After making baskets for over 30 years exclusively with natural materials I harvest in my local area, I've discovered there are 5 basket weaving techniques that lend themselves best to the process of making baskets. They include twining, plaiting, twill, rib basketry and random weaving. As you'll see in my work below, I prefer to keep my weaving techniques simple and allow the natural beauty of the materials to shine through, creating the depth and interest desired.
Twining is probably the most ancient of all the basket weaving techniques I use in my work. The word comes from the root word "twin", meaning two since it utilizes two pieces of like material simultaneously. Here's a quick video below to demonstrate the technique.
Twining is probably my favorite technique because it's so easy to learn, able to be implemented in functional and artistic applications, and can be executed using a variety of soft and rigid materials from foliage and bark to reed and even metal. Here are a few examples of twined pieces I've created over the years using natural materials I've harvested like vines, bark and foliage.
To learn more about how to twine and create beautiful baskets from natural materials, check out my online course, Twining with Soft Natural Materials where I show you step by step how to harvest, process and weave natural materials like foliage, vines and bark. The best part is, you can start making baskets within just a few days after watching this course, regardless of your experience level.
The next basket weaving technique is plaiting. Although plaiting can be done in a variety of ways, I really enjoy diagonal plaiting to create both functional and decorative bags, pouches and baskets. The best part is, plaiting works beautifully with bark, which is one of my favorite natural materials to work with. Here are a few examples of plaited baskets I've created over the years.
Another great basket weaving technique to use with flat materials like tree bark is what's called Twill. This is a more loose method of weaving that is based on using tension and skipping over stakes as you weave using a pattern. Common patterns include over 3 under 2, or over 2, under 1. There are many different variations of twill weaving that can be made really fancy with colors, materials and more complex designs like the quadrifoye. Below are are several baskets that I've created using tree bark and a twill basket weaving technique.
I really love random weaving because it's the closest weaving technique to the forms and processes we see in nature used in bird nests. Although it is random, there's definitely a process to making it look that way. In particular, I start with creating a frame out of rigid materials (usually grapevine) and then layering in flat pieces of bark, followed by smaller, more flexible material like wisteria and bittersweet, finishing with fine layers of metal and honeysuckle vines. I also enjoy random weaving over the top of twilled and twined baskets for a beautiful layered effect, reminiscent of Japanese ikebana baskets. Here's some examples of my work below.
Last but not least is the technique that I actually started with over 30 years ago, and that's rib basketry. When I started making baskets in college, it was after experimenting with kudzu vine at a summer camp I was working at and then finding a book on basketry shortly after arriving back at college that fall. The book covered a variety of weaving techniques, but rib baskets is where I started. I soon found the construction of these traditional forms almost addictive and spent every free moment harvesting and making. Here's some examples of traditional rib baskets (with an organic flair) I've created over the years.
I hope these baskets give you inspiration to start trying these basket weaving techniques yourself. As you get started, be sure to download my free PDF, 7 Tips for Making Baskets with Natural Materials.
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.