Easter Baskets

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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.

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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.

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The last piece of Katie’s birthday cake…