an unexpected love of rope & baskets

crochet basket

D72_4180

julians basket

ostheimer basket

stripey

knot

scrap basket

next to tv

close up rickrack

adding colour

the loopy mat

beeswax wraps basket

fork hook

detail in yellow

basket with flowers

kitchenaid basket

noahs basket

drawstring top

paint basket

I’ve always loved baskets – from the hard bottomed baskets of my childhood with their colourful pieces of narrow plastic piping intertwined, to the soft seagrass baskets of the mid 1980s with their long leather straps, and now the bolga baskets with their stripes and malleable sides.

I still have the sewing basket my Nanny Dougall gave me when I was little – and have since collected a few more of these sweet work baskets – and we have the heavy, salt encrusted fisherman’s basket my Poppy hung about his waist when he was surf fishing.

We have baskets full of wool, fabric, toys, musical instruments, jumpers, baby clothes, computer parts, board games, Sylvanian critters, dolls house furniture.  I take baskets shopping, to the beach, to work, when we go visiting, on picnics – I even used them when we were moving, filling them up with last minute things I thought would be useful to have on hand and squashing them into the corners of the car each time we drove up to the farm.  Yep, we love baskets.  They fulfil that wonderful criteria of being both beautiful and so very useful.

But when I first saw the rope baskets people were making early in 2015, I have to say I wasn’t tempted.  I couldn’t quite see how it would work.  I thought any I made would wind up looking wonky with uneven stitching.  And even more, I didn’t want to end up with a home filled with cream rope coloured baskets that looked exactly like those being made by everyone else.  Baskets that in a few years, we would say “Oh my goodness, remember when these bloody rope baskets were “the thing” – what on earth possessed me!”

Then, there I was at Bunnings one Saturday afternoon with Julian – he was probably looking at tools and screws and things – and I found myself in the rope aisle contemplating the choices.  I wanted to crochet a large cotton doily styled wall hanging out of narrow rope – and there was a lovely natural coloured cotton rope available in big balls – perfect.  And there were also bundles of sash window cord in different widths.  Now all the rope baskets I’d seen made in the US were made from clothesline cord but we didn’t seem to have anything like that.  Maybe it’s Australia’s passion for the Hills Hoist – or our wicked climate – but most people here have clotheslines made from fine metal cord or plastic coated metal.  But sash window cord – it was cotton, sturdy and a lovely natural colour.  Could be good.

Home I went with my packet and after several false starts, I finally got the hang of it … and it was deliciously satisfying :-)  I wanted more!  Everybody at home liked them and wanted one for this, that and the other, so Julian went out and bought me a whole SPOOL of cord – it has several hundred metres on it – and oh what fun I’ve had with this!

Every time I think “we need to keep this in something so it’s easy to find and grab”, I drag out the spool of sash cord and off I go.  And the most satisfying bit about it – I have endeavoured to never make the same basket twice.

I’ve woven fabric scraps around my cord as I sew making gentle bursts of colour.  I’ve folded wider scraps in and out and in and out as I sew round and round – creating colourful columns.  I’ve painstakingly sewed in rickrack to the top edge – my goodness, that took forever. I’ve added fabric yoyos, felt embellishments, vintage buttons, and even a cut down pair of wooden knitting needles .

After many months, I finally plucked up the courage to use coloured thread – and whilst I’m not a 100% sold on the look of the multicoloured thread on the basket I whipped up last week for my paints, I adore the soft variegated lemons on the basket I made for our beeswax wraps.

I’ve left gaps for yarn to be pulled through. I’ve wound lots of ends into snails and secured them with perle thread. I’ve added loopy crowns to the top, long handles, short handles, and knotted handles.  I’ve even made a large flat table mat with strips of coloured fabric – and then a round of loopy gaps before returning to solid rounds – it is divine and probably my favourite one so far – but it went to Queensland as a birthday present.

I’ve sewed small ones, big ones, straight sides, sides that grow, big bottoms, small bottoms, shallow sides and deep sides.

A couple of weeks back, I laboured over the most detailed one.  A craft basket for Noah to take with him on his journeys – a nice big one with a flat bottom, deep sides and … a fabric top that is gathered up with a proper drawstring so that everything inside can be kept nice and safe but efficiently accessed whilst en route, and a knotted handle for carrying.  He adores it – filled it instantly and has been using it constantly ever since.  All his wonderful felt and embroidery supplies are neatly stored away for his exquisite dolls and embroidered artwork.  Just the kind of thing a crafty mama loves to make :-)

Truly, these rope baskets that are finding their way into all the corners of our home and daily life are wonderful.  Sometimes I think they are even better than all the rest – because they are made by my hands, with my imagination and love, for my family and our home.

And there’s almost nothing better than that.

starting

round

bigger

measuring

basket sewing

adding rickrac

a little bit more handmade than usual

The hanks of seaweed from Thursday’s bathtub dried into a fibre that looked amazingly like wool.  On to the swift they went!

Then the wool winder …

and to the scales – 148 grams of lily spun merino.

Without any real idea of how far this yarn would go, needles (5.5mm) and pattern (started here, but made more regularly spaced decreases according to Julian’s preference for a more fitted/shaped style) were selected and there followed a lovely few hours of knitting my wonky wool into a perfectly wearable item – a toque for Julian.

However, one toque did not even use one whole ball of yarn – amazing!  I can make another!  But this was a little bit thwarted by the mechanics at hand – I simply couldn’t pull on the that circular needle any more and there were no 5.5mm double pointeds in Bootville – or any inclination to go to the shops.

So Julian – not to be outdone in the handmade stakes – made me some, from a pair of existing 5.5 mm needles – I have an enormous number of wooden knitting needles, bought from Spotlight many years ago when they had them in a clearance bin marked “Fill a bag for a dollar!.

Perfect!  Only moments later, it was onto the head …

Unbelievable!  I created yarn that could be knitted into an identifiable object.  Truly I am in awe!  The art of creating a soft, pliable fabric from yarn and two sticks has always delighted me … but this.

Taking small chunks of fleece that still wear the crimp of its owner and the grass seeds that they collected whilst grazing, and turning THIS into soft pliable fabric brings me to hopping up and down the hallway with excitement.

I know it’s been done millions of times before, by millions of talented, hardworking folk over thousands of years, but still.  Being able to recreate a humble and amateurish version of this ancient practice in my 21st century, urban kitchen …

… leaves me able to make the tiny, very modest claim … that with help from those vastly wiser and more experienced than I …

I can turn straw into gold ;-)