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Baskets from the hills or from you won weed patch; you weave sweet-smelling wild grass.

You weave sweet-smelling wild grass

Bring the outdoors in with rustic, sweet-smelling baskets made from the tall, wild grasses proliferating in vacant lots, along roadsides, or perhaps in an unruly corner of your own back yard. We used wild oats--although any lanky grass will do--and coiled bundled stalks into raffia-bound baskets inspired by Los Angeles basket weaver Judy Mulford. While nothing beats the smell and greenish tinge of fresh grass, hobby shops have suitable dried grass. (If you harvest outside your garden, ask before cutting; also hose grasses off to remove any dust, chemical sprays, or insects.)

Gathering your greens

Wild oats, which grown in many parts of the West, have great weaving qualities: stalks are long (generally over 15 inches), and they have plump, decorative ears. Other choices are brome; canary, fountain, or rattlesnake grass; millet; blue rye; and wheat. To decorate the basket, consider weaving other plants into the sides; raid your own garden or visit a florist. As you look for grass, pick stalks as they're turning from green to gold (generally April through June in California, as early as March in the desert, and as late as August in the Northwest). Grass that is too dry will break; too wet, it will distort the basket shape as it dries. If you must pick grass green, let it dry indoors for a few days before weaving. Tools for the project include garden shears for clipping, and scissors, a large-eyed tapestry needle, and a bag of raffia (available at florists or crafts supply stores) for binding the cut stalks.

Shaping them into baskets

For the basket base, follow steps 1 through 3. (If you're using dried grass, soak it for 3 hours first, then pat dry.) As you weave, keep rows a uniform thickness, feeding a new stalk bundle, stem end first, into the old bundle as it begins to thin out. Beyond the first row, stitches can be about 1/2 inch apart. For the side, coil each row on top of the preceding row. Feed dried flowers or ornamental grasses into the bundles as you move toward the basket rim. On the straight-sided crayon holder, side rows are the same circumference. For the larger fruit basket, side rows widen, then tighten as they rise toward the rim. To complete the rim, wrap raffia two or three times around the top row where the coil ends, feed raffia down through the center of two or three rows, then clip to conceal the end. As your basket dries, it will turn brownish green (those started with dried grasses retain their original color).
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1990
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