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What are your baskets made from?
Basket making is one of the oldest crafts - possibly pre-dating pottery!
The first baskets were woven by gatherers to collect fruits, grains, nuts and other edible items, eg used in fishing. An example of early basket making is a creel basket, which is a specially designed basket made to hold fish.
Today, your hand-made baskets are made for more decorative purposes and made from a variety of natural materials - they can be used for your summer and winter hanging basket displays. These natural materials lend themselves to being made into excellent shapes. The traditional round bottom basket is still very popular, but many new shapes are now being used to decorate our gardens and patios, namely cone shaped hanging baskets in round, star, square, triangular and even horn shapes!
Rattan Hanging Baskets
Rattans are climbing palms that provide the raw material for basket making and are particularly abundant in South East Asia.
Rattan remains the most important source of material for making baskets. Rattan is very fast growing, and grows best under tree cover, eg. in fruit orchards and tree plantations or even rubber estates. Rattans love to scramble through and over other vegetation. Rattans have slender, solid stems and their growth habit is vine-like that is these plants need some sort of support.
In the forests where Rattan grows, its economic value can actually help to protect forest land. Planting preserves tree cover and wildlife is also maintained. Such commercial planting really helps and protects land use in the humid tropics. This valuable source of income provides an alternative to loggers who forgo timber in favour of the rattan canes. Rattan is much easier to harvest also and so much easier to transport.
The most exciting potential for rattan to small-crop-holders is some rattans lend themselves to being cultivated on a smaller scale and can be grown under their existing fruit trees. This sort of cultivation helps the small-holder to gain extra return from an otherwise wasted piece of land.
Wicker Hanging Baskets
The inner core of the Rattan plant can be separated and worked into wicker! Wicker baskets have been documented as far back as ancient Egypt and even found in Pompeii!
Split Bamboo Hanging Baskets
In hanging basket making, split bamboo is often used as a substitute for rattan and gives an alternative natural look to your basket.
Sisal Hanging Baskets
Sisal is a desert plant with succulent leaves and this might seem an unlikely plant to make hanging baskets from - but the fibres in the sisal leaves are so strong they are used to make rope, course sacking and netting. Sisal is grown mainly in Tanzania and is named after a port in Yucatan where it was first exported from.
Banana Leaf Hanging Baskets
Banana leaf is another natural material which we use to make our hanging baskets from and it is a natural bi-product from managed banana plantations. Instead of the banana leaves being thrown away they are now sun dried and woven to make attractive baskets.
Coco Liners For Hanging Baskets
Coco is harvested form the husk of coconuts from Cocos Nucifera, a variety found principally in Sri Lanka. Although coconut palms grow in many other parts of the world it is only here that the fibre which surrounds the nut is long enough to use in the brush and basket making industry. Coco fibre is light weight hence we use it as a liner in our hanging baskets and the other main benefit of using coco fibre as a hanging basket liner is the fact that coco fibre has a natural oil content which makes it resistant to water. Coco fibres can be loose or netted into matting.
Moss Hanging Baskets
New Zealand sphagnum moss grows in the wet swamps of the west coast of the South Island where the annual rainfall in about 180 inches. It grows in thick carpets with each strand of moss up to 2 feet long. The government owns 90% of all the swamps. The Department of Conservation manages the swamps and leases them under strict supervision. The moss is cut and harvested at water level by hand leaving the plant intact to re-grow. A swamp can be harvested every three to four years. Sphagnum moss will hold about 20 times its own weight of water. A 14" liner will hold up to 3 litres of water.
Brushwood Hanging Baskets
Brushwood is a cultivated heather bi-product which is sun-dried and because of its natural strength is a superb basket making material. Many of our hanging baskets have brushwood rims giving a rustic feel to the basket.
Willow Hanging Baskets
Willows have been cultivated for centuries for basket making and are found in northern temperate regions of the world - rarely in the tropics!
Many grow near streams or in damp and boggy places. Willow cultivation is comfortable with the UK weather climate and the best basket making willows in the UK are the "almond leafed" willow a variety called "Black Maul". Much present day cultivation of willow in Britain is localized around the rivers Parret, Tone and Isle in Somerset. The high water table in these areas creates the perfect fertile soil conditions for willow. Willow is an excellent strong and durable hanging basket making material.
Hanging Basket Making
Basket making allows craftsmen a way of connecting with nature as traditionally basket makers would gather and prepare their own materials.
"Coiled" Basketry uses grasses and rushes. "Plaited" Basketry uses materials that are wide and ribbon like, palms. "Twining" Basketry uses materials from roots and tree barks. "Wicker" and "Splint" Basketry uses reeds, canes, willow, oak and ash.
An interesting fact about the age old craft of basket making is that no-one yet has invented a machine that can make baskets- they are still hand made!