I made a basket!
… and have been floating on a cloud of happiness since I completed it.
It’s a beautiful basket … but not a perfect basket. The handle is a wee bit crooked and the rim is a tad uneven due to noncompliance with some of the rules in basketry. All in all though, including a few errors, I am immensely happy and, yes, even a bit proud of myself for what I accomplished in creating my very own homemade basket.
We have become inseparable. Unofficially, I’ve named it my “book basket”, but a wide variety of items have already been nestled inside, not just books. We’ve been to the park, out for dinner, the shopping mall, a soccer pitch, on many car rides and even the memorial service for my Aunt Martha. I don’t know how I ever managed without it. And, yes, obviously, it’s grand for picnics! Incidentally, my basket has become a wonderful purse replacement.
I’ve decided when I die, I’d like to be rolled up tight and tucked into my basket. We’re that serious, me and my basket.
It features two varieties of willow and is woven in a style called “double french rand”. It’s (mostly) round with (somewhat) straight sides and has a short handle at the top.
I was recently showing it off and asked my friend how long she thought it took me to make.
Her answer, “One hour?” She was guessing and thought she was being generous with the estimation. Not even close. It’s an honest mistake that I can easily forgive. I have made that mistake myself.
True confession: I thought a basket would be easy to make.
Here’s the shocking truth: I spent a day and a half making this beautiful basket.
Before you get all like “What kind of fool spends a whole day and a half to make a silly basket?!” on me, you need to know this: that day and a half was pure joy.
Weaving is a very rhythmic, mindful, relaxing and tactile experience involving all the senses. Small fact - willow has the most wonderful spicy scent. Lately, I’ve told many people (rather forcefully) to Smell my Basket!
Most people are delighted when they do and say, “My, that basket smells lovely!” I know… I smell it all the time. True story.
In case you’re interested, there are many steps involved with traditional basket making.
First, is the “slath”. This is the foundation of the basket – a cross-shape at the base. From the slath, you weave out, adding in stakes which create the structure for the bottom, sides and rim of the basket. (Make a mistake here and you will pay dearly later on as I discovered.) Then, there’s more weaving, whaling, chasing (which is a fancy way of saying weaving) more whaling and then the rim.
Oh, then the handle.
On the second day of basket-making, as I was getting really serious about my rim and handle, trying to make them perfect, I realized how far I’d come, what I’d learned along the way. I started out with just a few strands of willow and was getting very close to achieving the great, monumental task of completing a whole basket. My excitement was palpable. I had a blister on my middle finger.
The pride I feel for having accomplished the basket took me by surprise. Perhaps that’s why we are inseparable, me and my basket. I am reminded of just what I can do, when I put my mind to it.
For me, weaving is thoughtful, even meditative, at times. It’s an experience which can be more than just making a basket, if you allow. Weaving was a way to get my mind off of myself. There’s just something about working with raw and real nature – there’s a healing effect. You’d have to try it out to see what I mean.
Lene (our instructor) says that weaving is addictive. I won’t argue with that … I‘m already dreaming about my next basket project.
Who wants to join me?
For basketmaking lessons contact Lene Rasmussen – Basketmaking teacher, extraordinaire. www.lakeshorewillows.com
To read Part One of the basket story, go to “The Abstract Project: The Fence That Changed Everything” on the blog.
All photographs by Nataschia Wielink