Introduction: Create a Rustic Picnic Basket With Liner

About: ...after 30 years of becoming corporately numb, my dreams of not working (for pay) and instead creating with my hands has become a reality. Life is grand!

My sweetie surprised me with a tandem bike from Craigslist and we have since explored many beautiful country roads.   

To surprise him back, I made a picnic basket with inexpensive items found in our house and at the  thrift store.  

By keeping a basket stocked with non-perishables and adding a few favorite foods, we can now focus on finding the perfect picnic spot as we pump along.

This instructable will show you how to convert an open basket to a picnic basket, complete with handles, liner and a built-in table top.

Step 1: Gather Materials

This project uses materials that are easily found in your home and/or at the thrift store, and include:
  • Basket (large enough to hold picnic items)
  • Game board (for lid)
  • 1-1.5 yd sturdy canvas/denim fabric (for liner)
  • Large Adjustable Wooden Embroidery Hoop (optional for handle support*)
  • 2 Leather Belts (for handle, but not shown*)
  • 85-100" of Leather Binding/Boot Laces
  • 8 Washers
  • 5 Large Wooden/Leather Buttons
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Access to basic Sewing tools (for liner)
  • 4 Clamps (or extra set of hands), Wood Glue, Handsaw, Awl and Drill are also helpful, but not necessary
*While a large wooden (embroidery hoop) handle will support a (very!) light picnic, I decided to take a "belt and suspenders" approach by adding leather straps to the basket.  As a result the 2 leather belts are missing from the photo.

The combination wood/leather handles provide greater support and adds to the rustic appeal.  Should one prefer a more casual look, steps referring to the wooden embroidery hoop can be ignored.

Step 2: Sew the Liner

The liner has been designed to hold non-perishable items on the inside walls of the basket, without a bottom since the picnic blanket and plates will sit on the bottom, providing protection and insulation to the food stored on top.
  • For liner ties, cut 4 pieces of fabric approximately 1.5" x 10". Fold under edges, topstitch, and press to resemble a "V".
  • For the liner, cut 2 strips of fabric that approximates:   Basket Height PLUS 2" by Basket Perimeter PLUS 2".  (The extra 2" is for hem and seam allowence adjustments.)  Turn the two sides under by 1/2", and hem.
  • Fold and stitch a 3" hem (across/horizontally) on one of the cut lengths, and a 1.5" hem on the other length.   When completed the narrow length will be 1.5" less than the wider strip.
  • With right sides facing toward you, place the narrow length of fabric BEHIND the wider strip, and stitch a 1/2" seam (across/horizontally) along the unhemmed edge.  Bring the narrow length in FRONTof the wider strip, press and topstitch 1/4" from edge so the right sides of the fabric are facing the same direction.  This step has created the bottom edge of the liner pockets.
  • Tack one "V" tab at the corner of the liner and tie it to the basket. 
  • Using clamps (or a 2nd pair of hands) identify where the 3 remaining corners require a "V" tab and pin.  Remove liner from basket and stitch down the 3 tabs, leaving an exposed side of the liner which will not be stitched at this time.
  • Lay the liner on a flat surface and decide what items are going to be stored in the basket.  Because very few items can be placed in a corner, assume that 1" on either side of the "V" tab might not be usable for storage.  Also, because items have an associated thickness, be sure to consider additional pocket width for each item.
  • For instance, my basket measures 14" on one side and after subtracting 1" from the end of each corner tab suggests only 12" (or 14"- 1"-1") is available for pockets on that side of the basket liner.  Within that 12", I played with the spacing required for the specific items/pockets. With this in mind I then applied the following spacing when determining how wide my pockets should be spaced:
  • Knite, Fork, Spoon, Simple First Aid Items (2")
  • Tablecloth clips, Several sets of utensils stacked on each other (3")
  • Corkscrew, Bug Repellant, Sunscreen  (4"-4.5")
  • Hand Sanitizer Chip Clip, Clean Bag for Trash, Miscellaneous Pocket(4.5- 5")
  • Snacks like Gum, Mints, Granola Bars (5")
  • Paper Napkins (7")

  • Once pocket spacing is determined, draw a line and stitch down (vertically) the 2 layers of fabric, creating the pocket.   After all pockets are created, finish up by sewing the top of the exposed corner to the corner with the first "V" tab, leaving an open pleat for expansion in the basket.
  • Set aside until it's time to assemble the picnic basket.

Step 3: Form Support Handles From the Embroidery Hoop (optional)

Although considered an optional step, the wood from the embroidery hoops provides additional support to the leather handles...
  • After removing hardware from the outer ring and sawing the inner ring, soak the 2 lengths of wood in the tub of water so that the wooden hoops can relax.
  • After a few hours, try to manually straighten the hoops and lessen the (circle) memory.  Return to the water and repeat every few hours until pliable.  If the hoops were formed with several layers of wood glued together, expect the water to separate the glue during the soaking process.  When straightening the hoops, it's OK if the layers separate as long as you have one continuous length for each handle. 
  • Should someone need to use the tub before the hoop is fully pliable, consider using the back of a chair to assist in straightening the hoop.
  • Once pliable, align the wood along the side of the basket and clamp in place until it dries.
  • Once dried, cut to the desired length and drill a hole approximately 1" above each end.  Apply wood glue to reinforce the area surrounding the hole and set aside.

Step 4: Create Leather (outside) Handle

Two belts are used to create a strong handle and add to the rustic look.  Notice that a belt has a notched side, and and "un-notched" side (where the buckle is attached).  Once the hardware is removed the belt is considered a leather strap.
  • Separate hardware from belt and attach the buckle to the notched side of the leather strap (this is for decorative purposes only).  
  • Center 10" leather lacing on the back of the buckle/belt hoop, then thread into the basket and through a wooden/leather button, finishing up by knotting the leather lacing. (Knot will later be covered by basket lining)

  • Measure the "un-notched" side of the leather strap against the wooden handle (optional) and add 1.5". 
  • Cut the strap and drill 2 holes approximately 1.5" apart from the bottom of the "un-notched" strap, allowing the leather to fold around itself (and around the optional wooden handle) before attaching to the basket.
  • In the following order, clamp together:  strap (outside is exposed)-washer-optional wooden handle-washer-strap(folded so outsided is exposed).  
  • Working from the outside of the basket, thread 10" leather lacing from the outside of the clamped "un-notched" strap, into the basket (from the outside) around a wooden/leather button, back into the basket (from the inside), and again the clamped holes on the "un-notched" strap.  Tie off with an overhead knot.

  • If using the wooden hoop, spread some wood glue between the wood and leather strap, let dry.
  • Repeat process for the other handle.

Step 5: Make the Basket Top

The top of the picnic basket can remain flat and serve as a table, or opened fully/half way to access it's contents.  By using a game board, a built-in hinge exists even after it is covered with coordinated fabric...
  • Tie a wooden/leather button on to the front of the basket by running a 10" length of leather lacing from the inside of the basket, through the wooden/leather button, and back through the basket.  Tie off with a knot.
  • Position the game board face up on the basket, so that a built-in hinge exists.   Measure the game board against the top of the basket and if necessary, trim to fit the basket perimeter.
  • Drill a hole approximately 1" from the center front of the game board, and drill 2 additional holes on the other end of the game board, approximately 1" from the edge and 1.5" from the end.
  • Using spray adhesive, attach fabric to the top of the game board.  (Or, leave "as is" for a game to play after the food is gone.)
  • Using an awl and the backside of the game board, fine he 3 holes and punch through the fabric top.  
  • With a 10-12" length of leather lacing, thread from the non-fabric side of the game board, around the button and then back through the center hole of the game board, creating a loop to accomodate the button. Tie off with a knot.
  • Cut 2 more 10" lengths and attach the game board to the basket at each of the remaining 2 holes.  Tie off with a knot.

Step 6: Fill the Basket and Enjoy You Picnic!

Now it's time to place the liner inside the basket and fill with non-perishables that will stay in the basket for each picnic.

Having a sturdy picnic basket stocked with non-perishables, allows you to quickly pack food/drink and run away to that perfect picnic  location.

Have fun!

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