Basket weaving: a beginner’s tutorial

This simple project is based on a basket weaving technique that I learned several years ago during a school camp, ‘Camp Coorong‘, where two Ngarrindjeri women demonstrated their traditional weaving style. The Ngarrindjeri are the Aboriginal people of the lower Murray River, western Fleurieu Peninsula and the Coorong in South Australia.

Small round basket in bright yellow and whiteTraditionally, the baskets are woven out of lengths of dried freshwater rushes. Here, I’ve borrowed the same technique but used bright nylon cording for the body of the basket and cotton crochet thread to weave. This makes for a malleable, squishy little basket, perfect for keeping earrings and trinkets in check. Experiment with materials — try undyed raffia for a more traditional look, or thin plastic tubing for something modern that holds its shape. Don’t limit yourself to what they have on the shelves of your local craft shop, either — two dollar shops and hardware stores often have a range of strong cords and twine in bright colours.

BASKET WEAVING: WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Nylon cord about 5mm thick
  • Cotton yarn with a DK weight or similar
  • Large yarn needle
  • Scissors

BASKET WEAVING: THE TECHNIQUE

This basket-making technique is based around a simple coil — as you work, you continue to wrap your base material around itself in a spiral, holding each ‘layer’ in place with your weaving material as you go. This means that you can produce almost any round shape, from a flat mat to a tall, vase-like basket. Just guide the spiral with your fingers and keep pulling it tight and even.

To start, cut the end of your base material on a diagonal, which will help the centre of the basket to coil neatly. Cut a length of your weaving material (don’t go for more than a metre or so; tangles are your enemy!), and tie the end neatly to the end of the base cord that you just cut, making sure that the knot will fall invisibly on the base of the eventual basket. Thread the other end of your weaving material into the yarn needle.

Now begin the spiral. Simply shape the cord into an overlapping circle and, at the point where it overlaps, wrap the weaving thread around both layers by inserting the needle through the small hole in the centre of your work. This is how you will continue, coiling the base cord around itself and holding it in shape by wrapping the needle and thread around two layers of cord.

Continue like this until you have made a flat base as large as you would like the diameter of your finished basket. To begin shaping the sides, simply start guiding the cord so that its next spiral sits on top of the last, rather than next to it. Once you get the hang of this, you can mould more creative shapes.

When you run out of weaving thread, tie it off in a double knot. Make sure to push the knot into a spot where it will be hidden by the next round of base cord. In the video and image below, I’ve tied my thread at the top since my next round will be continuing the upwards ‘wall’ of the basket. Thread a new length into the needle and reinsert it where you left off. You can tie off and cut the left-over ends when you’ve finished.

Adding new thread to coil basket

When you’re satisfied with the size of your basket, cut the end of the base cord, again on a diagonal to ensure a smooth edge. Try to end the spiral where it will give you the most even edge — I find that sitting the basket on its side helps to judge where this will be, as in the image below, where you can see that another five centimetres or so will ‘complete’ the round.

Coil basket on its sideNear-complete coil basket with loose ends

Continue wrapping your weaving thread a little beyond the cut edge of the cord to make sure that the edge is well secured.

Near-complete coil basket with ends secured with thread

You can finish and tie off here, but in my example I’ve turned the work and wrapped the thread around the edge in the opposite direction. This gives you a series of neat Xs around the edge and provides extra security. For this edge, only wrap the thread around one layer of cord. You might even want to try this in a contrasting colour.

Tie off your weaving thread with a double knot and cut it neatly, nudging the knot into a crevice to hide it. Do the same with any other ends through the body of the basket. And you’re done! How easy was that?

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