There is something so special about creating things with your own hands. The slowness of the process, the ability to think through every aspect of what you are creating, realize the time and effort things take and appreciate the skill they require is an invaluable experience.
I am somewhat of an addict when it comes to this. I’ll complete a sewing project, dye pot, or theatre performance only to look ahead with anticipation for the next pursuit. For further adventures in creating and testing my creative limits.
Once something is completed you go back to the beginning, start from scratch, begin anew. It’s like Springtime. There is the budding of new ideas and new projects just like flowers and tree buds begin to pop out as the weather grows warmer.
In basketry, going back to the beginning for me always means deciding what shape, style or purpose my next basket is going to take. Then comes the design and measurement calculations. Sometimes I like to create sketches of what I want the end product to look like, other times I just allow it to sit in my brain as I cut and weave.
The next practical step after the planning and envisioning is to cut out and mark the stakes for your basket. I want to share how I go about doing this process. This is the stage where you set yourself up for a successful and enjoyable weaving experience. I have a few pointers that will help you make your next project the best it can be.
My favorite tool for cutting stakes are a pair of reed cutters or basket shears. They have a sharp pointed blade that makes it easy to cut through even a thick flat oval rim reed. Kitchen shears are a slightly less affective alternative.
– A cloth measuring tape is also useful for getting an accurate stake length. The pliability of the tape allows it to curve over the reed as you measure it out.
– A graphite pencil to mark the center point on each stake.
– Reed of the width you need for the basket.
Removing pieces of reed from the reed coil
As you can see in the photo above the reed is coiled and tied into a neat bundle. To start cutting your stakes these bindings have to be cut, obviously, but doing it willy-nilly will only leave you with a huge mess (trust me I’ve done this, and regretted it). Here is my suggestion: Lay your bundle on a table (like in the photo above). Then clip the ribbons, or whatever is fastening the coil without moving the reed itself. The coil should look like the photo below. Generally on reed coils there is a piece of round reed twisted around the ends to hold them together. This I clip, still keeping the reed flat on the table.
Finally to remove a piece of reed from the loosened coil lift one of the visible ends on the outside of the coil and gently lift it out. Here is a photo of what your piece will look like:
After you have cut all the stakes you’ll need and taken the pieces you want from the coil, to store the coil neatly just tighten the coil up and retie at spaced intervals to keep it together. This is much easier to store than a tangled mass of reed that looks like a large rats nest.
Measuring lengths of reed for stakes
Starting at the end of the reed measure from end point to the length you need and snip off length with the scissors.
Continue to follow this process until you have the number of stakes you need of that length. Proceed with cutting any other stake lengths. Make sure to keep the different lengths in separate piles in order to save time later.
Marking the stake center point
Now find the center point of the stake length. If I’m feeling especially math sensitive I use a cheat method to do this. Using the cloth measuring tape fold it in half matching the end with the measurement you just cut your stakes to. The center fold is the center measurement.
Using the pencil mark the *wrong side of each stake at this point. Mark all stakes of that length and then repeat with the corresponding center mark measurement for any following stake lengths (generally this only means two different lengths).
*Wrong side: There is a right and wrong side of reed. One side is smooth and the other has a fuzzy texture of little reed fibers that stick out. To figure out which side is which gently fold the reed over your finger and look at the texture of each side. The side that is rougher is the wrong side.
And that is the general process for cutting reed stakes. Enjoy your new beginning and good luck on pursuing new adventures in basket weaving!
Basket tools kit
Check out my Etsy shop Textile Indie Supplies for a tool kit that includes reed cutters, stake weight, 4 metal clamps and 4 plastic clamps.