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Basketweaving Tips

Basketweaving Tips

Bleached Cane
Bleached or Hamburg Cane makes a great lasher for flat reed baskets. It's very flexible and accepts hot dye much better than regular cane. The color on the bark side will be a little uneven (this can be a great look). The other side takes the color just like regular reed and you can lash with this side facing out. Remember to look for the nodules and always pull the cane from the high side of the nodule, otherwise the edge of the nodule may catch and break the cane.

Bleached Flat Reed
Not often available any longer, bleached reed is very soft and flexible. Bleached flat reed is normally too wimpy for stakes, but works great as stakes on a towel  or other flat wall basket. The stakes for this basket must be flexible so they can bend around the bottom bar of the handle.

It can be used as weavers in any basket that does not need at lot of strength.
It is good for camps and kids organizations that are on a budget. Good for making mats and large snowflakes and stars.

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Bleeding Reed
Sometimes no matter what you do you'll get some bleeding with certain colors. Here are some tips to lessen bleeding.

  • Make sure the dye you're using contains salt to help set the color. If it doesn't, add some to the dye bath.
  • If you use a natural material to dye, check a dyer's handbook for the mordant that works best with that material.
  • After removing the reed from the dye bath, rinse well in cold water until the water runs clear. Some people rinse their reed in a mixture of vinegar and cold water. Let reed dry completely before use. Another option is to use a setting agent, such as Retayne, in your rinse water. This locks the color completely (see the instructions listed on the Retayne product page for more information or the section below), originally used by quilters to keep their fabric color blocks from bleeding on each other.
  • When weaving, either place untreated dyed reed in cold water to keep the color in place (some people add vinegar to the water at this point also) or use hot water to push any excess color out of the reed. Keep the dyed reed and natural reed in different containers unless you know the dyed reed has been treated with a color locking agent like Retayne.
  • Pull the untreated wet dyed reed through an old rag or towel, excess color will transfer to the towel.
  • Retayne is sold in most fabric stores and used by quilters to stop fabrics from bleeding or you can purchase it from us. Retayne also works on dyed reed that you have purchased.
    If you are dying your own reed: remove the reed from the dye bath, rinse in cold water (if possible but not required) and place into a hot water bath with the Retayne. (One teaspoon is needed per 1 yard of fabric so adjust depending on how much reed you wish to treat using a generous capful or tow per pound, more is best with dark colors). Agitate (poke with a stick or other utensil occasionally) and soak for 20-30 minutes. Hang to dry. (Always remember to pull the reed through an old towel right before you weave with it if you see any "push" of color in your soaking water.)
    If you have purchase pre-dyed reed: Rinse your coil of dyed reed in cold water and then place into hot water with Retayne (see above instructions).
  • If you have bleeding on a finished basket; try a little bleach on a Q-tip, dab the affected area lightly. Or scratch off the bleed with a finger nail or x-acto knife. Or try overdyeing the basket with natural walnut stain, Weaver's stain, or a light brown dye light brown dye (or whichever stain you prefer to use). This usually hides most bleeding.

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Bushel Basket Handles - Tiny
The Ash ears for the plain swing Ash handles look just like tiny Bushel Basket "U" handles. They work great on the back of small wall baskets or as Bushel Basket handles on miniature gathering baskets.

Clamp Marks on the Rim
If your clamps leave marks or indentations on the rim reed, wet a sponge and dab it against the marks. The wet reed will swell. This should correct the worst of the marks. Overdyeing the basket in a walnut stain or other dipping dye bath will give you the same results.

Knot in the Handle
"A knot in the handle brings good luck and assures that your basket will always be full, never empty. It may be full of love, and hope, good health and other things we oft times cannot see, but never empty."
Author Unknown

Lashing Made Easier
Try these special tools:
~ the Weaverite™ tool letter B , is a flat tipped awl perfect for smaller baskets. Slide the tip between the last row of weaving and the rim to create just enough space for your lasher.
~ the Weaverite™ tool letter D , is a flat tipped awl perfect for larger baskets. Slide the tip between the last row of weaving and the rim to create just enough space for your lasher.
~ the E-Z Lashers in 2 sizes, the end of the lasher fits INTO the smooth metal "needle" and the E-Z Lasher is inserted between the rim and weaving to create space.
~ the Lash Buddies allows your lasher to slide along the smooth metal instead of rubbing against the rim and weaving.

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Lashing with Cane
When lashing (or weaving a cane seat) with natural or Hamburg (bleached) cane or the glossy black cane look for the tiny nodules along the length. These nodules are where the thorns were removed (cane is the bark of the rattan plant, reed comes from the core of the rattan plant). The cane should ALWAYS be pulled though with the high side of the nodules coming first. If it is pulled in the other direction, the nodules can catch and may rip or shred the cane.

Oval Core
Oval Core makes a nice substitute for round reed ribs in ribbed baskets. Oval Core is cut from the core of the rattan plant and is slightly oval on both sides (think of 2 pieces of flat oval pasted together). If you like the look of old oak melon and potato baskets with the flat spokes, you will probably like using oval core.

Oval Core can also be carved into handles.

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Packing Rows
Reed and wood have a tendency to shrink as they dry. If your basket has straight sides allow your basket to dry overnight before tucking down the stakes and lashing the rim. If you have extra space between your rows the next day, you can easily adjust the weavers to ensure a tightly woven basket. The Weave-Rite™ heavy duty packing tool letter H is excellent for this job and saves your finger nails. Even when you don't see spaces between the rows before you pack, you might be amazed at how much space is revealed once you start packing down the rows.

The more "shapely" (such as pack baskets with big bellies, beanpot baskets or other baskets that are very curvy) your basket is the more you need to pack as you weave. Any curve will not allow you to pack very much after the basket is finished.

Pencil Marks
Marking some of the spokes on the wrong side in the center helps to line up the base quickly and easily. The Central Pennsylvania Basket Weavers' Guild December 2000 newsletter gives this tip to remove the pencil marks; After the base is woven, "Use your finger to rub off pencil marks on your reed while the spokes are still wet and they will come right off."

If the reed is dry try using a pencil eraser, just make sure that it is not old becuase that may leave smuges. A little bit of sandpaper will also work on dry reed.

Cutting Reed Flush
The Platoshear Diagonal Cutter is a good tool for cutting the ends of round reed on the inside of baskets.

The Platoshear can also be used to cut the inside spokes flush with the top of the row under the rim for flat reed baskets. It easily cuts spokes 3/8" or smaller, wider spokes need to be cut once from each side or cut, move the cut portion away and cut through the rest of the spoke (because the blade on the shear is not very long).

The angled blade of the Platoshear makes these tasks much easier.

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Overlapping Ends of Shaker Tape
Instead of sewing together the ends of Shaker Tape on the bottom of a basket, carefully glue the ends together with super glue. Be careful not to get the glue on anything other than the cloth. The gel seems to work best. A stitch or two fo thread can be added. After the glue sets, the joint can be hidden between the weaving.

Shaping Tips

  • Try using a round hoops or square hoops as a guide. For example: if you want the top of the basket to measure 8" in diameter, hold an 8" hoop over the top of your weaving to check the size. Some patterns even tell you to tape or tie the hoop to the spokes to keep even spacing.
  • Never push on your stakes unless you want the basket to decrease in diameter.
  • Always weave/bend the weaver around the stakes, don't bend the stakes to accommodate the weaver. Think of a snake moving around a garden fence. The fence is never moving out of the snake's way, the snake always bends around the fence.
  • Stakes/Spokes need to be constantly tended, moved and guided as you weave. Too much pressure and they break, not enough and they will do what THEY want instead of what YOU want.
  • See the Weaving FAQ's page - coming soon! for even more information about shaping.

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Soaking Weaving Materials
reeds, veneer cut woods , strand and pre-woven sheet cane and splines (wedge shaped reed) must be soaked before use, preferably in warm water. Soak materials until they are pliable, the time will vary due to the type of material and the thickness. Start with 30 seconds to a minute (for wood veneers) and work up from there, do not over-soak materials, they may begin to break down or turn gray due to the mineral content in the water.
Fiber rush (paper rope) and pre-twisted natural grass rush (twisted seagrass strands) must be mellowed before use. Dip into warm water for 10 - 15 seconds at most and wrap in a towel. Allow the material to sit while the moisture soaks into the center. A quick dip in the water again and you are ready to weave.
Pine needles only need to be mellowed for the start of a basket and any place where the needles must make sharp or very curvy bends. If the needles have been treated with glycerine, such as the Pine needle kits, they do not need water at all.
Raffia responds well to a quick dip or wet fingers.
Seagrass usually doesn't need to be wet, if you are having trouble with cracking, try mellowing it. Remember, seagrass will untwist if dropped into water. The ends must be secured with twist ties or another device before moisture is added.

Spoke Weight - The Weaver's Third Hand
The Spoke Weight makes a great third hand when you are laying out the spokes of a basket. After you lay out the horizontal stakes, place the spoke weight over that side and weave the remaining spokes into place. When the spokes are turned up, bending them against the spoke weight helps stop cracking at the corner.

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How to keep Reeds and Cane from Tangling
Strand CANE - Tie a piece of string or twist tie around the "loop" of cane (all hanks/coils of cane are bent and tied in the center, doubled over and then coiled so that there is a "loop" on the outside of the hank). Always keep this center "loop" secure. Hang the hank of cane from the ceiling or a hook on the wall. Put the hook through the loop, leave one or more ties right below the loop and remove all other binding from the hank. Allow the cane to relax and straighten. When removing pieces of cane from the hank, always pull pieces of cane from the loop. DO NOT try to pull a piece cane from the loose ends, it will tangle.

REEDS - Place two or more rubber bands, twist ties, hair bands, etc. (using two bands is a safety measure, just in case one breaks - the bands will allow easy removal and insertion of reed ends) around the ends of the reed, before you snip the last of the ties that hold the coil together. Hang the reed from the ceiling or a hook on the wall (bicycle hooks or other curved hooks are best) and allow the reeds to relax and straighten.

Try to pull reed from the end or close to the loose ends of the hanging coil. Try stretching the long reeds out over the back of a chair or table and then pull out one or two pieces at a time. If you pull from the top or tied ends, it will tangle easily.

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 Taking Classes ~ Student Tips
Here are some tips on how to be a good student and how to get the most enjoyment and learning from your basket classes:
  • Always check the weaving level of the class before you sign up. If it says advanced, then it means advanced in that style of weaving, not just that you have woven lots of baskets. You should have woven or taken classes that were intermediate level in that style already.
  • Pay attention when the instructor speaks. You may not be as far along as others, but you will need the instructions when you get to that point in the basket. Stop what you are doing and watch what she/he is demonstrating.
  • Try to weave in the manner and with the methods that the instructor demonstrates. It may not work for you and you may like a different method better, but you took the class to learn. You may be surprised at how changing one little technique can improve your basket. Give it a try!
  • Do not be easily frustrated. There will be others in the class that will be faster (or maybe slower) than you are. The instructor is there to help all of you. Slow down, take a deep breath, ask for help. Often there are many students in a class and it's hard for the instructor to notice everything. If you are not sure of the next step, ask, but be patient if she/he is working with another student. You will get your turn.
  • Arrive early or on time for class. It's frustrating and time consuming when the instructor has to repeat the introduction and beginning instructions several times. If you are late, you have now lost valuable time that you have paid for. The instructor is not required to stay after the class to continue to teach. Many will stay, but many will not.
  • Respect your neighbor's space. Sometimes there will not be extra room between students. Place only what you need on the table in front of you, the rest should go under the table or in the hallway or other open space approved by the instructor.
  • Clean up after yourself, this includes any drink containers or food wrappers. Look for recycling bins for cans and bottles. If you have large pieces of reed left over, see if the instructor wants them back.
  • Always be considerate of your other students, the instructor and the people and building hosting the class.
Class Checklist:
  • Know which class you are taking as well as the day and time the class starts.
  • Know how long it will take you to get to the class and leave extra time.
  • Check the required tools and supplies list, each class is different. Make sure that you have everything listed or that you can purchase them the day of class.
  • Mark your initials with a woodburning tool or permanent marker on everything you bring to class. If you leave something behind, it will be much easier to return it to you.
  • Know what the lunch plans are, will there be a break or will the teacher expect you to pack a lunch and eat and weave. Know if there is a refrigerator available and what type of restaurants or take out is available locally.
  • Relax, learn and have fun!

Time Savers
If you weave a lot of a particular basket, cut enough stakes for several baskets at the same time. A lot of time is wasted with the coiling and uncoiling of reed. Open a coil of reed and use the whole coil for stakes (save any thin pieces for weavers and recoil them with a tag saying "weavers" and the size of the material). Twist tie the stakes together, one bundle for each basket. Don't forget to make a tag for each bundle (so you know later on, what they are for!) or tie the bundles together with one tag.

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Twist Ties
Some produce comes with long thick twist ties, save these ties to tame coils or reed.
Place two or more rubber bands around the ends of the reed, before you snip the last of the ties that hold the coil together (using two rubber bands is a safety measure, just in case one breaks - the bands will allow easy removal and insertion of reed ends). Recoil the reed. Hold the coil together with long twist ties. They can be reused many times.
The "D" handles can be hung by a loop of twist ties. Just untwist and remove the handle that you need.
Look around your workspace. You might be surprised at all the things that can be held together with twist ties.

Weaving Table
Our Weaving Table is wonderful for starting spoked bottom and double spoked bottom baskets. The table is 14" square with a 1" square grid marking. The grid also has 1" apart circles for measuring the rows of twining. The spokes are laid out in a pin wheel fashion and a T-pin is inserted into the center and through the hole in the weaving table to hold them all in place. Then you can begin twining and be sure that all the spokes are spaced evenly. The table is mounted on a ball-bearing base so it spins as you work. The surface of the table is treated with a waterproof finish (do not use pins anywhere other than the center or the waterproof finsih will be compromised).

The weaving table can also be used for laying out square or rectangle bases, no measuring, just use the 1" grid markings. The table also works great for slotted bases of all shapes. You can turn the base (actually the weaving table) while weaving the first couple of rows, without knocking any of the stakes out of the groove.

When working on a spoked bottom basket- if it is hard to get the T-pin through the reed spokes, turn the table over and tap the T-pin through the reed with a small hammer. Once the tip of the T-pin is through the reed, you can place the pin into the center hole of the weaving table.

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