I got home from Kauai at midnight on a Friday night, and by 8 a.m. the next morning was on my way to Survival Weekend #8.
It was cold up at Trackers camp, rain occasionally turning to snow and then back again. This weekend we were learning to make baskets and receptacles, very useful for a longer-term survival situation. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I could imagine baskets being particularly handy for gathering berries, an important wild food in summer. Or for the delicious morels in season now.
We learned how to make baskets out of three types of plants: ivy, trailing blackberry and willow. Since we didn’t make it all the way through our willow baskets (our hands numb from working outside in the cold, even though we were standing around a fire), I’ll stick to just the ivy and trailing blackberry basics for making baskets. These materials are great for beginners; they were extremely forgiving.
First find your materials. I probably used an huge armload of ivy vines to make a basket that would just fit a cantaloupe. We stood around and constructed our baskets right by the ivy patch so we could get more materials as needed.
1. Take a fairly sturdy vine and make a circle with it. Then wind the remainder of the vine around the circle and tuck in the end securely. Take another vine and also wind it around the circle to reinforce it. Make two of these fairly sturdy circles, and size them so that one is slightly smaller.
2. Tuck the smaller circle inside the bigger one. Select one section of the circle to be the handle.
3. Now secure the intersection of the two circles. This is basically a “god’s eye” weaving design.
4. Next you’ll need to select another thick vine that will provide the ribs of the basket. Measure how long a piece you’ll need to make ribs like this. The “god’s eye” design on the sides will provide space to jam in the ends of the ribs. They should be more or less secure, but they will also be reinforced in the next step.
5. Starting at the god’s eye intersection on one side, begin to weave long pieces of vine in and out to create the basket body. Once you get about halfway through, start weaving vines down from the other side. Close the gap in the middle.
6. Voila! The very simple and forgiving ivy basket. Now, just remember that ivy, at least around here, is a nasty invasive species. To prevent the further spread of ivy to another area, trim off all the green parts of the ivy from your basket and leave them where the ivy is already growing. Or dispose of the leaves and green vines by burning them.
Trailing blackberry vine basket
I loved working with this plant. I’d never known the name of it, though it’s very common around here. Here’s a sample of what it looks like.
This vine has small thorns and leaves to remove. So the first step is to put on a pair of thick leather gloves, clasp the vine between your thumb and pointer finger and pull the vine through, removing all the thorns. If you don’t have a pair of gloves, another way to remove the thorns is to use dull edge of your knife to press the vine against a rock, then pull the vine through gently.
Here’s what the vines look like when they’re ready to be used.
1. First we found several thicker vines and cut them into five pieces of equal length, maybe about 2 feet long. With four of the pieces, we arranged a star shape in our hand. The last piece we folded in half and hooked around the other four vine pieces.
2. While attempting to maintain the star shape with the spine pieces with one hand, you’ll take a smaller vine, fold it in half, pull the loop down on one of the spines, cross the ends around the spine, then cross the ends over the next spine, and on, until you run out of vine.
3. Secure the ends of the first vine by placing the next looped vine over top of them. Weave in the ends of the first vine. Continue the crossing pattern all the way up the body. If you want a more open basket, continue to mold that shape with your hands as you’re weaving. I continued to weave fairly tightly around the spines so my basket began to take on a more narrow, rather than bowl-like, shape.
4. To finish off the top of the basket, you’ll trim the spines one by one, leaving enough length at the end of each spine so that you can tuck it down into the space to the left of the spine two spines over. I know that’s confusing, so take a look here.
5. I made a little lid for my basket. To do this, I basically just started a new basket but then stopped weaving it when it was the right size for a lid. To finish the lid, I trimmed its spines the same way I did with my basket. Except I left three spines long so I could weave them down into the body of the basket and they would act as hinges.
Hmm. Now I have a tiny basket for which I have no purpose. It is kind of the perfect shape for a pine cone. Now just to find that holy pine cone that I should keep safe in a very special basket…