Friday, May 29, 2009

Aqua Globes

OK, so this isn't technically about basketry, but almost all my plants are in my basket weaving room, so I guess that counts. If you are like me and alternate between over watering your plants and letting them dry complete out, then Aqua Globes are for you. You know, the hand blown glass spheres that you fill with water, stick into your house plants and leave them to water your plants slowly over the next two weeks? Yes, those. Well I wouldn't order them over the phone or online when they are now available at stores like Target and Walgreens. I purchased a set (the come in a box of two) one day on impulse as they were only $10 and my plants were desperate for help. Well after only a couple of weeks I was sold on them and ready to buy two more for my other plants. Since I have started using them my plants have never looked better. I have philadendrons and they were always so spindly and the leaves were always turning yellow and falling off. Now I have none of that and they are getting so much fuller.

You need to have fairly large pots though as the globes are about 3" in diameter and the "spout" is about 8" long and they would probably tip over a small plant. Mine last over two weeks before I have to refill them, but it seems to depend on the pot on how fast the water is drained. At first the difference in water absorption really had me freaked out that one of them was not working properly, but I refilled both and switched what pot they were in and the same pant just drank the water more slowly than the other. When you pull the Aqua Globes out of the pots to refill them it will look like the tips have been clogged with dirt, but that doesn't seem to be the case in reality. You just have to flush out the tip with water to refill them. Put them back into the plants and you are good for another couple of weeks.

Honestly I have no vested interest in Aqua Globes, but I do think they work just as promised on TV. I know so many of us are so busy all the time, what with so many baskets to weave, that we sometimes let other household chores fall by the wayside. This is an easy and actually pretty solution to a problem (that of course wouldn't exist in the first place if I could remember to water my plants!). Give Aqua Globes a try and let me know what you think.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Instant Coffee and Tea Stain (follow-up)

I had a follow-up question to my comments about tea staining. Someone was having problems with "water spots" on their basket after they had applied the stain. Here is how I addressed that issue.

"Weavers Words" Vol. 4 Iss. 16
Date Sent: June 28, 2000

I have had problems similar to what you are describing. It usually occurs on large baskets or in conditions where the basket is drying before it is completely saturated with the stain. I have found that if I stain the inside of the basket first and then the outside I will get better results and if there are any areas that appear to be drying too quickly I will re-wet them with the tea stain. I believe what is happening is that as one side dries the newly applied stain to the opposite side soaks/runs through the weaving and gives parts of the basket a double dose of color. If a basket has dried blotchy I will heavily sprayed it with clear water, which will wash off a good portion of the color lightening up the entire basket. As I said in an early posting about tea dying I actually prefer some color variation as it more closely resembles an old basket, which is what I am trying to simulate with the coloring in the first place.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Displaying your basket collection (part one)

If you are like me you have a lot of baskets and face the challenge of how to display all of them. I have a small house and not a lot of room, but a lot of baskets so I try to utilize as much of my available space to the best use as possible. Fortunately small to miniature baskets don't take up a lot of space, but they can be challenging on their own to display.

I have found that flea market found shelves are a great solution. The can often be found for little money and usually without much work can be fixed up to look great. The little shelf here was already painted and only need a good dusting to be ready to hold some of the many strawberry baskets I have in my collection. This shelf is small, but easily holds 5 of my baskets.

This little shelf was a craft show find. It was unfinished, but I painted and distressed it to match the rest of the room. It displays my collection of miniature basket molds, Native American strawberry, pine cone and acorn baskets and other odds and ends.

This shelf was a garage sale find. All it took was a little sanding to distress the edges and it matched perfectly the rest of my furniture. It hangs in my study and holds a variety of Native American baskets.

I found this shelf at a neighbor's garage sale. I was running out of available wall space so hung this one in the stairwell going into my basement. It was wasted space that was prime for displaying some small baskets I have woven and collected, including a Stephen Zeh basket.

Another flea market find is this little corner shelf. It tucks in nicely in my bathroom in a space that would otherwise be completely wasted. It holds a nice twined Native American basket, two lidded coiled pine needle baskets and a small brown ash basket I wove myself.

This is probably my favorite display. Even though it is technically a "Christmas tree" I keep it up all year round in my basket weaving room. It is filled with small and miniature baskets I have collected, both contemporary and antique, along with a couple that I have woven myself. Most of the baskets are from Alice Ogden. She weaves a new ornament basket every year.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Instant Coffee and Tea Stain

I get a lot of question asking me about different aspects of my basket making. I mentioned one time on Weavers Words that I like to use instant coffee or tea to stain my reed baskets and someone asked how I did this.

"Weavers Words" Vol. 4 Iss. 13
Date Sent: June 23, 2000
I usually only mix up enough to do one basket at a time and brush mine on, so I usually use one cup hot water and about 1/8 cup instant tea for a light golden color to about 1/4 cup for a medium color. I just start dumping some tea in and test a dab on the basket and see what I think. I add more tea or more water depending on what I want. I don't use much instant coffee anymore, but that is because I have a couple of big jars of the tea in the cabinet. I think the tea gives a slightly more golden yellow cast and the coffee a little more of a brown color. It is a pretty subtle difference. I have never mixed the 2 together as I don't really think it would make much difference. I have saved extra mix before in the refrigerator and heated it in the microwave when I wanted to use it again.
In a subsequent issue of Weavers Words some asked about water spotting on tea stained baskets and this was my response.

"Weavers Words" Vol. 4 Iss. 15
Date Sent: June 26, 2000
Yes, the instant tea/coffee stain will water spot. I have really only noticed it on the handle before, not on the body of the basket. I don't find the minor spotting to be offensive as it just adds to the overall patina of the basket. The tool basket I used for years was stained with instant tea and has gotten splashed many a time and it looks great still. I have used ultra-strong brewed tea from bags before to dye reed to be woven in a basket and I suspect that is as permanent as you can get. The brewed tea gave a different color, more grays and browns in shade than the instant tea. I haven't ever used any kind of finish on a tea stained basket.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bushwhacker Friendship Basket

This is one of four Bushwhacker or Taghkanic basket I have in my collection. The Bushwhackers were native to a small area of New York state and their baskets were often confused with Shaker work. This particular style of basket is known as a "friendship basket". To see another example of a Bushwhacker visit my collection page on

Their work is distinctive from the Shakers and includes details not found in other baskets. An example of one of these is the "knot" shown in the detail photo. The baskets are started by weaving over ones knee. So that they could always weave in a clockwise direction the Bushwhackers would tie off their last bottom weaver, flip the basket over and then reverse directions for continuing up the sides. A great resource for more information on these unique basket can be found in Martha Wetherbee and Nathan Taylor's book "Legend of the Bushwhacker Basket".

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ben Higgins' Basket

This is a basket from my collection. It was woven by Ben Higgins (1894-1981) of Chesterfield, MA. Ben was a prolific basket weaver working in white ash as his father had before him. This particular basket is referred to as an "automobile lunch" basket as it was designed to fit the running board of cars of the era.

The basket still bares the rubber stamped signature "Made By B. G. Higgins The Basket Shop Chesterfield, MA".