Basket Weaving Merit Badge, Part I

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 4,882 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—6,641 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/Basketry Merit Badge, I actually followed through on the course I like to tell people I majored it in college: Underwater Basket Weaving. Minus the underwater part. I mean, maybe when I get a little more experience under my belt and dry-land basket weaving just isn’t challenging enough, then perhaps I’ll channel my inner mermaid and attempt to kick it up a notch.

I was actually pretty thrilled to learn this ancient art. I love baskets. And what holiday are we coming up on, my little chickadees? That’s right: Easter. Easter baskets! And Easter bonnets, too, don’t forget the bonnets. Is there a bonnet-making badge? I need to look into that. I’ve always had a secret yearning to be a milliner. I think it’s because of Jane Austen. Who doesn’t love Jane Austen? But, anyway, back to the basketry.

Now there are a few different types of basket weaving, and I decided to go with the one that seemed most familiar: wicker. (I do get weepy over willow.) I’ve been collecting my willow for a few weeks now, so if this is a badge you want to try your hand at (or to be more specific, both your hands), then decide when and how you are going to find your stack of appropriate materials.

Now willow can be temperamental stuff: too dry or brittle and it will snap on you, so you might have to soak it for a few days. That’s okay: you need time to sign up for a class or peruse your local library for some know-how, anyway. Once your branches are ready to go, you will be too.


Now first, we are going to make a base: I’m making a small basket, so I used eight pieces of willow, about 30 cm each. Make a slit in the middle of half of these, and then insert the non-split ones into the split ones! Savvy? This is called our Slath. Which to me, sounds like something you’d spray for in the tomato garden, but whatevah! Then you’re going to take wee little skinny pieces of willow and use them for the Pairing, which is just a fancy term for basically tying it into place (think twist-tying your bread closed, in a way … sorta. Or French braiding … again, sorta). This is where I needed to take a tea break. What can I say, I work in short spurts.

When I returned from my pot of Lady Grey (there may or may not have been shortbread cookies involved as well), I was ready to keep on with my Pairing. Round and round we go, where we stop nobody knows.

No, seriously.

I didn’t know when to stop.

I was going to keep Pairing for all eternity if no one intervened. I had my handy dandy library book open beside me, but who was going to turn the pages if I was weaving my fingers into my basket? They neglected to mention that part in my tutorial.

I knew the next part involved something with Rods, but my only experience with rods was my short lived career as a Baton Twirler, or possibly that time in high school when I learned to perm my own hair, and neither one seemed applicable here.

Please join me next time when I get my hands free and learn how to start constructing the sides! Ta-ta for now.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    About 25 years ago, I took a basket making class and made several baskets for myself, friends and the Easter baskets for my children. Basket making is fun but it is harder than it looks to get a nice even weave and finish. In my experience, however, there is something very rewarding about making and using a basket in your life. Baskets have practical uses and their beauty comes from how they work with your life to make it easier. They are like a trusted friend. Always at the ready for a task.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, another coincidence? Just a couple days ago I was on a quest to replace my rattan/wicker garden baskets; these have weaved in wicker loops~hooks which easily latch onto a fence or flat, vertical surface. I browsed 5 different garden shops that day & still came home without one replacement basket.

    I’ve wanted to learn the art of basket weaving for quite a while now. I just love the natural look of pretty woven baskets in the garden. Many years ago I taped & saved one of my favorite, (an older PBS version) Martha Stewart show’s. In this particular episode, Martha visits some folks who have learned the craft of basket weaving as it was passed down from each generation of their family. Martha & the family of skilled basket weaver’s take the audience on a walk through the woods & discuss various, weave-able woods.

    But it wasn’t until today & only after reading your story on your latest merit badge efforts that I really delved into the: definition; origin; and ideas surrounding the rattan/wicker weaving furniture & beyond craze. So now I’ve read about & seen some, must have wicker designs! In my futile search for the replacement rectangle baskets, I came across a beautiful, “Nantucket Bicycle Basket” & it had what appeared to be leather buckles attached. This basket was painted pink but they had other colors too:-) I was tempted…but presently still on my search for the longer version.

    If any of your readers’ has seen the rectangle wicker basket for sale anywhere, would you please share? Many thanks!

  3. Terry Steinmetz says:

    I love to make baskets! It is not only relaxing, it is rewarding!

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