Primitive Basket Weaving

My friend taught us how to weave a primitive basket from thin boughs of western red cedar (Thanks, Shea!).  It was fun and inspiring to realize just how much could be done with natural materials all around us.  As my friend described it, the indigenous who used to make these baskets could make them in no time at all, just on the go while foraging, like grabbing a basket at the supermarket.  But as a novice, this took me ALL day:


Primitive Basket – Surprisingly, it can hold quite a bit of weight!

What do you need to do this?

  • A bunch of thin cedar boughs (has to be green, as you need them flexible)
  • A knife
  • Pruning shears (optional, but helpful)
  • Some patience

1. Clear off the leaves, so you’re left with just the long thin bough

Removing leaves from boughs
Cedar boughs all prepared

2.  Peel off the bark into long strips.  To do this, I ran my knife along the length of the branch.  Then peeled open the bark carefully to strip the bark in one piece.

Removing bark from cedar boughs

3. Some of the thicker branches may need to be split in half or quartered to make them thin enough to weave with.

Slicing the tips of the boughs in half.  Tip: Insert knife blade and twist to separate the fibers
Pull apart the halves.  Tip: When one half begins to become too narrow and is at risk of splitting off, pull on the other half.

4. Then you create the skeleton of the basket, which consists of 5 rings.  These rings are made by just twisting the ends of the boughs together.  There should be 2 sizes of rings.  3 of the rings should be bigger, 2 of them smaller.  The smaller rings will make up each open side of the basket, and the larger rings will be in between them.

Skeleton of the basket – 5 rings.  Large Rings (orange), Small Rings (blue)

5. These rings are then bound together by weaving the strips of bark through a section of the rings.  This now forms the handle of the basket.

Handle of the primitive basket

6. Then you weave the thin boughs through the rings in the same way.  Be sure to weave a bit on each side of the basket handle, alternating regularly, to keep the tension in the basket even.  As you weave the boughs through the rings, start to fan out the bottom part of the rings, so that the bottom of the basket is wider than the handle.

Weaving the boughs through the rings

One last trick – if you take all the live-long day like I did, the green boughs you picked earlier in the day will be all dried and not flexible anymore.  So you can soak them for a couple of hours and they will become more flexible again.


You keep on weaving, trying not to get too confused and when your basket doesn’t have huge gaping holes anymore, you’re done!

Primitive picnic basket 😉 (this one woven by my friend)




6 Replies to “Primitive Basket Weaving”

    1. Thanks for reading Meike! I’m so happy if you found it useful – it was really fun to make and it is very functional. 😀


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