The Basics of Traditional Basket Weaving

Basket weaving uses natural materials to produce baskets. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Before baskets made of plastics and steel became popular, people did basket weaving with natural materials. When choosing a natural material for baskets, flexibility is an important consideration. After all, if the material is brittle, you won’t be able to flex and twist it to create a basket.

Traditional baskets are usually made from materials like willows, cane, bamboo, grasses, honeysuckle, reeds, and so on. Basket weaving is the process of turning such natural materials into baskets and can be taken up as a hobby in case you have some free time to explore new activities. Here is some basic info about the basket weaving process.

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Stakes and weavers

Basket weaving involves working with two basic weights. One will be a heavy, thick material that will be used to create the stakes that will form the skeleton of the basket. You can even vary the thickness of the stakes. For instance, you can use a heavy material for the bottom and a lighter one for the sides. Whatever the difference in their thickness, they will definitely be thicker than the rods that will be used for weaving. These weaving rods make up the bulk of the basket and are called weavers.

When choosing a natural material for baskets, flexibility is an important consideration. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)
When choosing a natural material for baskets, flexibility is an important consideration. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)


As far as tools are concerned, you will need a sharp knife or scissors to cut and point the material, as well as some side cutters to chip off the ends. Round-nosed pliers can kink the stakes prior to bending them. This will be particularly handy when the angle has to be sharp. A bodkin is a tool that can be useful to make space between a woven work and for pushing rods into their place after making the necessary gaps. A rapping iron can help you push down the weaving rows.


Before using stakes and weavers, they should be thoroughly soaked in water. This makes it easy to manipulate them. It also prevents the material from cracking or breaking off. Rods are usually kept in water for about half an hour before wrapping in a damp cloth for some time. Materials that will be used as stakes should be kept straight during the soaking process. However, weavers can be left coiled in the water. Even when you start constructing a basket, you might need to soak it in between.

Types of weaves

There are three types of weaves that are traditionally used in baskets. The Basic Weave focuses on creating a sturdy base. The base might even be cut off from a single piece of wood. However, the most used method is by using materials that are similar to the rest of the basket. In the Basic Weave, the stakes are wrapped around in an over-one-under-one pattern.

Basic weave focuses on a strong base. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The second method is called Twining. This is an advanced technique of basket-making and is also used in wickerwork. “It involves two pieces of round reed being twisted around a rigid spoke. The twining method involves weaving two materials in different directions. When basket makers twine, they put one reed behind the spoke and one in front of the spoke, with a twist in between,” according to Homestead.

The third technique is Coiling in which coils of grasses, pine needles, or reeds are stitched on top of one another. Softer materials are used to create the walls of the basket. This creates a rigid, tight basket and is a popular basket-weaving method of Native Americans.

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