Wire Baskets! Ginny Tibbetts

I decided to do some research looking for ways to weave with wire and found the most striking baskets made with colored telephone wire by the Zulu people of South Africa.

I could only access 2 instructional videos on how to do this and while they did not provide complete directions it was enough to get me on a wonderful journey! Here are the links if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSAe7kfemF0&t=1s, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQtL1p3_dQI&t=4s. Heidi Tungseth speaks with ease and pleasant to watch and listen to which made it a very nice lesson.

So I gathered my supplies and followed Heidi's instructions and began wrapping the wire around the ring at the middle of the wire so I had two long ends. I went around the ring 8 times. Just because.

Left over right, twist, and pull tight. Repeat!

I used a compass to poke holes in the cup and added wires to secure the ring to the cup. Next, I started the twist and pull method Heidi described to get my weaving started. She mentioned in her video that the first row or two will be difficult but to just keep going. Cassie Stephens says the same thing in her 3D weaving videos! Then it was just a matter of repeating the process over and over and over!


Heidi's directions did not include how to change direction with the patterns so I just did my best. There were no instructions on how to finish the bottom of the basket either, but as you can see my wires ran short and I ended up with mostly a hole in the bottom.

I will add a disk of cardboard or plastic lid inside to cover the bottom for this first basket and learn from my mistakes. I still managed to make a pretty cool looking wire weaving! Oh, take head from Heidi's warning: blisters appear rapidly when working with wire. A tight fitting pair of gloves is recommended, or a good supply of band-aids!

So I moved on to a 6" embroidery hoop for my next basket, since my local craft store doesn't sell large metal rings like they did in the macrame era. (Look that up, if needed) I decided to wrap the wires at the end to extend the length of my wires so I wouldn't run short and not be able to finish the bottom. I tucked the end under the wrapping and wrapped 5 times so I could have a much wire as possible. I was luck to find a plastic tub in my classroom just the right size to attach the ring to. Thank you for parent donations!

The weaving was going well. I changed directions with ease, though I still don't know if my made up method is the best. I got nervous about running short with the wire, so I decided that I should start the bottom. I cut the plastic tub so I could turn the corner, but now I think that was another mistake. At least I am learning.

I knew I needed to reduce the amount of wire that I was working with as the hole became more narrow. I selected every 5th wire as a guess and folded them out and then around the top edge of the tub to keep them out of my way. Later research on Youtube, I found a video with no instructions, but it showed a Zulu weaver doing the same thing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSF0JgIgUbU I wish my fingers could move as fast as theirs.

All that was left is to cut off the wires. I did this with wire snips, but there are a few scratchy edges, especially in the center. I will need to refine this somehow. I was kind of impressed with myself, however, since some of this was my own problem solving. I do like my basket very much. It's not as tight a weave as the Zulu baskets, and the rim on this one isn't as smooth as my first, so clearly I have more work to do.

So I began my third piece. I wanted a shallow basket that really would just show off the weaving and pattern. I wrapped a 5" embroidery ring with the same technique as the previous one, but in the opposite wrapping direction so the wires would point toward the center. I also had no form to work on, which I now know is not a good choice. My weaving was very loose and hard to control. I took out about an inch of weaving and started over crossing the wires in the other direction which helped tighten it a bit, but I still have not figured out how to make my weaving as dense as the Zulu examples.

I repeated my methods for reducing the wires and finishing the bottom. I was more aware as I snipped the wires and have a much smoother bottom and center. I also managed to make the rim smoother, too. I wish I had changed directions but it was such a small weaving and difficult to keep the weaving tight with no form to weave on. All points to consider as I move forward. The colors are true in the first photo, sorry for the bad lighting in the second and third! However, I am very pleased with the results and with a bit more practice, I will have an excellent project for my students to try!


Created with images by Dyroc - "wire"

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