Craft Basket Makeovers – part 1

Craft Basket Makeovers – part 1

A good few years ago now, after I had acquired and learned how to use my spinning wheel, I was casting around for some means of storing the associated equipment in a reasonably respectable way.  The wheel and associated bits lived with us in our living room and needed to be tidy.

Quite by chance I came across a shop selling off cheaply a large deep cane laundry (I think) basket.  It was only going cheap because one of the handles was broken and it had no lid.  The much reduced price compensated for something which was no problem as far as I was concerned.

I used to work in Maidstone (Kent) and nearby there was a lovely shop called C&H Fabrics (sadly no more) which sold both dressmaking and curtain fabrics and haberdashery.  I could never bypass their remnant section – they almost always had something good and large enough to be really useful.  I managed to purchase several large pieces of curtain fabric of a design which was really “with it” at the time (most rarely  for me, I am usually following several years behind fashion fads).  This was during the time when Macramé made it’s first appearance and I was very “into” this.  So I removed the remaining cane handle and instead added two twisted cord macramé handles.

laundry basket without lid, with macramé handles, filled with spinning equipment


Then I set to and lined the whole of the basket using the curtain material, making sure that there were pockets around the sides of sufficient size to take threading hook, spare bobbins; flyer; carders; ball winder and my Neatsfoot oil – my wheel had a leather connection between the treadle and the footman – the bits that actually drive the wheel, and the neatsfoot oil is a good natural conditioner for leather and ok for oiling the metal parts.  The rest of the associated bits – fleece, box of carded rolags, tea towel used as a lap cover, cord for tying skeins and niddy noddy would just sit in the middle.

Now I needed a lid for the basket to keep the dust out (our bungalow was very dusty because part of it was still a building site).  So I cut two circles of the fabric and a circle of wadding.  I attached the wadding to the wrong side of one of the circles, by machine quilting around the pattern/motifs printed on the fabric. On the other circle, which would be the underside of the lid, I added a zipped pocket.  I then finished the lid by stitching the circles right sides together with another length of macraméd cord attached to one side.  Then, after turning the circles the right side out, and hand stitching the turning gap, I attached the other end of the cord to the basket. The lid sat on top of the basket with everything safely inside; well except for the niddy noddy which was too tall and had to stick out of the side, so it made do with a length of cord to attach it to the basket.  My brother in law had made the niddy noddy for me, having already made one for my sister.  It is purposely on the large side because each circle of a skein wound on it would be 1 yard long.  This made it easy to calculate the skein’s length.

Lined spinning basket with lid folded open to shop equipment in pockets
Finished basket open

Finished basket with closed lid to show quilting, with niddy noddy poking out of top.
Finished basket, closed.

The fitted out basket sat comfortably by my chair and spinning wheel while I was working at home, but was a bit big to take with me when I went to my spinning group each week. Luckily my sister, having visited the Willows and Wetland Centre on the Somerset Levels, gave me a large basket which she had bought there.  The Levels is a large flat low lying area where Withy Willows have been commercially grown for basket making for at least the last 200 years.  In fact willow baskets and other items have been made there since pre-Roman times.  If you are interested there is more information on the area here: Somerset Levels (As an aside, Glastonbury Abbey, also referred to in the link, used to own much of Sturminster Newton where I now live, despite Shaftesbury Abbey being much nearer to us and owning most of the rest of the surrounding land.)

But I digress.  The basket which my sister gave me was intended as a picnic basket.  It was short and wide and it’s carrying handles positioned so that it was carried flat.

picnic basket on lawn with handles up
See how the handles work to carry the basket flat?

It was just what I needed to carry tops (roving?) and spinning equipment when I was away from home.  Of course it needed to be fitted out with pockets to keep everything tidy and safe.  I had sufficient fabric left of the remnants used for the large basket to make them match.  I lined the base of the basket adding pockets at one end for flyer and bobbin, lap cover and oil.  I didn’t want to spoil the look by using the plastic box for my rolags and by then I had learned basket making courtesy of the WI.  So I made a basket to fit, lined it and made a lid with more of the fabric.  The lid of this little basket was quilted in the same way as the lid of the large basket, and also attached with macramé cords made from fine crochet cotton, with a wooden toggle closure.

small handmade cane basket with fabric lid attached by macramé cord with macramé and wooden bead closure
Rolag basket in the sun

By this time I was also “into” Tunisian Crochet. I had been making ordinary crochet items for as long as I could remember but fell for this new (to me) technique. So in addition to storage for threading hook, personal bits, glasses etc., I needed storage for at least one Tunisian crochet hook – this looks like a knitting needle, but instead of a point it has a hook. I also needed somewhere safe to put large sheets of paper patterns, as I tend to use diagram type patterns and they take up a lot of room. So I set-to to line the lid of the basket with just one layer of the fabric, but with pockets, short & fat and long & thin attached. I sewed this onto the inside of the lid but left one of the shorter ends unattached so that I could tuck paperwork etc., inside.

Open lined picnic basket showing lid lined and with pockets, and with rolag basket and other equipment in the basket.
All my equipment (almost) in the basket.

Incidentally, the sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that odd bit of hooked wire tucked away in the longer tube/pocket and be wondering what it is.  It’s a do-it-yourself lazy kate – a device for assisting with plying yarns from one, two or more separate bobbins.  An old shoe box (or a basket) and this bit of wire are all you need, poke the wire through one end of the box, slot the bobbin(s) on and poke the wire through the other end of the box.  It’s not the best way to do it, but if you put some tension on the yarn by passing it from the bobbin around the wire once before taking it to the wheel for plying, it works.

Oh and a quick boast – can you see the handle of the threading hook poking out of one of the lid pockets?  The handle was actually a light pull which I had made while having a go at wood turning some years earlier, and the hook is only an unbent paperclip – but it works ok too.

So that was my basket set up and ready for journeys.  Oh yes, the niddy noddy.  That was too big again, so it had to sit on top.

Closed picnic basket with niddy noddy on top attached by cords but with handles down.
Basket with niddy noddy (but the handles are down so I’ll have to remove the niddy noddy, put the handles up and replace it because the right handle won’t go over the end of the niddy noddy – then I can pick up the basket.)

Eventually the cane hinges of the lid, and the cane closure wore out so they were replaced with macramé cords.

Some time before I moved from Kent to Dorset in 1999, I wrote an article about these baskets and submitted it, with photographs, to the Journal for Weavers Spinners & Dyers as I thought it might be of interest to them.  Apparently not though; I eventually received a letter returning the photos (but not the article, so I’ve had to rewrite it!) and saying “… the Editorial Committee … felt that the article was rather too indirectly concerned with weaving, spinning and dyeing ….”   Oh well!

15 thoughts on “Craft Basket Makeovers – part 1

  1. The Willows and Wetland Centre is fascinating – thanks for the link 🙂

    The conversion work you did on the baskets is amazing! How wonderful to have all your kit so neatly (and prettily) stored and easily to hand.

    A very interesting read – and it would seem that the Journal for Weavers Spinners & Dyers loss is our gain!

    1. Thanks Lyn. I did (do) enjoy fitting out containers to suit my needs. In the not too distant future, I might even get round to finishing the bag I started making for my laptop BP (Before Pandemic).
      All those years ago I did find the Association of Guilds and the Journal a bit stuffy, but having just joined the Online Guild and receiving the Journal again it seems that things have changed for the better.

  2. Great job on creating the perfect containers for your “stuff”. The baskets are lovely and functional. Everything looks so neat and tidy compared to my stuff, usually just put into a tote bag when it needs to travel.

    1. Thanks Ruth, I do enjoy working out that sort of thing and then doing it.
      I’m also very chuffed that I actually managed to write this post and publish it without having to bother you for help!

  3. This post made my up-cycle, DIY heart very happy. The baskets look great and everything has its place, which is more than I can say for some of my implements (my Lazy Kate is currently spending a few days on the living room carpet instead of my studio).

    I was quite miffed that the JWSD didn’t send the article back when saying no to you! I’ve been published there once by their request, but then they put two of us talking about the exact same thing in the same magazine, an odd choice to me 😮

    1. The powers that be at the Journal did seem to have a funny way of doing things at one time, but I think (hope?) things have improved greatly.
      Having been needle felting for some years now, I really ought to get round to making myself a custom craft bag for that. At the moment I carry my “tools” in a small “Really Useful” plastic crate (I think it is the smallest one they do) which, with all the fibres and yarns I’m using, sits inside a zipped plastic carrier that once used to hold a car cover which we bought from Halfords. It has clear plastic (of some sort) front and back, and waterproof fabric sides and handle.
      Every time I see an etui – the square box type the sides of which drop down when the lid is removed – I keep thinking that I could make something along those lines for felting needles. But I’m still only at the thinking stage.

  4. Great job Ann creating such organised liners for your baskets….so useful, and time saving (not having to spend hours hunting!).

    In the past I’ve been equally organised but things have certainly slipped over recent years….this might just be a timely reminder….thank you.

    1. Thanks Antje. I’ll admit that I’ve been slipping since I turned to felt making rather than spinning. I’ve been spoilt by having ready made cases (i.e. made for other contents) and sturdy plastic boxes and have made do because I’d rather be dealing with the contents of the cases and boxes than making specific places for those contents. One day perhaps.

  5. Such lovely baskets Ann, and a wonderful read too. I love baskets too, mine are mostly full of Christmas stuff at the minute. I pick them up in various places, and I feel encouraged to outfit a basket now – even if it is just for a picnic. Have you noticed how expensive they can be?

    1. Yes and a bit flimsy compared with what we can do if we put our minds to it. Go for it!

  6. Great baskets and liners, so organized. I can get organized I just can’t stay that way. I use an apple basket and a big fair trade reed type basket for may stuff. I usually carry spinning and felting in them. And embroidery stuff in a separate little bag. But then I start adding other things like a tin of candy and a drink and may be lunch, and a sketch pad and…… I hope you finish the tote, it fits this years theme.

    1. Thanks Ann. I fear that I’m no longer so organised. It sounds as if I could be the same as you now, But I hope to get sorted – one day. Just don’t hold your breath!

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