More baskets…..taper in, taper out

Dianne here….

Many of you know I love making baskets….and I have evolved from the continuous method of a spiral which of course ends up with ‘an end’ to hide, flair, etc. to all butted to what I call a hybrid where the base is spiral, tapered then all butted sides.  Butted sides provide opportunity to change fabric by row without joins, have separate rings, and a flat top row without an end to hide.

With a continuous spiral there is a bump where the lacing begins to go up the sides. Depending on the fabric it may be minimal or really show. And you have to choose between having your ‘better braided side’ be on the inside of your basket OR on the outside of the sides. You can’t have both….that is why I like the hybrid so much. You can have your better side on the basket inside base AND on the outside since the sides are butted.


a small wool and velvet oval basket with a fringe. I use it for my hooks and hooking scissors.

Continuous basket with fringe

With an all butted basket, there are many possibilities. No taper, no long end to hide, but time consuming!

all butted

With the hybrid there is some bumping at the point where the taper occurs and this can affect the evenness of the sides. With soft wool and velvet this is less apparent; with cotton more apparent because it is stiff.

continuous base, note taper then butted sides

hybrid velvet basket using hand dyed velvet pattern to advantage

Hybrid wooly worm basket. Continuous base and butted sides.

As I continue my new fascination with braiding cotton (“oh no, you never want to braid with cotton”), hybrid baskets became less enjoyable because butting the sides was tough. Cotton is just so much less flexible, forgiving and stretchable than wool. And braided cotton has tweaks, especially if you use more than one thickness. So I began to think… about a continuous base, taper as with a hybrid, but instead of butting the sides, begin the sides with a taper and create a continuous side so finish with an end to hide. Kind of best of both worlds? I checked with my muse, Christine…..and began.

I took some embossed cotton I was given and folded 3.5″ i

embossed cotton fabric

n half to braid 1.75″ strips to give the cotton more body.

I tapered the base then tapered 3 strips, folded in the raw edges, pinned them and began braiding. When I braided a few inches I pulled the tapers through to the inside of the basket at the point of the base taper and secured them then started lacing.

New glossy cotton basket tapered base and tapered sides ended with a reverse double corners to create a rosette.

Next time I will make the side tapers longer to have more room to work with at the end when I tacked down the tapers to the inside. Because the cotton was so stiff I was able to push down the area that had the base and side tapers so it is pretty even. For working with cotton, I am pleased. I like the rosette and no butting! 

One of my braiding students is a seamstress and she has given me cotton scraps so I am onto the next Taper In, Taper Out Basket:             The Tobias Taper!

PS: For years, non-braiders have joked that my baskets look like hats and my kids have even paraded around with them on their heads; I have too come to think of it when we had a braiding fashion show at the Methuen Braid In.  I have a friend in town who loves hats and I have given her several of my old continuous baskets and she wears them. She is as short as I am tall and her hair is as short as mine is long. She looks great in hats. She is going to France this week and wanted a black hat. Here are the two I made her. The mottled velvet one is more grey/blue than black despite using alot of black dye, it . It is my stretch hand dyed velvet so it hugs her head; she looks like a flapper!

Wool and velvet hat with flower

Hand dyed velvet hat with bow

Easter Baskets


Braided Easter Basket, with continuous octagon base, and wire braided into the top row and handle.

I came upon my kids’ Easter baskets in the basement about a week ago. We live in a very old house, with creepy low rafters, dim lighting, and spiders in the basement, not a new house’s “family activity room” with a pool table and carpeting in the basement. So the Easter baskets were stuffed down there in a closet, and a little bit of dark mold was growing on them.

I have to admit that I did not immediately throw them out: they’re made of plastic-coated wire, after all, and a good soak in detergent would probably have revived them sufficiently for their job of holding candy and cellophane grass Easter morning. But, I’m working on the next newsletter, with a teaching article on octagons, and I realized… braided Easter basket.

Why have I not thought of this before? My poor children, suffering for years by having to eat their Easter candy out of plastic-coated wire, when they could have been eating from a luscious, soft, warm basket made from wool.

So, the octagons (a shape I had been somewhat reluctant about: it didn’t appeal to me particularly) suddenly became a focus of opportunity and fun. I grabbed some pink and yellow and a blue plaid and started braiding.

My first basket, planned for Katie, was going to be a continuous octagon. Although I am usually unhappy with continuous hexagons, pentagons, or octagons, because they just cannot be ended symmetrically and will always be misshapen if made small, I decided that the octagon would be perfect in a continuously-made basket. Ending with a handle and fringe, who would notice any asymmetry?

I tried to braid corners into the walls of the octagon, and I found a way that worked… but it left a bit of lacing thread showing across the back (which, for this basket, was inside the basket). I could have lined the basket with fabric… maybe a soft yellow satin… but decided no: too much work, and I really wasn’t happy with the lacing thread showing, even if it was going to be hidden. So I reworked the braids, tried a zillion other ways to braid a sideways corner into the wall, and gave up:  time to braid with wire to get the corners.

The need to purchase wire gave me an excuse to go to JoAnn Fabrics, which has to be one of my favorite places on the planet. You wander in there, and get lost in a sea of quilting cotton, and home dec fabric, and shiny threads, and beads, and tools, and possible Christmas gifts to make… I have too much fun there.

I ended up buying an 18 gauge aluminum jewelry wire. (At least, that’s what gauge I think it was: I left the cardboard cover to the package on the dining room table, so that I could find it again, and it’s gone: I’m sure my neatnik husband thought it was trash and threw it out). It worked perfectly for stiffening the sides and making very malleable corners. But, it’s not so good for the handle: it’s soft enough that when you pick up the basket by the handle, the handle deforms slightly due to the weight of the basket.


The base of Jack’s basket: an all-butted octagon, in progress

Next: I’ll have to wander around one of my second favorite stores on the planet: Home Depot, and find some stiffer aluminum (won’t rust) wire for the next basket.

Here’s the basket I’m working on for Jack, which has a base that is an all-butted octagon. I’ve got to get moving to finish this before Easter morning.

I’ll leave you with a photo of brotherly love: my daughter recently had her 20th birthday (cake: red velvet, with pink frosting, and jimmies) and there was one piece left that she labeled for herself. You can guess what Jack did just to tick her off, and what her response was.


The last piece of Katie’s birthday cake…