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Weave An Organic Basket Using Tree Branches - From My Family In Pakistan

Tree branches and craftsmanship makes this useful woven basket, an exclusive DIY project all the way from my family in Pakistan, to you! ...

Tree branches and craftsmanship makes this useful woven basket, an exclusive DIY project all the way from my family in Pakistan, to you!

Any Pakistani will tell you that life in the village is simpler. I think it's gorgeous. Give me a meadow to roam any day over city-life. Over 20 years eco-mum had a college project to present the resourcefulness of another country. Naturally, she chose her grandparents' homeland: Pakistan, Rawalpindi.

Above is a scene that's most likely older than me, showing a clever way to weave your own basket using thin stalks or bamboo. Recycling... and trees? That's The Eco Muslim way to rock'n'roll.

Despite all the amenities now available in Pakistan, during the '70s there was no electricity, only lanterns. The streets felt more lit up. Fields of crops were guarded at night and wheat was ground into flour by hand mills. Water pumps hadn't become widely available so community wells were shared while the richer families had a well dug in the yard.

My family were "better off" with two wells, a rooftop garden of spices and herbs, horses, oxen, and a chicken shack. I helped build the chicken hut out of thick mud bricks and straw, loved it. I think I was 7 or 8 years old, I remember running in and out of a small room, filling it with hay for the hens to lay their eggs in. During visits I would be the first one up, running to the top of the hay-hill to pick a freshly laid white egg for breakfast. Give me a meadow...

How to make a woven basket

What you need
  • 16 x 2m tree branches, at least 1cm in thickness. Use the lower branches of an old trees that does not produce fruit (it's not Islamic to cut a healthy or fruiting plant). Strip them of any thorns and leaves. These branches will make the main skeleton.
    • OR... buy ready made wooden arcs made from natural wood. These are flat panels with a pre-set curve in them so they're flexible.
  • 50 x 1m thin tree stalks. The younger branches at the top of a tree are more flexible and easy to snap or bend. These thinner stalks will be used to weave the base and walls of the basket. Strip them using a switchblade and nip the ends for a uniform finish.
    • OR... the same length in hemp twine; bamboo strips; or any other water-resistant natural material with which you can weave.
  • 2m of palm fibre or hemp twine. This is your fastening material.

How to construct it
  1. Cut the thicker tree branches (arcs) in quarters so you have 64 x 0.5m branches. Group them into 16 sets of 4.
  2. Get a friend to help you - Take the first set of 4 and hold just the ends over one another into a large cross (+). Wrap the twine around two then the other two until they are secure and do not move. Do not cut the twine yet.
  3. Take another set and lay them slightly over at another angle to get a fab shape with 8 branches. Tightly tie these down using the twine. It doesn't matter at this stage whether your basket is 'round-ish' or looks like a tent. What matters is that nothing is falling apart. Before you move onto the next stage tie each branch onto the next securely.
  4. Lift the tied branches and using the remaining 14 sets, add more cross shapes and tie to the first 8 at the top-centre, or the base. Tie each so it's facing down and not flat. Shuffle each set of branches together so that you're left with a wig-wag/tent/bowl shaped construction where a total of 16 main groups each have the 4 shorter branches.
  5. Now the fun part: Take one of the thinner 1m stalks and place on the inside at the bottom (the base) of the criss-cross branches. Thread it through one of the larger branches to start then pull through the other groups, going over, under and so on until it's completely woven. Pull it out very tightly from one end and thread it through onto a second row if long enough. Push it down to close any gaps.
  6. Take the remaining thin stalks and thread through the groups of larger branches by pushing it down from the top. Start from where the last branch ended. It's easier starting from the top and pulling them down instead of threading them through, especially if they're not too flexible. 
  7. Overlap the longer branches and pull them to create the curve of the basket.
  8. When you get to the last 2-4 thin stalks, measure how much the groups of thicker branches are sticking out of the basket. If it's more than 15 cm, cut them off from the top to this length.
  9. Working with only one thick branch from each group at a time, bend it over as close as possible and twist it into the thinner branches you've been weaving so that it's slotted tightly between. 
  10. After twisting or slotting 16 thick branches, weave the last 3-4 thin stalks between every single branch. Tie a knot if possible with the ends or use short lengths of twine to keep the top-rim from opening up.
  11. Do the same with the remaining thick branches and thin stalks: tucking one large branch down and weaving one thin all the way around. None of the branches should be poking out or coming undone. Don't cut anything. Just use the twine to secure everything down and tuck every end down into the others.

The finished woven basket using only tree branches and fibre. Completely free, organic, and beautiful. Pictured with fuel: straw and mud patties used for lighting files.

What to do with it?
  • Flip it upside down to create a kids' hide-out
  • Hoist it with a large stick to roof pets 
  • Throw in all the clean laundry on a fine summer's day
  • Cover it with fabric and fill it with cushions for an outdoor seat
  • Use it to carry toys, hay, old leaves or compost

How totally awesome is that?

Peace + eco-jihad.
Zaufishan, The Eco Muslim

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