My journey into basketry began when Hedge Witch and I were first getting together, and exploring Pinterest while snowed in. One side effect of her work at the time was a LOT of extra letter and legal sized copy paper. I was looking for fun and creative ways to 'up'cycle this paper, and found an article about making baskets from rolled paper tubes. I had wanted to learn about weaving baskets since I was a child, and a deep-snow winter seemed like the perfect time. Newspaper seemed like an easier starting point than the reams and reams of copy paper we had laying around, so I began with this local Sunday edition we had picked up for the events calendar.
Rolling the paper tubes is definitely the boring part, but I have an aptitude for mindless repetitive tasks. I didn't get any good pictures of rolling the tubes, but basically you get something long and round and roll your paper around it, then tape the end so it doesn't unravel. To make my tubes, I cut the long straight bottom from a wire clothes hanger. Bamboo skewers also work really well. You can use larger items, like chopsticks or pencils, but your paper tubes won't be quite as stiff.
This rolled up newsprint was quite a bit sturdier than I expected, and that's why you see the big gaps in the center. I didn't use the required force to smash those stiff little suckers together tighter. I went into the project skeptical that paper tubes would be strong enough to make useful baskets, but was quickly pleasantly surprised!
This little test build is obviously much more of a bowl than a basket, but it was enough to get me familiar with the medium. It only took a few minutes to actually make the bowl, but around an hour to roll the paper tubes.
It was enough to fire my appetite, and I quickly got to work making more tubes and testing other techniques. The first thing I needed to do if I wanted a useful basket was to tighten up the bottom a bit.
One way that the paper tubes are much easier to use than most natural material is that they will take a tighter bend without breaking. If I had made this particular basket from willow twigs, I would have had to carefully select pieces for my stakes that would bend up this abruptly without snapping.
Building up the sides is almost hypnotic for me, and it goes much faster than rolling tubes. It also depletes your stockpile of rolled tubes rather quickly. Another advantage the paper has over natural materials is that your weavers are basically as long as you need them to be. Just stick a new paper tube in the end of the old one to make it longer. With natural twigs and cane you need to weave the new piece together with the old piece for a while, which can make it hard to keep your rows straight.
Keeping the form precise can be challenging, and many tutorials recommend weaving your baskets around something solid, like a 5 gallon pail. Since I was still considering this a trial run, I decided to freehand it.
It wasn't the prettiest thing, but it gave me a nice tidy spot to store my paper tubes and rolling tool! As I mentioned, you wouldn't believe how durable this stuff can be. I've been beating this basket up for 7 years now, and all that has happened to it is that the paper has yellowed.
After a couple test runs that I considered wildly successfull, I decided to dive into the copy paper and start making some more useful stuff. As you can see in the pic below, white copy paper looks quite a bit like traditional white painted wicker furniture that you see on people's porches. It isn't quite as strong as regular wicker, but it is very close, and it's quite a lot more fire resistant. These paper baskets are actually quite difficult to burn. The big basket came out okay, but it wasn't strong enough to fill it with heavy items, like groceries. Currently we use it to hold extra throw blankets in the living room. If we roll them up, it holds about 7, and is more than strong enough to carry them around.
Once I felt I had a good handle on creating utility, it was time to add a little style. The basket in the pic below used quite a lot fewer tubes to make because of its open areas. The oval base is much stronger than my previous round bases, and the extra space at the top of the handles gives them a lot more strength. I've tested this basket repeatedly with over 50 lbs. It's currently sitting about 6 feet away from me, filled with parts and projects I've been sorting out.
After turning out that shaky but successful monster, I decided to set to work on my basket weaving Mona Lisa. By this time my hands were tough as iron, and I had really put some polish on several of my techniques. This (and all of these baskets) was not made from a pattern... I just started weaving with a general idea in mind and let the baskets make themselves.
While it didn't come out flawless, I was pretty happy with the result, and gifted this basket to grandmother. She still uses it as a very stylish waste paper basket.
Feeling I had achieved the pinnacle of my art, I let my basket making skills rest for several years, until one year when I was cleaning up the upper pond. It seemed like a waste to just toss all this on the compost. I wondered...
This style of small basket can also be made with paper tubes, you just flatten them out after you roll them up. In the tutorials where I first saw these being made, they were using 1" wide strips cut from 2 liter bottles. These baskets, when made from bottle plastic, are extremely durable.
This cute little thing, while adorable, was not durable at all. I could pick it up by the handle, and it would hold an egg or two, but that only lasted for about 48 hours. The cattail leaves shrunk quite a bit as they dried, and the whole thing basically just unraveled. However, I didn't have to invest extra time in processing these leaves, so I only lost about 20 minutes time making this useless bit of eye candy.
The decorative grasses (pampas grass, I think) that I transplanted here is much sturdier as basket material. It's quite a bit harder to work with than the paper though, which throws in some design limitations. I used the basket below as a harvest basket for vegetables and eggs for a couple years before the handle gave up on me. This was a design flaw, not a problem with the materials. Much like my first paper bowl, this basket was more of a test build to get to know the materials. Next time I make a basket with the grasses I'll be changing up the design quite a bit to take advantage of the extra strength and work around the lack of flexibility.
That's all I have for this basket gallery for now, but I've been gathering more materials lately, and I'm feeling that weaver's fever coming on! If anybody has any creative thoughts about what kind of basket would be useful to make, I'd love to hear them in the comments! If anybody would like to know more about how to make baskets, or ask any other questions, be heard in the comments!
I hope you all enjoyed checking out my work, I'm looking forward to seeing you back!