Natural Basket Materials – Using Plants For Woven Baskets

Natural Basket Materials – Using Plants For Woven Baskets

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Image by Tevarak

Weaving baskets is making a comeback into fashion! What was once a necessary activity has now become a craft or hobby. Growing and harvesting plants for woven baskets takes a little know how to do. Plants that can be woven must be durable, flexible, and plentiful. There are many wild plants from which to choose or you can grow your own natural basket materials.

Harvesting Basket Weaving Plants

People from around the world have been weaving baskets from plants for thousands of years. Modern basket weavers use some of the historical techniques, combined with fresh, contemporary designs. The first thing you’ll need to get started are basket weaving plants.

Grasses and reeds are excellent, but there are many vines and even trees from which to harvest materials as well.

It may be necessary to play around a bit and check plants throughout the year for flexibility. The plant’s ability to bend will change over the year. Many harvesters recommend winter since there is less foliage to get in the way of flexible stems and much of the plant material has already dried for you.

As long as the plant bends easily and is not too green, it should work well for weaving. Depending upon the material, you may want to harvest it green because it is easier to work with or you may need to dry your natural basket materials. Experimentation is a good practice to use for learning the technique.

Plants for Woven Baskets

In the eastern part of North America, splits from ash and eastern white oaks were the predominant basket materials. Other trees used include birch, willow, cedar, hickory, and poplar. Wild vines may be particularly useful too, as they have a natural bendiness. Examples are:

  • Wild grape

The leaves of many larger bulb and tuber plants can be used. Iris leaves are a very good basket material. Beargrass and reeds have also long been used for this.

Preparing Basketry Materials

It may take a little trial and error to properly prepare and store basket material. Most plants need to be dried and then moistened and wrapped in a towel overnight. Some plants are better to use while fresh and green when they are most flexible.

Every plant is different to work with. For instance, honeysuckle must be boiled and then allowed sit for a day or two. Other vines need to be peeled while tree bark needs to be prepared by scraping and soaking.

It can take a lot of effort to prepare your own basket weaving materials, but you will have a variety of textures and tones available to work with.

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