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What is a Wicker Basket?

Woven baskets were uncovered in the ruins of Pompeii.
A basket made using the wicker process.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 March 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A wicker basket is a basket which has been woven from a stiff fiber such as plastic, twisted paper fiber, willow branches, canes, or reeds. The term “wicker” refers to any sort of end-product achieved by weaving various fibers together, and a number of wicker products can be seen on the market, ranging from chairs to storage baskets. Wicker baskets come in an array of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles, and they are often available from home supply stores, antique stores, and stores which specialize in décor.

The practice of making wicker baskets appears to be ancient, with wicker being one of the earliest art forms practiced by humans. Remains of ancient woven baskets have been found in places like Egypt, North America, and Pompeii, displaying a wide variety of weaving techniques and styles. In the modern era, well-maintained antique wicker is quite a collector's item, with baskets over 100 years old fetching high prices at stores and auctions.

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To construct a wicker basket, the basket weaver first makes a frame from strong, stout, flexible materials like young willow branches. Then, the fiber is woven around the framework to create a lightweight, very flexible basket. Patterns can be created by using different-colored fibers, varying the weaving techniques, or painting the basket after it has been woven. In the case of wicker baskets made from wooden branches and twigs, it is common practice to moisten the basket making material to make it more flexible, which also causes the basket to shrink slightly when it dries, tightening the fiber to make the basket even sturdier.

Plain wicker baskets are readily available, but it is also possible to purchase baskets with fabric or plastic liners, or baskets which have been treated so that they are waterproof. These baskets can be used to organize all sorts of things, from laundry to incoming mail.

For people who want to experiment with basket making on their own, many craft stores sell the supplies for wicker basket making. It is also possible to take classes which offer training in basic techniques under the supervision of an experienced weaver. These classes can also be a great resource for people who want to learn about special weaving patterns.

Caring for a wicker basket is generally easy. The basket should be regularly vacuumed or dusted to prevent dust from accumulating, and wiping the basket down with a soft, moist cloth periodically is also recommended. If something is spilled on the basket, it should be mopped up immediately with a towel to prevent staining. Keeping baskets out of damp environments is highly advised, as a wicker basket can become moldy, and it is difficult to get the mold out once it gains a foothold.

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