Creating a beautiful, hand-woven basket that lasts for years and adds a lovely, rustic element to your home is surprisingly simple. River cane baskets, such as the type made by the Chickasaw people, are not only unique and attractive—they’re also extremely useful for storing craft supplies, linens and knickknacks that might otherwise clutter your home. No matter your skill level, the following tips and tricks will help guide even the least confident beginner into forming a singular piece of craftwork they may cherish forever. Here’s how you do it.
Fortunately, there are only a couple of tools you’ll need to fashion a formidable basket of your very own. Have handy a pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears, a knife and possibly an awl, though a long nail may function as well.
Preparing the River Cane
A member of the bamboo family, river cane is a flexible and pliant plant that works very well for basket weaving. It comes in many colors and thicknesses, so you can create patterns within your project using the same material throughout. To prepare your river cane, first ensure it’s completely dried out, then soak it for several hours to a few days, depending on the size of the basket you wish to create. Consider removing the bark for a quicker process.
Making a Base
Now that your cane is wonderfully malleable it’s time to start with the base of the basket. For absolute beginners, it’s recommended that you invest in a simple basket weaving kit that has a starter base. For those with more experience, grab eight thin sticks of river cane cut into 12-inch lengths. Then:
• Create a split in the center of four of the sticks using your knife. Make them roughly 2-3 inches long. Slide the other four sticks through this split, creating a cross shape.
• Use two smaller, finer strands of the cane and sew through the split as before. Hold the ends and separate the two threads. One goes over the four protruding spokes, one goes under. Twist them once at the end and repeat, now the bottom thread is on top, and the top on bottom. Continue around twice.
• Finish the base by weaving around each spoke individually. Spread out each of the 8 spokes — use the awl if necessary — and twine with the fine cane around each one. Carefully add in more threads as necessary, one piece at a time, until reaching the desired size.
Completing the Basket
Finishing this remarkable little crate is now a breeze after the base is made. Double-check that the river cane is still pliable, and soak if it’s getting too dry. Then, carefully bend each spoke vertically so it’s perpendicular to the base at a 90-degree angle. Continue wrapping upwards using the same method as for the base. To finish seamlessly, tuck each of the spokes into the top border with the same weaving technique.
Congratulations! You now have a beautiful, distinctive and natural river cane basket that you created all by yourself. Making this functional decorative object helps you respect the marvelous culture of the Chickasaw people, and gives you an appreciation for this truly spectacular craft.
Image Credit: Bushcraft.Ridgeonnet.com