There are several methods for making baskets from pine needles, reeds or other fibers. One of these methods is called coiled basketry and is the same method used for creating baskets by wrapping fabric strips around clothesline and forming a basket by coiling row upon row and stitching them together.
The method is explained quite well in the following books:
It's a Wrap by Susan Breier (That Patchwork Place, 2006), It's a Wrap II by Susan Breier (That Patchwork Place, 2010), and Sewing Pottery by Machine by Barbara Warholic (That Patchwork Place, 2011). I won't attempt to recreate what these authors have already explained so admirably.
I believe it is helpful, though, to provide a list of the tools necessary for the work and also of those which are optional but make the task easier.
The Sewing Machine
It is ironic to me that I often use a very advanced Viking Designer SE sewing machine to make baskets and bowls out of clothesline and fabric scraps when all I really need is a machine that has a zigzag stitch and can feed through bulky material.
Very modern machines do this easily and have the advantage of a needle-down setting that stops the machine with the needle in the fabric and raises the presser foot so that the fabric can be repositioned. This has to be done manually with older machines. I use a walking foot with this machine because it helps to feed the clothesline through smoothly; however, when I have taught classes using machines of more recent manufacture, no walking foot was necessary.
I also use my recent find from the Swap Meet: a 1958 Singer 306k sewing machine. This beauty was one of the first Singer machines to have a zigzag stitch. It feeds well with just the standard foot. The only downside is that at the beginning I have to lift the presser foot often to turn the basket. There are two advantages to this machine, and one advantage is that it has a large capacity bobbin. The other advantage has to do with the shape of the basket that I can make using this machine.
When I form the sides of a basket, I choose whether I want them to gently angle upward or to rise almost vertically. Why should the machine make a difference? Because the shape of the basket is partially controlled by the shape of the sewing machine; that is, by how far the left side of the machine protrudes outward past the needle. On the Viking, I measured approximately 2.25 inches from the needle to the left edge of the machine. On the Singer, there is barely half an inch. In order to get a sharp vertical angle, I use the Singer because if I try to use the Viking, the basket strikes the side of the machine too soon and I can’t achieve the full 90 degree bend that I desire -- not unless I make a basket so big that the sides rise above the machine (and that basket would not be very stable).
I use 3/16 inch polypropylene reinforced cotton clothesline #4800 from Household Essentials, although other brands work well, also. Cotton clothesline has become increasingly hard to find, so when you see it, stock up.
Glue Stick / Fabric Glue Stick
I use a glue stick to hold the ends of the fabric to the clothesline. I buy a regular glue stick that is permanent and acid-free. It costs much less than the special fabric glue stick, and I don’t notice any difference. I do make sure that the glue stick is permanent because some glue sticks aren’t sticky enough to hold the fabric.
I generally use cotton fabric that is approximately the weight I would use for quilting, but it doesn’t have to be cotton, as long as it isn’t too heavy or likely to ravel. If you read about this method, you will find authors that work with widths from 1/2 inch to 2-1/2 inches. I cut mine at one inch wide. I find that a uniform cut makes a more uniform basket, and one inch is just right for me. Experiment with different widths until you find the one that works for you.
The Accuquilt Go! Cutter or Go! Baby Cutter (www.accuquilt.com)
There is a one-inch die for either of these two fabric cutters. For years I have cut my strips by hand using a rotary cutter, mat and ruler. Now I lay my fabric across the die, cover it with a mat, turn the crank and have perfect one-inch strips every time.
The Strip Rack
The strip rack eliminates the plastic bag full of crumpled fabric strips that would otherwise sit next to my machine. It allows me to organize the colors with which I will be working and holds them at a convenient height. My strip rack comes apart for storage and the rack portion will adjust to any angle from horizontal to vertical.
The Sewing Clamp or Sewing Bird
In the past, the clamp was often constructed in the shape of a bird, which is why we sometimes call a sewing clamp a "sewing bird.” The device clamps to the edge of the table and has a spring-action clip that holds the fabric, thereby leaving both hands free for sewing. The sewing clamp comes in handy while wrapping the first length of clothesline because it is easiest to wrap it when one end is held tightly in place. After the first few inches have been sewn, the needle and presser foot hold the basket in place, so the clamp is no longer necessary.
I have two sewing clamps: a modern one, made by Clover, and an antique Sewing Gripper, which was made by Singer.
Observation: at the tip, my finger is almost the same thickness as fabric-wrapped clothesline. Therefore, I use a bamboo skewer to guide the clothesline under the needle, not my finger. I bought a package of 100 skewers for a dollar, and I cut a few of them about five inches long. Then I glued a bead on the dull end. If I break one, I don’t worry because I have 99 more where that came from.
I think my work looks more professional if I adhere a label. I order woven labels that say “An Original By...” or “Handmade By...” but there are a lot of choices. Remember to attach the label by machine before the base gets too large and before you start to turn up the sides. Otherwise, you’ll be hand stitching it or using glue.
This is 1/4 inch tape, like masking tape, that quilters use to mark lines when they quilt. I use a small piece to indicate the beginning of a round so I know where to apply shaping. I learned this in Susan Breier’s first book, and it works well. I often re-use tape that was first used on a quilt because it is still sticky enough for this purpose.
Nexcare ™ Durable Cloth Tape made by 3M.
Barbara Warholic mentions this in her book. It is used to link together two lengths of clothesline.
These are some of the tools that I use to make my fabric baskets. You can see more of my baskets in the Gallery on my website.