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You know the drill: You climb up steep banks to pick the wild black raspberries, reaching as far as possible to get the juiciest berries, drop them in your bucket … and then drop the bucket as you gingerly climb down the hill, brushing away the thorny canes. Or you may be picking peas in the garden, moving around the rows, and you keep misplacing your basket under the vines. I have a solution for you: a hip basket that ties around your waist or clips onto your belt.
This handmade basket is designed to hold just enough produce that your harvest won’t get crushed and your basket is always within arms reach. Even if you’re new to basket-making stitching this coiled basket is easy, inexpensive and adaptable to your own needs. I made a basket that easily holds 4 cups of berries; it’s 5 to 6 inches in diameter and 4¼ inches high, and hangs on a hook by the back door, ready for collecting the goodness of the backyard and garden.
- 35 feet 1/4-inch sisal rope
- 8-ounce package raffia
- 2 carabiner hooks or wire shower curtain hooks, for clipping onto a belt or belt loops
- blunt pointed needle
- needlenose pliers (optional, but handy to help pull the needle through the tight raffia stitching)
Cut the end of the rope at an angle to come to a point. (This will facilitate getting a tighter center.) Lay a piece of raffia along the rope an inch from the end and wrap the raffia around the rope until you come almost to the end.
Thread the other end of the raffia with the blunt needle. Coil the raffia-wrapped rope and run the needle through the unwrapped end of the rope and pull tight to get the coil started and secure.
Wrap the raffia around the rope two or three times and then stitch into the previous row to secure it. You can completely cover the rope or leave space between to show the variation in color and texture. Continue in this manner, wrapping the rope along the outside of the piece to make a flat disk.
When you come to the end of the piece of raffia, pull the needle under to make three to four stitches and trim. To start the next piece of raffia, begin three to four stitches from the other direction and pull until 1/4 inch of the end sticks out, which is then trimmed after you have created a few secure stitches.
When the disk is 5 inches in diameter, start turning up the sides by slightly moving the rope up with each round until you are laying the rope directly on top of the last round while stitching. Continue adding rounds of rope until the basket is as tall as you like. I worked this one until it was 4-inches high.
On the last round, you’ll add the loops for wearing it on your hip. Make three to four stitches in the same place to make the loop very tight and secure. Run the stitches along the previous row for 1 inch, omitting the rope at this time. Loop the rope and stitch it in, again securing with three to four stitches to make it tight.
Work as before for 2½ inches and make another loop. Continue around the basket for one more round. When you near the first loop, measure and cut the end of the rope at an angle so it will blend into the rim of the basket. Wrap the end securely to finish the basket and tie off the end of the raffia using three to four stitches, as done throughout the stitching process. Trim any wild ends.
Either run a length of rope through the loops and tie around your waist or attach hooks and secure to your belt or belt loops. Now, you can harvest your berries with confidence!
I used simple craft-store finds for this basket, but you can also gather materials from your farm or roadside. You can make cordage from daylily or cattail leaves to use in place of the raffia, and grapevines or honeysuckle vines can easily stand in for the rope. For decoration or color variation, dye the raffia or cordage with onion skins or walnut hulls, also gathered from your garden or backyard. Simply simmer the raffia in a large craft pot filled with water and about 2 cups of the dye material for about an hour, let cool in the pot, rinse, and hang to dry.
About the Author: Patricia Lehnhardt is a merchant, cook, artisan and writer in Galena, Ill., who focuses on all things natural.