How to weave a simple flax basket

Flax is an easy to grow New Zealand native with heaps of uses around the garden as well as the flowers being a food source for bellbirds during late spring and early summer.

Follow basic step by step instructions and guidance to learn what you need and how to create your own woven flax basket.
  craft  flax 

Flax Basket Weaving Instructions

Step by Step Guide to make your own simple basket from New Zealand Flax

 

These traditional Maori square baskets are an excellent introduction to basic flax weaving and basket making. The steps are easy to follow and it is easy to produce a usable basket.

With a little practice you will remember how to do it from start to finish without the need for assistance.

The size of the finished basket is determined by the length and number of flax strips, their width and the amount of spacing or gaps in the weave. It is possible to extend the sides by introducing additional strips as you weave if you require a challenge.

Historically it was common practice for weaving students to give their first creation as a gift. Perhaps this was to encourage them to create another for their own uses and further improve their proficiency.

Have a go and don't be put off by your first attempts. You will certainly improve your speed and quality as you go.

Tools and equipment required for creating a simple woven flax basket

Tools and equipment required for creating a simple woven flax basket

Details  Flax is very fibrous and tough, a good sharp pair of garden hand pruning secateurs are the ideal tool for cleanly cutting the leaves to length. Collecting and preparing flax without modern metal tools must have been rather difficult.

Working with the long, slippery strips can be difficult in the beginning. Clothes pegs are helpful for holding corners and edges while you work, helping prevent things coming apart while you work. If you don't have pegs on hand (the early Maori certainly didn't) you can create your own from the thick base of the flax leaves. Cut short pieces and add a slit.
Preparing the flax strips for your square basket

Preparing the flax strips for your square basket

Details  This design requires 2 sets of an even number (4, 6, 8 etc.) to create the square base and parallel sides. These 2 sets will be woven together at right angles or perpendicular to one another.

The larger the number of strips the bigger the floor area of the basket will be and the shorter the walls can be. Using more strips increases the difficulty and time involved in fabrication.

Making a very small basket (2 sets of 4) is fiddly so start with 2 lots of 6 as demonstrated here.

Split the flax leaves into strips of a uniform width between 15 and 25mm. The wider the strips the more they will shrink as they dry resulting in a basket with more gaps. Smaller strips can be woven tighter and produce a smaller but tidier and stronger basket.
Square bottom for the basket

Square bottom for the basket

Details  Take the 2 sets of strips and weave them through (over - under / in front - behind) each other at 90 degrees to create a tight square.

Try to centre the square with equal lengths of unwoven flax extending beyond the 4 sides. This will allow the walls to reach a maximum height.

Use pegs or clips to hold the corners and prevent things sliding apart or loosening up too much while you work. Some slippage is inevitable and can be rectified as the basket takes shape.

Creating the corners of the flax basket

Details  The 4 corners of the basket are located at the mid point along each of the 4 sides of the square, half way between each of the red pegs. This is why 2 sets of an even number of strips is required, so that the side can be divided in half.

The 3 on the left are woven through the 3 on the right, continuing the weaving pattern of over - under to create a vertical triangle. Clip the tip of the triangle to hold it.

Repeat this process with the remaining 3 corners so you have 4 of these triangles rising from the flat floor of the basket
Joining the corners and raising the sides of the woven basket

Joining the corners and raising the sides of the woven basket

Details  Starting from the original corners of the square (where the red pegs are) weave the strips together to join one triangle to the next adjacent one.

Working on the lower areas of the sides continue the weaving pattern of over and under / in front and behind to fill in and raise the sides.
Reducing gaps and creating the tighter weave

Reducing gaps and creating the tighter weave

Details  Flax is shiny and slippery and has a tendency to shift and loosen as you work. As you go it will be necessary to tighten the strips against one another to reduce the gaps and strengthen the basket.

Start from the base and work out / up the sides closing gaps.

Work in the direction of the red arrows and pull the strips on the right against their opposites on the left in the directions indicated in blue.

Depending on what you want to use the basket for you may want to have some amount of space between the strips. The tighter the weaving the more rigid the basket will be and less likely to deform over time.

Finishing off and locking the top of the sides

Details  You can choose to end the sides at any time but a maximum height is set based on the length of the flax strips (in combination with their width and quantity).

Leave yourself at least 10 - 15cm of flax left to turn down and weave back down through the sides. The tips can be folded either inward or outward based on your own preferences but outward is easier whilst learning.

Cutting a point on the end of the strip makes it easier to feed through the tight weave below.

Work around the top of the side finishing the weave up to the height where you can fold the strips over and create a uniform height to the sides.

The final edge will be a series of 12 points.

 Related

Create a simple flax basket

We will teach you how to weave a traditional Maori square basket. Made from natural flax fibre grown at blockhill, this simple pattern can be used to create baskets of various sizes.

Identify, harvest and prepare flax leaves before weaving your own small basket to take away.
1 hour
$40.00
Practical uses for flax

Practical uses for flax

New Zealand Flax, the native Phormium tenax, is an excellent plant to include in the forest garden. Not only does it grow in almost all conditions from wet to dry and full sun to shade, flax has some great practical applications.

The plant produces tall flower stalks that feed native bell birds. These stalks can be over 2 meters long and can be used for poles in the garden. While not as long lasting as bamboo, the flax poles decay after a season or 2, they are extremely light and easy to work with.

The flax leaves contain extremely tough fibres making them ideal fro tying and weaving. From simple rope to intricate baskets, woven mats and dental floss, the flax leaves and fibres are very versatile and durable.

I use flax constantly for tying and training plants. Being biodegradable is an added bonus as it breaks down into the soil and trees tied with flax will not strangle.