Making a Melon Basket
(As featured in the July 2007 issue of Practically Seeking)
Baskets are an often overlooked Survival skill.
But think for a minute — how many times a day do you use some kind of container? A cup, a bowl, a tote, a jar, a box, tupperware, a bag... If you didn't know how to make containers how would you gather your food? In what would you store it? What about your water? Or the rest of the supplies you need to set up your camp? Without containers we would not get very far.
The Melon Basket is a simple basket that can be made quickly and from a variety of materials. They can be small or very large, depending on your specific needs.
The basket we are making here will be about six inches in diameter.
(Perfect for picking the wild raspberries out back!)
Learn more about making Melon, Twined, Coil and Woven Baskets, as
well as other types of Containers,
at our upcoming Basketry workshops.
Tips & Tricks for a Better Basket
- Allow freshly harvested materials to dry first, then rehydrate them by soaking in warm water until pliability returns. This will prevent shrinkage in your finished product.
- Always keep your basket-work as tight as you can. Loose joints or weaving will mean a basket that is far more likely to fall apart at the most inopportune time!
- Consistancy breeds strength. Do your best to keep your weaving consistant and symetrical throughout your basket and it will be less likely to break when carrying a heavier load. (And it will look nicer too!)
- When using materials of a larger diameter, peeling off the outer bark and splitting your vine down the center can give your basket a whole different look.
Step-by-step Instructions for Building a Melon Basket:
- You will need to collect material for hoops, ribs, and weavers. Vine-like materials (such as honeysuckle, grapevine, greenbriar, wild rose and wisteria) work best, but flexible branches or anything "bendy" can work.
Be careful to avoid toxic plants like poison ivy!
- Cut two pieces approximately four feet long — these will make your hoops. Take one of the pieces and make a hoop about six inches in diameter (the size of your finished basket). Take the excess vine and wrap it in a twisting fashion around the hoop to secure the shape. Make an identical hoop with the second piece and place one perpendicular to the other at about the halfway point.
- Now we will make the "God's Eye", which is central to this basket's construction. Cut two six-foot lengths. (If you are using a thicker vine like grapevine or wisteria you can split your piece down the center and use half for each eye.) These are your first weavers.
- Decide which of the four hoop sections is going to be the handle of your basket. With your basket handle at the top, place the end of a weaver behind the junction point of the two hoops, bring it around to the front and wrap it diagonally up over the outside, across the joint, then behind the upright hoop of your handle (try to cover the loose end on this pass), and down diagonally across the front of the joint again. This should give you an "X" on the outside of the joint.
- Now pass your weaver across the back of the bottom section of your "handle" hoop (below the rim), then up across the joint again, diagonally, then bring it down behind the left half of your "rim" hoop, then diagonally up to the right, behind the top of the handle hoop, diagonally down to the right, behind the right side of your "rim" hoop, diagonally across to bottom left, then behind the bottom half of your "handle" hoop.
- Continue this pattern for several passes around, always working clock-wise. The rule of thumb I use is to go six times around for a six-inch basket, ten times around for a ten-inch basket, and so on. Be sure to keep your weavers pulled tight, and have each pass of the weaver sit immediately next to the last. This wrap will form the supports for your basket's ribs, so needs to be of an adequate size. When you have the size you desire just tuck the free end in at the next juncture, pull tight and trim off the excess vine. Make another "God's Eye" at the opposite end.
- Cut four pieces, each about one foot long, for the ribbing of your basket. Place the end of one rib into the God's Eye, bend it so that you can place the other end into the opposite God's Eye. Place the other ribs, ending up with two on each side of your bottom hoop, and evenly spaced. You cut these pieces long on purpose, and now must carefully trim them down so they maintain the curvature of the basket bottom and have some spring against the sides of the God's Eye.
- Now we begin the weaving process. Cut your weavers about the length of your outstretched arms. Starting at one end, as close to the God's Eye as you can, begin by weaving over the rim, under the first rib, over the second rib, under the bottom hoop, over the third rib, under the fourth, then over the rim, under the rib... you get the idea. Continue on with this weave, making each row as tight to the last as you can. The over/under of each row will be the opposite of the last. When this first weaver runs out, switch to the other end of your basket and repeat the process. This will secure your ribbing and make it easier to finish your basket.
- When you come to the end of a weaver, the simplest method to continue is to just lay another along side and continue the pattern. Or, you can stop weaving a few inches before the end and tuck it into the weave on the far side of that rib. Tuck the first two inches of your new weaver into the opposite side of that same rib, and continue with your pattern. This is more difficult, but will make for a stronger basket and finer finished product.
- Continue your over/under until the basket is completely woven. When you come to the rim of your last row, cut your weaver with about two or three extra inches, wrap it around to the inside and tuck the final end into the weave just below the top hoop. Trim any loose ends and enjoy the finished product.