Cordage Basket

With the sap starting to rise and the spring equinox the woods are seeing some spring changes. This is a great time to think about new projects and in my case use up some old supplies in order to create space for some new inventory. By continually cording different plant materials I have lots of cordage just floating around the house, and although this has been a great journey in discovering what different cordage holds different properties, I have several cords which although have been great practice are not something that are strong enough (or in some cases I was just lazy and didn’t make them long enough) to be of much of a practical use. With this in mind I thought that I would make a very small basket using a method called twining. Twining is a method of weaving that means that you always weave the top cord (or twiner) behind the next stake(upright). This means that you are always alternating which cord is your upper twiner thus creating a cross between each stake. This effectively locks in your stakes and is used effectively to start and edge most baskets. Twining is a great practise for further basket making and with naturally made cord lets you further test the capabilities of the string you have made (or weaknesses in some cases)

To make this miniature pouch I started by cutting 9 x 0.5 cm wide by approximately 11cm long willow bark strips. These were strips that were old so required approx. 1 hour of soaking in cold water to make pliable. You could reduce this time by soaking in hot water or putting them through a wallpaper steamer if you were really short on time.

Seven of these strips were then woven in an over and under alternating pattern using two further strips. Image Emma Wetherell
Woven strips Image Emma Wetherell

Then we started by twining. I have to confess at this point to having gathered quite a lot of natural materials the year before and dried them, but in my haste some of them went unlabelled as to what plant they were. So, the first set of twining I did with an unknown material. I folded the material to create a loop, I did this so that 1/3 of the material was folded next two 2/3 of the material. If I had folded the cordage in half this would have created a natural weak spot in the weave.  By folding the material not in half means that if material has to be added in because you have run out then it would not be as easy to see and would also not create a weak spot in the basket.

 After folding the cordage to create a loop I slipped this loop over one of the stakes, it really doesn’t matter which stake you choose.

Slipping the loop over one of the stakes Image Emma Wetherell

Now twine around each of the stakes. This is done by taking the left side of the loop over the cordage and behind the next stake, so you end up with both pieces of cordage on either side of a stake. This creates a cross in between the stakes which locks them into place. Try and keep all the stakes very close together at this point. Then continue this by taking the left side of the cordage over the right hand side and behind the next stake.

Twining inbetween the stakes Image Emma Wetherell

For the first set of twining the bark strips will continue to be in the shape that you first laid them out. Continue in this manner until you either run out of material or you have made a few rounds. As you start to move up the container try to bend the stakes up to create a flat base and to bring the corners tightly into a rectangular shape.

Second level of twining Image Emma Wetherell

You can start to see that the twining looks quite uneven at this point you can really press down on the cordage to start to eliminate any gaps.

Bottom of the basket Image Emma Wetherell

Make sure to keep adding some moisture to your stakes as it will start to dry out as you work it, this can be down with a spray bottle or wrapping the pouch in a damp cloth. This will also enable you to bend up the stakes to create the shape you require and allow you to push the twining into a neat pattern. To add another set of cordage simply either tie your cordage neatly on the inside or alternatively cut the cordage off on the inside of the pouch ensuring you cut so the material ends behind the stakes. This is what I did to create an even band of colour.

Second band of rhubarb cordage Image Emma Wetherell

To add a second band or rhubarb cordage in this case I simply repeated the same process of folding the cordage to create a loop, looping this over a stake and twined around all the stakes. Always ensuring that the stakes or exactly where you would like them at each time. The rhubarb cordage added a really nice pink stripe to this delicate basket and is silky smooth to work with. I had peeled the outside layers off of rhubarb and had let them dry for approx. one week until they were fully dried. They lose a bit of their colour in this drying process. When it came to rehydrating the cordage to work around this basket, I simply placed in a damp cloth for around about half an hour until it felt supple. This drying and rehydrating process is great for ensuring no gaps are created as the material dries out, however this is also achievable with freshly cut materials, although gaps may appear as your item dries.

Third band of leek cordage Image Emma Wetherell

I continued to add different materials next using leek as my next couple of rows. Always adding the rows by twining around each stake.

Creating the desired shepe of the basket Image Emma Wetherell

Try to ensure that you manipulate the uprights/stakes to be your desired outcome. I wanted this basket to be a rectangle at the base but turning into a round shape at the top. When I reached the desired height, I simply measured a length of bark that would wrap around all of the stakes at the top. I then cut off my stakes leaving enough room to stitch a band of bark around them. I then proceeded to stitch through the last row of twining and around each stake and the circle of bark. If you were making this on a larger scale or wanted to make this more secure at the top use the blog post from woodland ways on the beauty of bark from the section finishing the rim.

Finished basket to be worn as a necklace Image Emma Wetherell

This tiny little basket can now be worn as a necklace and was a fun little project for using up some of my old and sometimes unnamed natural materials. Now I have created something unique to wear and given myself the space for collecting more natural materials. Come along to a bark weekend or basketry weekend at woodland ways for the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge to make your own natural products.

Bottle is removable Image Emma Wetherell

Related posts