Basket making: a brief history
Basket making (also called weaving, coiling, twining depending on the technique) is a craft nearly as old as human existence. It’s hard to tell exactly how long people have been making baskets as the natural materials they used haven’t lasted the test of time. Stone carvings suggest that baskets were used as a tool to carry objects from as early as 20,000 years ago BC. What we do know, is that people have been learning to make baskets and using them within their communities for thousands of years, it is one of the widest spread crafts in the history of humankind.
Before basket making kits and online basket making courses were a thing, people - usually, women - would teach others in their community to weave or sew materials into 3D shapes. They would teach beginner basket makers their craft that would have been passed down for generations, using techniques and materials local to them. They would look to their surroundings for basket making supplies – using plant materials sourced from local flora such as raffia, which is made from the raffia palm.
The idea of handmade baskets as interior decoration is relatively new. As is the idea of basket making as a widely revered art form. Somehow, over time, we have become to appreciate just how beautiful basket making as a craft is.
In a world of 9-5 work and rushing from this to that, taking time, and using patience to make something with your hands seems like a kind of beautiful act of rebellion against the stresses of the daily grind.
Basket weaving is often used as a blanket term to describe all types of basketry, but there are different basket weaving techniques you can use: coiling, twining, weaving, random weave. Cordage is the art of making rope, which is used in basket weaving also.
Basket coiling is a technique that suits beginner basket makers up to advanced basketry artists. The distinctive feature of this type of basketry is its central coil, or what we call a ‘starter circle’. If you look at the Craft School Oz logo you will see what a starter circle looks like - your starter circle is the beginning of this magical craft process. Once you have this foundation, you then coil your material around it, gradually making your basket.
I will show you how to create your starter circle and build your own DIY basket in a way that will have you basket coiling like a pro in no time.
A basket starter circle. You'll learn how to make one in our online basket weaving how to
Traditionally baskets have been made from natural materials such as reeds, flax, and native grass. Cordage (rope) can be made from plant material and woven together to create structure. In my Baskets from the Garden workshop, I teach my students what plants to look out for. Traditionally, basket weaving was all about what plants were local to you; finding basket making materials that you didn't have to search far and wide for. I've made a list of helpful plants on my natural basket weaving page.
Another great material to use is anything you have in your craft stash! Most crafters will have a craft stash they can dive into - most fabrics are useable. Even if you're not a crafter, you'll likely have some clothes you've wanted to get rid of that you can use (see pic below of a textile basket I made from some old jeans).
Other materials you will need
A large needle - with a big eye
A measuring tape or ruler (to cut your material into strips)
Twine, thread or yarn
Basketry helps fight the War on Waste!
Basketry is an environmentally conscious craft, an eco craft in-fact, it's all about following in the traditional footsteps of our ancestors who used what they had at the ready. Australians alone currently dispose of 6,000 kilograms of textile waste every 10 minutes - using old clothes and spare fabrics for your craft stash is a lovely way to do your bit for the planet -and have some creative fun in the process!
Learn to make your own DIY baskets
Basketry is a wonderful craft - it is fun and relaxing, and good for the soul! The beauty of basket making specifically is that it's so forgiving; even when you are learning you'll make beautiful work. In my one day workshops, people that have never made a basket in their life love their results. There's always so much pride in the room. It's my favourite part of teaching. It's also why I decided to make my workshops accessible online. It means I can teach people far and wide about the beauty and benefits of learning the art of basketry.