Saturday, February 9, 2008

Make a Grapevine Basket

Several years ago I took a class to learn how to make a vine basket that I've since used for just about everything. In the fall I fill it with pinecones and ghords, in the spring and summer it goes outside with pansies or petunias and come Christmas it collects our Christmas cards.

This is sometimes called a random-weave basket because there's no two alike. Making this type of basket is suprisingly physical. Twisting and turning the vines is rough on your hands, and it's messy as can be weaving the wetted-down vines back and forth as you create the framework and then fill it in. But it's well worth the time and effort.

You need bundles of grapevine, honeysuckle vines or any plant that's native to your area with long, spindly vines that go on forever. You'll need a pair a garden clippers, a wide-mouthed bucket or barrel with warm water and a pair of work gloves.

Here's the basic steps to make a vine basket:

1. Remove leaves and tendrils from strands of vine and then soak it in warm water so it becomes more pliable.

2. The height and width of the basket are determined by one long continuous piece of vine that you use to form two large hoops. Determine the approximate height of the basket you want and wind the vine around creating a hook double that height. One side of the hoop will be the handle and its opposite side will be the bottom rib of the basket.

3. Continue with the same piece of vine to make another hoop at right angles to the handle/bottom hoop. Where they join lash or weave the two hoops together. Set the basket on a surface with the handle upright and you'll be able to see that the second hoop forms the rim around the basket and creates its shape.

4. You can reinforce the hoops by lashing them together with short sections of vine.

5. The next step is filling in the sides and bottom of the basket beginning at the rim and working down. Use short sections of vine and twist and turn them to fill in the framework.

6. Turn the basket over and fill in the bottom beginning in the center or bottom rib and moving toward the rim on the sides. Use shorter strands of vine and weave them back and forth to fill in the open spaces. Weave the vine completely around the rim every time to secure it.

7. Use the garden snippers to cut off any loose jagged edges of the vine.

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