in toward the center button of the base. (At this point in your project the Japanese weave will look rather jumbled, but after seven or eight rows it’ll begin to take on a more recognizable pattern.)

Of course, you’re going to use up your initial weaver strand somewhere along the line and need to replace it with a new one. To do so, simply end the first strand behind a spoke and add a fresh length behind the same spoke, crossing over the top of the old weaver in the.

Continue using Japanese weave — pushing down gently on the spokes to curve the bottom of the basket slightly — until the base measures 7 1/2″ across. The completed piece should look like an upside-down saucer. And with the finished item resting top side up on the table, the center of this saucer shape should be a full half-inch from the table’s surface. (The top of the base, of course, is the side on which the spokes are completely covered. It will become the inside of the basket.)

Finish the 7 1/2″ base by trimming the last weaver a half-inch from the last spoke, crimping or folding this end over, and pushing it down along the spoke to hold it.

Side Issue

Now that you’ve got the base done, it’s time to begin the sides. First, cut 32 spokes, each 20″ long, from No. 5 reed. Soak them, in warm water, for about ten minutes along with more of the No. 2 weavers.

Then turn the base over, cut one end of each of the side spokes on a slant, run your awl down along a base spoke to open up a space, and slide the side spoke in about two inches. Once it’s in place, trim the base spoke as close to the weaving as possible. Then run your awl along the other side of the same base spoke and insert a second side spoke. (This whole process is called bi-spoking.) Be sure to trim a base spoke only after a side spoke has been inserted; if you trim them all at once, there will be nothing to hold the base weavers in place!

When all 32 new spokes are in place, hold the underside of the base toward you and — using your pliers — crimp the side spokes as close to the base as possible. Pinch firmly, then, with your hand, gently push the spoke away from you. If a spoke starts to crack, soak it before pinching it once again. Some of the spokes will begin to break no matter what you do. If a crack is more than halfway through, replace the spoke.

To form the container-to-be’s sides, begin working from left to right on the outside of the basket, using triple weave. Lay three No. 2 weavers behind three consecutive spokes and mark the first spoke with a twist-tie. Take the left weaver in front of the next two spokes to the right and, at the same time, over the top of the other two weavers. Now, run it behind the third spoke and back to the outside.

Be careful to catch each spoke with this weave; it’s easy to go in front of three spokes instead of two should you mistake which spoke the weaver’s behind. (If in doubt, pull the weavers out at a right angle to see which spokes they’re coming from.) It’s also important that the weavers end up on the outside of the basket after each move.

The secret to shaping the container’s sides properly lies in pushing the spokes in with your left hand and pulling the weavers taut with your right. Practice, practice, and more practice will help you learn the correct balance between these two forces. Shaping is undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of basket weaving.

Do seven rows (or about one inch) in triple weave, ending over the three beginning spokes (count the rows on the long weavers between the spokes), and cut off all three weavers at the end of the seven rows.

Incidentally, while you’re doing the triple weave, you may notice that the other ends of your weavers are getting all snarled up! The best way to get rid of such a tangle is to grasp the three weavers together near the basket and gently free one at a time.

Round and Round

The next section is done in chasing weave. Begin at a spot several spokes to the right of the end of the triple weave, and mark the first spoke with a twist-tie. Weave in front of the next spoke, behind the one after that, and so on until you come around to the second spoke to the left of your starting point. Then add a second weaver behind the spoke directly to the left of the marked one, and go on to weave in front of the marked spoke, behind the next, and so on, so that the second row alternates with the first.

Be sure to keep the two weavers separate. As you come around each time, drop the weaver you’re working with and weave a row with the other strand. Each weaver thus “chases” the other. When you’ve woven 1 3/8 inches, ending over the two beginning spokes, cut off both weavers.

Our basket’s midsection is triple weave, the first row in rust, the next five in evening blue, and the final row in rust. Be sure to stagger the beginnings of each color so there won’t be a jumble of ends all in one place, and use the step-up (described next) at the end of each row.

Step to It

A step-up is used to make each row look complete in itself. To achieve this effect, end the first row of rust with the weavers coming from behind the three spokes to the left of spoke 1. Then take the right weaver in front of spokes 1 and 2, behind 3, and out. After that’s done, take the middle weaver in front of the two spokes to the right, behind spoke 2, and out. Finally, run the left weaver in front of two spokes, behind spoke 1, and out. Then cut off all three weavers.

You’ll want to make a step-up at the end of each of the five rows of blue, cutting off the weavers at the end of the fifth row. Go on to weave one more row of rust.

Continue the body of the basket with another inch of chasing weave, ending over the two beginning spokes. Then add a third weaver behind the next spoke to the right, and do seven more rows (one inch) of triple weave before cutting off all weavers.

Making the Border

To make the four-row trac border, soak the spokes for ten minutes, then crimp them close to the weaving so they bend to the right.

Row 1: Working to the right, bend down the first spoke and take it behind the next one, and out. Repeat this procedure with each spoke, interlacing the last with the first and going from the inside to the outside.

Row 2: Bring each spoke in turn in front of the two spokes to its right, while holding down the spokes that are sticking out to the front. Then run each spoke to the inside, going under the loop formed by the first row. You’ll want to pull the fast two spokes out about two inches so the last two will be easier to interlace.

Row 3: This row doesn’t interlace with either of the other two rows, so pull it close to the rest of the border as you weave, because it’ll have a tendency to be loose. Looking down into the inside of the basket, hold three spokes straight out. Attach twist-ties at the bend of each of the first two spokes. Then bring the left spoke over the two right ones, and push it down under the third. Continue taking each spoke on the left over the next two to the right, and down.

Row 4: This row is woven like Row 3 and is directly underneath it. Trim the spokes with a slant cut so that a half-inch is visible under the fourth row.

Handle With Care

If you want your basket to have a single handle, cut a 33″ piece of No. 10 reed (or two 33″ lengths of No. 5) and soak it for ten minutes. In order to be able to insert the handle easily into the basket, each end must be tapered. Shave the inside of the handle ends — starting three inches from each tip — to about half their thickness. Also, make a diagonal cut so the point will fit next to the spoke that it’s inserted alongside of.

Now, run your awl along a spoke to open a space, and push the handle four inches into the basket. When that’s done, count around to the sixteenth spoke, and insert the other end of the handle in the same manner.

To make a rope wrap for the handle, run a long, pliable No. 2 weaver under the border, from the inside to the outside. Weave the end to the left and in behind a spoke to hold it, then take the long end and wrap the handle. Keep the first loop that goes through the basket as far to the left as possible, and add the subsequent wrappings to its right, filling the space between the first loop and the handle.

Go on to wrap the handle until there are no empty spaces. When a weaver runs out, just leave it on the inside, at either end of the handle, with at least a 4″ tail. Add a new weaver as you did when you began wrapping the handle — that is, from the inside to the outside — right next to the one that’s run out. The ends that are inside will be woven to the right and underneath the border, after the handle has been completely covered.

Finish up the wrapping by running a pliable weaver about two inches down into the basket along the right side of the handle. Bring it around the back of the handle at a point an inch up from the border and wrap it tightly, from left to right, seven times. Then run your awl carefully through the handle, put the end of the weaver through from right to left, and cut it off flush with the handle. The spring action of the handle reed holds the wrap in place.

If you prefer a basket with two side handles, cut a pair of 15″ lengths of No. 8 reed, then taper and cut each end on a slant. Run your awl along a spoke, and push one end of a handle in three inches. Insert the other end at the fifth spoke to the right. Skip the next 11 spokes, and insert the second handle’s ends alongside the twelfth and sixteenth spokes.

To wrap each side handle, run a long, pliable No. 2 weaver under the border from the inside to the outside. Then weave the end to the left and in behind a spoke, and use the long end to wrap the handle. Now — easy does it — keep the first loop that goes through the basket at the right end of the handle to the handle’s left, adding subsequent wrappings to the right of that loop. Be sure the first loop at the left end of the handle is on the handle’s right, while you add subsequent wrappings to the left. When the handle is completely wrapped, weave the ends away under the border.

Finishing Off

Since reed is a porous material, you might want to use a polyurethane finish on your basket after it’s dried. Whether you seal the surface or not, however, the reed can be scrubbed in mild soapy water if it gets a bit dirty.

Baskets are not only beautiful, they can help us better understand our history. When you make your own, you not only create something lovely and useful for the present and the future, but take part in the continuing story of human inspiration, endeavor, and sensitivity with every strand you weave.

There are many ways to weave a grass basket. The following technique is just one of many. Every basket weaver has his/her own preferred method. You don’t have to do everything like it says in this tutorial. Grass basket weaving is so simple, you will get nice results no matter what. Dare to be creative!

Materials needed:

long, blunt needle (buy here*)

Collect an armful of grass. You can use it as is or simply let it dry for a while. The longer the blades, the better. It works with shorter blades of grass too, but it might take a little longer.

Start with a small bundle of long grass blades. The bundle should be about as thick as your finger. Tie it together with the yarn on one end.

Wrap the yarn around the end a few fingers width.

Start to coil the grass like a snail. It can be a bit stubborn in the beginning. Maybe it helps if you loosen (or tighten) the yarn a little bit more.

Form a tight loop and tie it with the yarn.

Now the fun begins! The grass is coiled and stitched together with the yarn. (I like to twist the grass as I coil it, to give the basket more density, but this step is optional)

At this point you will need a long, blunt needle. (buy here*) To stitch the grass, wrap the yarn around the loose grass and stitch down through the grass coil just underneath the wrapped yarn. This is how the grass basket will get its stability.

The new yarn always passes through the grass and underneath the yarn. If the gaps between the stitches get too wide, just make an additional stitch.

Your bundle of grass should have the same thickness all throughout the basket. If it gets too thin, add a few new blades. It works best, if you hide the new blades in between the old ones. So the ends will stay hidden.

Work your way around the coil. Add new blades if your bundle gets too thin. Make extra stitches if the gaps get too wide.

Continue with the coil until the base has the diameter of the basket you want to make.

Take a look at your grass coil from both sides. Usually the stitches on the topside form a nice, neat pattern. The stitches underneath look a little more messy.

Before I start with the sides of the basket, I turn the coil upside down. That way the “neater” side will later be on the outside of the basket and the messier one will be on the inside.

Now you can start with the sides. For this you simply stop sewing the rounds next to each other, but start sewing them on top of each other. In the first round you can stitch them together a little off-center for a softer transition.

Always make sure that you grass basket is even. Sometimes you’ll have to bend the basket a little. If the walls are higher or lower in some places, it can help to stitch down the grass a little tighter (or looser) in that area.

If you are happy with the size of the grass basket, you can stop adding new blades into your bundle.

Once your bundle starts to get very thin, you can sew up the ends slightly on the inside of your grass basket.

Secure everything with a tight knot and cut off the excess blades.

And that is all you have to do to weave a simple grass basket! It is surprisingly sturdy and keeps its shape even months later. Grass basket weaving is so much fun, that this will surely be just one of many more baskets! 🙂


I made a whole set of them. 🙂

You can also use this techniques to make different shapes of baskets. If you want a more rounded basket, you need to stitch the rows together slightly off-center. This way you can direct the shape in- or outwards as you wish.

Try to use different materials. Straw works really well. You can get amazing results with raffia (buy here*), rushes or other plant fibers. Even wood wool can be worked into a rustic basket.

Have a look at our new tutorial if you want to know how to make a lid for your basket:

Summary for Pinterest:

Follow us on Instagram for exclusive tutorials, creative ideas and behind the scences pics: ColorfulCraftsDIY on Instagram

*This blog post contains affiliate links. You can find additional information on our disclosure page.

Suitable basketry material from the garden will vary depending on the project however any material that is flexible and can be bent may be suitable.

Test out plants flexibility twist and wrap leaves around your finger. If it’s flexible when fresh then it may be pliable when dried .Bend vines and poles to see if they bend the amount required. Try plants at different seasons to test flexibility and what they look like.

Some materials are better used fresh and others better when dried and dampened. Some techniques are better with fresh others with dried. Fresh materials will shrink as they dry leaving a loose weave.

Some commonly used plants for weavers are most leaves from bulb plants e.g. iris, watsonia, daffodils, Aunt Eliza. , red hot pokers, arum lily, NZ flax, Cordyline, hops. Climbers such as passionfruit, Honeysuckle & jasmine, Kangaroo paw, banana stems, bulrush.

Frames and stakes can be made from grapevine, wisteria, willow, fruit tree pruning’s, bush sticks and branches, bamboo.

Most materials need to be dried, wet and then wrapped in a towel overnight to condition. The amount of wetting varies with materials from a few seconds for arum lilies to a couple of days for grapevine or Willow.

To ensure a supply of suitable materials they need to be collected, dried and stored.


  • Cut or pull the leaves from the base of each plant. Keep the bases of the leaves together in bundles,
  • Discard any damaged. Dirty or mouldy leaves.
  • They can be spread out on a clean, dry surface in a shady area with plenty of air movement… Turn the heap of leaves frequently to allow them to dry evenly. When dry tie in bundles or secure with rubber bands.
  • Or you can hang them in a dry shed preferably well ventilated and dark.


  • Each bundle should be protected from dust, and moisture. This can be done by wrapping in newspaper securing with tape and labled .
  • Small leaves like corn leaves and philodendron leaf bracts can be stored in cardboard boxes.
  • Store in a dry place.A cupboard is ideal.

CHECK your material regularly to make sure that they are still in good condition. Discard damaged leaves.

For more information on suitable material an excellent reference book is ‘Fibre Basketry. Home-grown and Handmade’ Basketry SA

You can harvest basketry materials from your garden throughout the year

Day lilies Chasmanthe Lomandra
Most Bulbs Iris Pseudacorus Arum Lily

From October to December collect the following leaves as they start to die down:


CROCOSMIA (winter gladioli)



KNIPHOFIA (red hot poker)

In summer you can collect:


IRIS all species


KNIPHOFIA (red hot poker)




ARUM LILLIES — the very fleshy stems & leaves dry beautifully to create a silky smooth fibre

In autumn many plants die down in preparation for winter. This is the time to collect some of the

IRISES and other strappy leaves as they are faster to dry without so much danger of them going mouldy.

IRISES — select those which have not been chewed or damaged

ARISTEA — these are one of the very few plants which produce an almost black leaf

DIANELLA — coil with the shiny side in so that they don’t shrivel into a tight cylinder

VINES and CREEPERS —WISTERIA is wonderful. Coil to desired size to store.

CANNAS and GINGER — strip individual leaves, bundle and hang to dry.

DAY LILLIES which die off for winter

PINE NEEDLES — many trees drop their needles at the end of summer

Collect anytime:

SWEET CORN LEAVES — try your local greengrocer.

PHILODENDRON LEAF BRACTS — they have a rich red brown and feel like leather when dampened.

NZ FLAX — remove the centre rib from each leaf and coil them by rolling with the shiny side into the centre so that they don’t shrivel into a tight cylinder.


CORDYLINE — pull dry leaves from the plant before they become tattered.

In September/October collect the JACARANDA leaf stalks as they fail.

In winter deciduous pruning’s of




Cordyline Winter Iris Watsonia
Spear Lily,
Red Hot Poker
Deciduous pruning’s Willow

How to get started with harvesting cattails for basketry?

I’ve been getting lots of questions on the subject of harvesting cattails over the past few years. Cattails are one of my favorite materials to use for both coiled and twined basketry, but there are few secrets to harvesting and storing them that will give you the best results. I have definitely lost some batches along the way and want to help prevent you from making the same mistakes I did at the start! So sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy some tricks of the trade for using this wonderful native plant.

What are cattails: Getting to know Typha Latifolia

First of all, Typha latifolia, or broadleaved cattail, is a wonderful friend to have in the plant kingdom. Not only is it as Euell Gibbons describes it, the supermarket of nature, providing many food items, but it is a wonderful plant for basketry and making woven mats.

I have been learning a lot more about this beautiful plant recently and one of the best sources I have found is this great database. I’m not going to repeat everything they say here, but if you are interested in the ecology and habit of cattails I encourage you to read this resource. It’s pretty scientific but there is some great info in there!

As for my experience with cattails here are a few of my secrets…

Finding Cattails: Where and When.

Cattails are native to north america and can be found in any state. They are a moisture loving plant and grow in marshes, fields, roadsides along lakes/ponds, and other generally wet areas. In some areas they many be dense and stretch for miles and in others only a few plants are growing.

The best season to harvest is in the end of the summer/early autumn. The exact optimal date will vary depending on location and weather conditions that year but the important thing to remember is: harvest them after the growing season is done and before they turn brown. Cattails degrade quickly at the end of the season and once you see the tips starting to turn brown it will soon be too late. Once they start decomposing (indicated by brown tips and by little black dots on the leaves) it will be hard to keep them after harvesting. In my part of New York state the best time is early September.

Harvesting Cattails sustainably

No matter where you harvest it is always important to treat the land with respect and leave it better than you found it. Below are my essential practices for sustainable harvesting.

  • Avoid harvesting from patches that are being threatened by invasive plants like Phragmites. Phragmites tends to take over and if you see it or other non-native grasses at the edge of a cattails stand then be extra careful.
  • Always harvest from the center of a patch, not from the edges.
  • Harvest in different areas throughout the patch.
  • Wait to harvest until after the growing season is done and the seed heads have formed and are dispersing. This is about early september in New York State where I live.

Since you are only harvesting the leaves of the plant after the growing season is done I think it is unlikely that this practice could negatively affect a patch if you follow the above guidelines. I’d love to hear some opinions from botanists who study cattails about good harvesting practices and the affect it might have on a stand of cattails.

Specific harvesting techniques

You might want to wear tall waterproof boots and pants for this– it can get very dense and wet in a patch! To harvest I use a pair of pruning shears to cut either a whole cluster or a few leaves from each cluster. I have not yet done a study on if harvesting the whole cluster negatively affects the plant so I tend to go for a few leaves most of the time. Avoid clusters that have a flowered seed head stalk in them. Follow the sustainable practices listed above. I tend to gather a large bundle, tie it together, and then carry it out of the patch.

Drying Cattails

It’s important to remember that cattails hold a lot of moisture and are susceptible to going bad. The remedy for this is to dry them thoroughly before storing them and then re-soaking them before use. We do this for two reasons. First because we can’t weave all our baskets in september when we harvest! Second because they shrink a lot the first time they dry and any basket woven fresh will become loose when it shrinks.

Sizing and grading

When you get home from your harvest put your cattails in a bucket or container so they stand up straight. Or lay them on the ground if you can’t do this. Take a moment to pick out a
nd discard all brown or decomposing pieces. Then sort them by size categories: tall, medium, and short. Take bundles of each size and lay them out on a table. Cut off all brown tips and thick bottom parts so that each leave is clean and separate. This will reduce moisture. Then lay them out to dry in piles of their size categories.

place the cattails in a bucket to make sorting easier

cut off all these brown tips


Drying can vary depending on the humidity and can take either a few days or up to two weeks of care. If you have a dry, shady barn or indoor space then use it, but be sure to check them every day to turn them. I am not so lucky and dry my cattails on elevated screens outside during the day. Every single night I wrap them up and bring them indoors into my tiny little house so they don’t get frost or moisture on them. You could probably put a tarp over them, but I’ve lost too many batches to take risks. Either way keep them super dry and after a week they may be dry enough to bundle and put in a cool, ventilated, completely dry area to store for the rest of the year.

my elevated drying racks consist of rope stretched between my porch and a sawhorse.

My kitten sure loves harvest season 🙂

Processing and Storing Cattails

When using cattails for basketry you can either use them whole or split them into two or three pieces. The splitting is equally as easy when they are fresh as when they have been dried and re-soaked. If I have time I like to split some before drying so that they dry faster. You can simple pinch each side with your fingers at the thick and and pull them apart evenly. However, to speed up the process I developed this handy tool consisting of clamps and a butter knife. Next year maybe I’ll construct something permanent…

As for storing, I store them upright in tied bundles in my house. Any very dry, shady, ventilated place will do.


To soak cattails get a shower curtain or tarp and lay it out. Then take a towel and wet it completely with hot water. Lay the towel out on the tarp. Then lay your cattails over the towel, wrap them up, and then wrap up the tarp. Leave for about 4 hours. The cattails will absorb enough water to be flexible. This is easier and less messy than putting them in a tub of water and allows them to mellow. Don’t leave for too long in the towel because they will start to get nasty. While using them to weave keep them in the towel/tarp wrap and pull them out one at a time.

Weaving Cattail Baskets

Whew! That was a lot of info! After a few days of work in the autumn you should have a lot of cattail for use throughout the whole year. For some workshops on the calendar Want to schedule a cattail basket workshop at your own venue? Here is my page on scheduling workshops. Let me know what you think in the comments and please share your experiences in working with cattails!


  • Climbers and Trailers
  • Woody Shoots
  • Leaves
  • Grass or grasslike
  • Stalks
  • Fibres from plant parts
  • Miscellaneous

Climbers and Trailers

In many case little work is required to prepare and some can be woven immediately after gathering. Can be used stripped or unstripped – best stripped when green. To store – remove leaves, tie into coils small enough to fit into a container for soaking later. Will probably need soaking before use.

Blackberries, raspberries (Rubus spp) Red, brown, green with interesting texture. Generally strong and pliable but vary in strength and length. Traditionally used for stitching coiled rye baskets and bee skeps. Remove any thorns by drawing a hand in a thick glove, from tip to base and then in the other direction. Use as soon as possible. Canes can be split. Clematis Creamy when stripped. Weak joints. See honeysuckle for how to peel. Grapevines (Vitis spp) Can be gathered any time. Ideal for large, strong baskets. Easily split and these half round sections are good for rims and hoops and frames of rib baskets. Keep the vines soaked while working. Honeysuckle Gather in spring or summer. Use for wickerwork, coiling core and rib basket weaver. Choose vines that are away from the main tangle as they grow long and straight in search of a support and may have fewer leaves. Garden varieties tend to have longer stems, but tangled wild stems can be used without unravelling.Strip off any leaves by running your hand down the vine. Coil each vine separately.
Use stripped as the fibres shred, (though this may be the desired look). To strip off the bark tie into a coil and boil for 3-4 hours. If the bark doesn’t come away easily then rub with a plastic mesh pot scrubber. Boiling also helps strengthen fibres. Coil again to dry and store. Will store for months, even years. Soak in warm water for at least an hour before use. Hop (Humulus lupus) Wild hop stems have a rough texture and are unpleasant to use, garden varieties (eg H lupus aureus) kinder to hands. Cannot be soaked so use before too dry. Flowers can be kept on as a decorative touch. Ivy (Hedera spp) Useful for decorative leaves, choose stems with small leaves. Leaves can be preserved by soaking cut stems in solution of glycerine (1 glycerine: 2 water) for 4-5 days. See honeysuckle for how to peel. Passion Flower (Passiflora spp) Not for a robust basket but fine winter prunings with tendrils can be used. Periwinkle (Vinca spp) Use the light coloured stems for slath tying or weaving small baskets. Roses (Rosa spp) Collect in autumn or winter. Remove leaves and thorns with a gloved hand, boil to remove bark. Coil and dry for 2 – 4 weeks to allow for shrinkage before use. Pliable stems used for wickerwork and more brittle ones for hoops and ribs in rib baskets. Dog rose (Rosa caninis) is a striking green, thorns can be removed individually. Strawberry (Fragaria spp) Gather in spring or autumn. Runners can give a red colour to small baskets. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) Gather in summer. Can be used when fresh if pliable enough or after storing. Remove leaves but nodes and bumps give an interesting texture when woven. For wickerwork and rib baskets. Winter flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) Will keep its colour if weather just for a short time. Wisteria Stems and vines can be used. Supple and strong. Can be used stripped or unstripped. For wickerwork, rib baskets hoobs and ribs. Bark can be used for coiling stitching. Harvest spring, summer and autumn. Use whole or strip while still green. Also Akebia, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus trisupidata), morning glory.


Gather between October and March, when the sap is down, cut with sharp secateurs and leave 2 – 3 buds for new growth. Most tender shoots from hardwood trees or shrubs can be used to make baskets. Any one year old rods that will not snap or break when wrapped around wrist are suitable, best over 45cm long. Useful shoots from length 30 – 120 cm, diameter 4 – 8 mm. To store – tie into bundles about 10 cm around and label. Store tip end down to stop shoots slipping out, or store butt end down in paper bags. As a general rule – let them weather in a damp shady spot eg under a hedge for 2-3 weeks. Store tip end down to stop shoots slipping out, or store butt end down in paper bags.
Rods can be gathered from apple, pear and other fruit trees, elm and hazelnut. Look out for suckers and shoots from newly felled trees. To put in perspective for 30 cm round basket you would have to gather 70 – 100 rods Apple Shoots, suckers, branches. Gather in spring. Use thin, flexible, straight green shoots. For handles and ribs tie into shape when green and leave to season. Beech (Fagus spp) Long fine buds and interesting spidery branches. Too brittle to be used in baskets, but good in balls. Dogwood Red brown. Collect in winter. Store in cool, dry place for 2-4 weeks to allow for shrinkage. Holly (Ilex spp) Use long thin green stems. Don’t weather for too long or they become brittle. Privet (Lingustrum spp) Can be left to grow for a year before cutting for a small basket. Also Rowan, lilac (Syringa), mulberry, sycamore

Coppiced or pollarded rods

Eucalyptus Young bushy side shoots are violet coloured. If kept dry woven items will keep colour. Pluck leaves off by hand. Pollard after 2 years growth to give colour. Lime (Tilia spp) Stems that have been in bright sunlight have the best colour. Willow (Salix spp) Brown willow has been dried with the bark left on.
Buff willow is brown willow that has been boiled and peeled – tannins in the bark give it this colour during boiling
White willow has had the bark stripped off in spring.
Buff willow should be soaked between 30 minutes and 2 hours, white will take a little longer, brown from 2 days to 2 weeks. Then mellow in a damp cloth such as an old towel or blanket, for a few hours or preferable overnight. This will allow moisture to soak through the willow. Buff and brown willow will stay useable for 2 days then will go mouldy. Brown willow can be kept for up to a week like this.


  • S babylonica – weeping willow, withies for wickerwork and weavers for rib baskets. Gather in spring before leaves appear rods can be pruned or fallen rods gathered from the ground. Coil and use immediately or store. Soak before weaving.
  • S daphinoides – purplish bloom
  • S discolour – Pussy willow used for wickerwork
  • S japonica – shiny pink pussy willow buds in spring
  • S nigra – black willow – rods and roots – for weavers and hoops and loops for rib baskets.
  • S purpurea – purple willow, twigs and withies used for wickerwork, plaiting, weavers, hoops and loops in rib baskets
  • S sachalinensis – flattened curved branches
  • S triandra – twigs and withies used for wickerwork, plaiting, weavers, hoops and loops in rib baskets
  • S viminalis – twigs and withies used for wickerwork, plaiting, weavers, hoops and loops in rib baskets
  • S vitellina – bright yellow shoots

Garden prunings

Suckers Beech (Fagus spp); Fruit trees – apple, pear, plum; lilac; poplar (Populus spp) – use before buds become sticky, some may have aromatic smell; sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) – thick – handles Bay laurel (laurus nobilis) Look out for straggly stems searching for light at the base of plant. Aromatic leaves can be included in weaving. Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) Thinner stems good for distinctive round of 4 stranded randing Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp) Choose long pieces with no side branches Dogwood (Cornus spp) Red, green, yellow stems. Responds well to pruning and will produce more stems the following year. Pliable, can be used anywhere in a basket. Eucalyptus Blue Gum(Eucalyptus globulus) Use branches for coiling core. Pods can be used as ornament. Forsythia (Forsythia spp) Slightly textured bark. Only useful as weavers. From a light pruning in spring. Laburnum (Laburnum spp) Fine silvery wood. Good for randing. All parts of tree poisonous. Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii, P inodorus) Twigs used in wickerwork Privet (Langustrum spp) Fine greyish rods, Good for side weaving. Peach (Prunus persica) Short but colourful pink shoots. Good for French randing. Snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) Long smooth silvery shoots and twiggy branches. Vine (Vitis spp) Long jointed growths with tendrils. Weilega (Weilega spp) Long red/brown stems. For weavers only.

Wild prunings

Ash (Fraxinus spp) Long stout stems from previously pruned plants. Good for handles – use finger thick rods, ease into shape, tie and leave to dry for 2-3 weeks. Blackthorn or Sloe (Prunus spinosa) Purplish bloom. Long thorns have to be cut off before use (upper branches have less thorns). Dogwood (Cornus spp) Not as pliable as garden varieties. Can sometimes be used for stakes. Choose from sunny side of hedge and from plants with deep purple leaves in autumn. Elm (Ulmus spp) For larger baskets. May need to be soaked for a few hours before use. Field Maple (Acer campestre) Ginger brown shoots, often with textured bark. Hazel (Corylus spp) Traditionally used for gipsy baskets yet dull and tends to crack when bent at right angles. Plentiful. Catkins can be used. Spindle (Euonymus spp) Green and retains some of its colour if used fresh. Straight shoot with reddish vertical lines. Yew (Taxus spp) May be possible to find a long shoot for handle. Poisonous.

Special Textures

Alder (Alnus spp) Pick early when male catkins hard and female still violet coloured. Cones not robust and are best removed. Birch (Betula spp) Bushy branches ar touch on hands but do provide contrast colour for side weaving. Weeping birch (B pendula) has purple catkins, cut early. Blueberry (Vaccinium spp) Prune to give short bushy textured branches. May retain colour if kept in dry dark place. Soak in hot water before use. Broom (Cytisus spp) Use side shoots. Dark green colour best retained if kept dry after cutting. Soak for a few hours before use if necessary. Corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana contorta) For an unusual handle or frame basket. Hazel (Corylus spp) Undeveloped catkins on fine shoots can be used in small baskets. Larch (Larix spp) Shoots with cones can be used for side weaving. May need to be soaked. Magnolia (Magnolia spp) Young growth with tight velvety flower buds can be woven. Mistletoe (Viscum album) Yellowy green leaves and stems can sometimes be used with other more bushy woods. May be brittle. Oak (Quercus spp) Young shoots with oak apples Pussy Willow (Salix caprea, cinerea or discolor) Cut long branches before silvery male catkins develop yellow pollen. Not all willow catkins will stay on branches when dry.


Leaves can be soft and delicate or tough and sturdy. There are subtle variations in colour which may be affected by the time of harvesting and method of storage and preparation. Usually the later in the year for harvesting the browner the colour and the darker the storage area the more original colour will be retained. Collect as leaves start to die down.

  • Cut or pull the leaves from the base of each plant. Keep the bases of the leaves together in bundles.
  • Discard any damaged, dirty or mouldy leaves.
  • They can be spread out on a clean, dry surface in a shady area with plenty of air movement. Turn the heap of leaves frequently to allow them to dry evenly. Or you can hang them in a dry shed preferably well ventilated and dark.
  • When dry tie in bundles or secure with rubber bands.
  • Each bundle should be protected from dust, and moisture. This can be done by wrapping in newspaper securing with tape and labeling.
  • Small leaves like corn leaves and philodendron leaf bracts can be stored in cardboard boxes.
  • Store in a dry place. A cupboard is ideal.
  • Check your material regularly to make sure that they are still in good condition. Discard damaged leaves.

Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) Leaves used whole or split for plaiting and twining. Bamboo (Bambusa spp) For plaiting. Crocosmia Use in coiling as core or stitching. Also for twining and cordage. Gather in autumn. Cordyline terminalis Use leaves in cordage and twining. They are very thin, but strong. Pull dry leaves from the plant before they become tattered. Daffodil (Narcissus spp) Use and prepare as for iris. They seem to hold more water so remove as much water as possible in towels before using. Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) Prepare as for iris leaves. Lighter in colour than iris, can be used together. Fatsia japonica Leaf stems. Collect any time. Dry until just pliable. Use as core for coiling. Iris (Iris Spp) I siberica is best for weaving. Gather in the autumn when they are at their strongest. If picked before the first frost more of the green colour will be retained. Cut low to the ground. Spread on a rack or screen to dry. Tie in bundles for storage tip ends down. To use: Soak in warm water and wrap in towels to mellow or wrap in wet towels and leave overnight. Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp) After flowering pull dry leaves at base of plant. Dry. Soak as briefly as possible. Hard rush Good for fine, green weavers. Can be plaited and woven after plaiting. Soft rush becomes brittle and shrinks. New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) Use whole or split – remove the centre rib from each leaf and coil them by rolling with the shiny side into the centre so that they don’t shrivel into a tight cylinder. For wickerwork, coiling = core and stitching, twining and cordage. Plantain (Plantago spp) Use stem, cut at base, dry, soak to use. Sedge (Carex spp) Collect in the autumn. Dry then soak to use. Found in wet conditions. May cut hand if rubbed the wrong way. Leaves triangular in cross section and strong. Good for braiding, twining and coiling. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) Use for twining, coiling – core and stitching Also Red hot poker, palm, pampas grass Yucca Several species of yucca can be used to make baskets eg Y filamentosa leaves for coil stitching and plaiting Y glauca leaves for platting. Traditionally used by Hopi Indians for shallow bowls, sifters and mats. The leaf is usually split into fine strands and plaited. (Roots were split and used in making figures and decorations.) Leaves of other species gathered young, while they were pale, so that they could be dyed. Others were used for threads and cordage because of their strong fibres.

Leaf Stems

Staghorn sumac (Rhus glaba) Tapered stems up to 40 cm long. Use for wickerwork. Also Arum lily

Grass or grasslike

Grasses need drying and curing. They are useful for coiling, braiding, stitching and plaiting and twining. Oats (Avena spp) Gather in summer. Use as core in coiling. Cut and dry, tie in bundles to store. Soak in warm water to use. Rye (Secale cereal) Harvest late summer – times vary according to species and locality. Colour of finished product may depend on time of harvest. Drying in sun or shade may be successful turn occasionally, tie in bundles and take indoors to cure. Use for coiling core (bee skeps) and plaiting Timothy grass Gather stems late summer/autumn for coiling core. Wheat (Triticum spp) Stems for coiling core. Harvest late summer. See rye for preparation. Also Bulrush


Used for splitwork and plaiting which take advantage of their rigidity eg bamboo and corn. Goldenrod (em>Solidago spp) Collect stems in early spring, autumn or winter. Soak dried stalks. Rub with fingers or a cloth to remove the thin outer layer. Use ornamentally (for beading) in twining or coiling. Also Maidenhair fern (not from the wild), Palm

Fibres from plant parts

These have been traditionally used to produced rope, cord and threads from ships’ hawsers to fine linen. Eg agabe, sisal, hemp, jute, flax, nettle. Separated by pounding, soaking, retting, chewing, pulling, and combing. Can be used by basket makers for stitching, coiling, twining, lashing, knotting and handle making. Mother in law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) Dry leaves, may take months. Pound with a mallet (they might still retain some water) to reveal white fibres. Nettle (Urtica spp) Collect in the autumn for cordage and tying. Dry. Soak to separate fibres from pulp and bark. Stronger than cotton or hemp. Yucca (Yucca spp) Cordage can be made by soaking entire leaves and pounding to soften. Split by running needle down the length, twist the results into cord.


Bamboo Sheaths – the husky outer covering of the stalk – can be used. Soaked and split into strands they can be used for cordage. Corn husks (Zea mays) Cut stem end off cobs and remove the husks. They are strong and durable. Separate and dry, turning frequently. Dried husks dye well. Store in paper bags, boxes or baskets. To use soak and split. They can be plaited into long strips and stitched together as in coiled baskets or braided rugs and mats. They can also be used for handles and decoration. Seaweed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *