Forays into basketry

Update 1/17/16

Kingdom A&S is getting closer very quickly!  So I bit the bullet, and ordered reed for my first basket.  I have tried to order willow, but I am having difficulty getting a reply, so that is on hold.  I plan to harvest brambles from a friend’s yard, and we’ll see how that compares to working with the reed.   So for now reed is the material at hand, and we’re off to the races!

Baskets were pretty varied in the 16th century, and many were exported from the Netherlands.  Along the many canals and rivers in the Netherlands the climate was ideal for growing willow.  There were as many as 26 active basketry guilds in the Netherlands alone, with the earliest recorded in Dordrecht in 1367 (Bichard, 85).  The first German basketry guild wasn’t codified until the 17th century, so it may have been a job to do in off seasons from other trades.   I don’t know that my persona as a merchant class woman in 1520’s Dusseldorf would have made baskets at home per se, but she would certainly have used them a great deal.  There are lots of images of women and men using baskets in market scenes, and multiple sketches of the women of the tross carrying anything and everything in baskets.  Peculiar to the german images are baskets with a foot, or lower rim, to keep the body of the basket off of the ground.  I searched for instructions for a basket of this type, but came up empty.  So I read instructions for a basic willow basket, looked at images like these…

couple with basketVrouw uit Hensbroek anoniem 1550 - 1574Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) woman with basket

and decided to try my own version.  The left and right images clearly show a foot on the basket, and  the middle image gave me an idea as to the proportion I wanted for my basket.  I had a couple of criteria.  This basket needed to be large enough to allow my 9 inch feast gear plate to lie flat in the bottom, and I wanted it to have be curved, sort of a bulbous shape rather than straight sides. The footed baskets seem to have this “ginger jar” shape.

I looked at several great websites with instructions for basic basketweaving, and followed the directions from here, I am not an experienced basket maker so I used the simplest rand pattern, two over under pieces worked in tandem.

I soaked the reed, in warm water to soften it, then started the base.


Once the base was as big around as I wanted instead of cutting off the stakes as in the directions, I bent the stakes down, and inserted new stakes for the sides. This stage was like wrestling an octopus!


Then I wove sides for the foot, and finished off the bottom edge like a top edge.  Once I was done with the foot, the whole thing became more manageable again.


I wove up the sides, allowing the reed to bow out, then pulling tighter to bring it back in again.  Here’s me weaving in the kitchen.

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Then I finished off the top edge, and added a handle!  Easy right?  Well, it took about 6 hours altogether to do, so not as bad as I thought.

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Next time I will use the berry brambles, and see if they are harder or easier.  They will certainly look more “rustic” with the bark still on them.  I will also try a different method of weaving, to see if I can get a look closer to what I see in this image

couple with basket

Overall I am happy with my basket, and I will get a lot of use out of it.  It will also be one of my entries for the Atlantian Laurel’s Persona Pentathlon at Kingdom A&S in March 2016. Wish me luck!



Bichard, Maurice. Baskets in Europe. Baskets in Europe, 2008.

1519 Albrecht Durer – The Peasant Couple at Market. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vrouw uit Hensbroek, anoniem, 1550 – 1574. Rijksmuseum.

St. Dorothea, 1530. Lucas Cranach the Elder.