Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Underwater Basket Weaving

I like baskets.  They are rustic, functional, light-weight (which is important when you move every four years), and decorative.  Many years ago an acquaintance, who just happened to be an interior decorator, tipped me off to these basketry advantages.

Fast forward a decade or so, in Montgomery, Alabama for the summer while Bob went to a military school.  The wife of one of the instructors at this school invited me over one day to make a basket.  Heck, why not.  It turned out to be enjoyable, and the basket is one of the best I've done.

Fast forward another decade or so, on the island of Okinawa.  Another acquaintance makes baskets and is also giving classes to others interested.  Well, sign me up.    

This is one of the first baskets I made, after the one in Alabama.  It's called a jelly jar basket because theoretically it holds two jars of jelly.  Mine holds travel brochures and maps.  Maybe someday when I'm tired of crochet and baskets and seminary I'll take up scrap booking and and put all the brochures in that instead of a baseket.

This basket maker on Okinawa carried a charming tote with her all the time, a basket.  I wanted to advance to the point where I could make one just like it.  Before I could do that, she explained, my shaping skills had to be pretty good or it could turn out looking like a bottle.  She was right.  The above basket - don't recall if it has a name, was one of my first attempts at controlling shape as I weave.  I'm rather proud of this one.  The picture doesn't really do it justice, and sadly it attracted some mildew and had to be bleached as you can see around the bottom.  It holds some stuffed animals in my living room when the occasional child stops in.

I made this one at a unit spouses function for - guess what? - the Fourth of July.

I think there were some other baskets along the way, but finally my instructor gave me permission to make the tote I wanted.  This picture totally does the basket justice.  I used it for about four years as my purse, my lunch tote, travel carry on, everything.  As you can see there are weavers broken out of it, the rim is in bad need of repair, and the handle is faded.  It has been given emeritis status, until today when I took it down off the top of the schränk in our bedroom for photographing.  I think it's time for some cleaning and repairs.

Fast forward a couple more decades.  I'm still interested in baskets and weaving them, but until just recently hadn't found a good source for materials.  When we lived in the states I just always thought that Hobby Lobby or Michael's would carry them.  Guess what? 

Early in the summer I decided to look on line, see what was out there for basketry and **woo-who** there are lots of resources!  I ordered a kit, it came in under a week, and then I got on a plane, leaving it behind.  I ordered the same kit while I was there thinking my two daughters and I could make the three baskets together.  Silly me - one has three boys and the other had a brand new baby girl.  I enjoyed watching busy little boys fill my tub of soaking reeds with Matchbox cars and garden tools, and Tracee and Kelly got a basket each out of my efforts.

When I got home in August I got my kits out - the same ones I'd ordered in Colorado, and made the above three baskets.  Basket weaving involves a lot of water, and it's not the neatest hobby.  I find the best place to work is outdoors.  I love setting myself up on the patio on a sunny day.  It takes me about four hours to make a basket, so about one a day is my limit. 

Kelly chose not to have a handle on the basket she made, so I carried it home with me and made this basket with it and some other scraps that I brought home from Colorado.

We have had such perfect weather this September and in to October.  My sunny patio was calling me out.  I pulled out what reed I had left and made these two.  It is my first attempt at making my own pattern.  The larger one I made using the measurements of some shelf baskets we bought at IKEA.  I was really worried at first, but I LOVE the way it turned out! Even the caning on the rim, which I don't like to use, turned out well (and I had exactly enough!).

This smaller one will take it's place next to my mousepad and keyboard to hold all the little things I use all the time that tend to end up loose on my desk - glue sticks, White Out, marking crayons, my glasses, an eraser, thumb drives....  It was one of the hardest first rows I've eve done!  The one-inch reed is hard to manipulate for the first row, but it, too, turned out so good.

The one draw back to basketry is that unless you buy kits - and I feel my skill level is beyond kits - is that you have to buy reed in such large quantities that in order to make my next basket I have to purchase about $90 worth of supplies.  The advantage is that shipment will keep me weaving for several months.

I should mention that the very first basket I made, a medium melon basket, dipped in a walnut shell soak, with a wrapped handle, is still one of the best I ever did.  I wanted to include it's picture in this entry and it's not where I thought it was.  I can't imagine where it has gone to, and won't stop hunting till I find it.

Thanks for listening.