When my husband decided to get back into leather carving, I really did not enjoy tooling. I also was not very good at carving. I started looking for other things to do with leather. Fortunately, leather is a very versital medium.
Shortly after he started back, he purchased tools and other materials from a retiring leather worker. It was my job to sort through things and find a place for things to go. (Surprise, surprise)
In a 1983 Leathercraftsman magazine I found an article by Rachel Stansbury on making a leather basket. After making a basket following her directions, I made a few modifications. Since then I have made one for each of my grandchildren and great grandchildren with thier name and birthdates stamped on the handles.
I tried to find Rachel, but was unable to do so. I talked with the owner of the Leather magazine. She stated that when they bought the magazines, they also got the rights to the articles. She encouraged me to share this information.
Step 1: A Leather Basket
Tools needed are:
- 1 4x4 block of wood 6 1/4 inches long
- 24 Aluminum nails
- 2 Rivets
- 2 pronged lacing needles
- Beeswax or paraffin
- Leather strap cutter or ruler and knife to cut straps to size
- Rotary punch using the 2nd tube
- Nippers or scissors
- Rivet setter
- Drill with 1/8 inch bit
- Container for water
Matrials needed are:
- Dye, optional
- Dauber or tray for dye, optional
- Old towel if dying leather
- 5 yards of 1/8 inch lace
- Leather strips of 4/5 ounce(may use leather up to 8/9 ounce)
- 3 strips 1 inch wide by 22 inches long
- 6 strips 3/4 inches wide by 12 inches long
- 1 strip 3/4 inches wide by 22 inches long
- 4 strips 3/4 inches wide by 14 inches long
Step 2: A Leather Basket
Prepare the block of wood. Make sure the 4x4 has square edges. If you need to buy a 4x4, you can either cut the board with a chop saw or have the lumber yard cut it to size. The block of wood needs to be 6 1/4 inches long.
Since our laterals are 1 inch wide,you will need to measure down 1/2 inch from the top of the form for the top holes, which will hold the leather on the form while weaving the basket. Draw a line all around the form at 1/2 inch.
Since the vertical strips are 3/4 inch wide, you will need to mark for holes 3/8 inches from each corner of the form. The remaining lateral holes will need to be 3/4 inch on center.
Holding the form with the long side facing you, go to the end to your right and add two vertical holes below the first hole at 1/2 inch on center. This side is the beginning and ending for the basket. Drill all of the marked holes with the drill and a 1/8 inch drill bit. The holes do not have to be too deep.
Step 3: A Leather Basket
Dying the basket is optional. I chose to use a dauber and repeat the coats until the dye was even. You can fix a tray with dye and run the strips through it. This method seems to use more dye and is sloppier. There are leather dyes available, and I have used wood stain before.
Let the leather dry before going to the next step.
Step 4: A Leather Basket
- Soak the strips of leather in water just until wet through. Lay on an old towel, especially if you dyed the leather. I like to sort them by sizes with the handle strip in with the 12 inch strips.
- With the rotary punch set on the second tube, punch a hole in one end of each strip 1/2 inch from the end. Be sure to center the hole both vertically and horizontally.
- Take one of the 1 inch strips and anchor it in one of the holes in the end with the 3 vertical holes(The beginning of the basket). Go to the left long side and lightly stretch the leather to the end of that side. Mark where the holes go.This is the only strip that will have holes all around the basket. Do Not punch holes any further at this time or the holes will not match up.
- Use the rotary punch to punch these holes. Take the aluminum nails and anchor the first hole on the end. If you use a nail with ferrous(iron) material, it will cause a black spot on the leather.
- The next strips to be used are the 12 inch and handle strips. I like the handle to be an under strip so I take the first 12 inch strip and place it on top of the top row and anchor it with a nail. The rest of the strips are placed alternately under and over. Remember the 4th strip is the handle strip.
- Take the next 1 inch horizontal strip and go down to the next start hole and alternate under and over, in the opposite pattern as the first row. Repeat with the third strip by alternating over and under.
Note that sometimes the over strips don't stay nailed until after the 2nd and third horizontal strips are added.
Step 5: A Leather Basket
- The 14 inch strips are next. Mark and punch the holes on the top horizontal that are on the end of the form. Continue with the alternating sequence.
- Turn the form upside down and weave the bottom of the basket, continuing with the alternating sequence. At this time, you can pull the strips both to straighten and tighten the weave.
Step 6: A Leather Basket
- Now move onto the second long side of the form. Mark and punch the holes in the top horizontal. Weave each vertical up, pulling the leather firmly. Mark and punch the holes as you go, and anchor with the nails.
- On the last side of the form,weave each of the verticals strips individually and punch the holes as you go. The very last vertical line of leather will have an additonal layer to be punched.
- Trim off excess leather even with the top of the form. Be careful NOT to cut the handle- although you can just make a basket without a handle if that happens.
- After trimming anchor the handle in the other side of the basket so that it curves while drying.
Step 7: A Leather Basket
- Let the basket dry on the form overnight.
- Remove the nails and carefully remove the basket from the form. Sometimes the top row will separate from the basket. If that happens it is very easy to see how they go back together. Once leather dries it will hold the shape that was formed.
- Put a rivet on each side of the basket handle just above the holes punched for the nails. This gives a little more stability to the handle
Step 8: A Leather Basket
- This step will tie the basket together. Before starting the lacing, you should "break" the lace. All this means is to take the lace and pull it over the edge of a table. This makes the lace more pliable and straighter. Run the lace through the beeswax or paraffin to help prevent fraying.
- Place a needle on each end of the lace. While lacing, it is important to keep the good or shiny side of the lace showing on the outside of the basket. This will entail twisting the lace at times.
- Pull the lace through the bottom hole of the vertical end with the 3 holes. Divide the lace evenly. Run both of the needles through the next 2 holes. This should give you a solid line of lace up the end of the basket and puts one needle on each side of the basket.
- Take the lace that is on the outside of the basket and insert it into the next hole to the right. Loop that lace over the top of the basket and run it back through the first hole.
- Take the second lace and loop it over the top of the basket into the second hole.
- Take the first piece of lace and on the inside of the basket, take it back through the second hole. That completes the sequence for the lacing.
- Now repeat these steps all around the basket. Be careful to keep the lace from looping around the handle.
- When you reach the end of the basket, thread both ends of the lace to the inside of the basket and tie it off. Put a drop of glue on the knot.
At this point you may spray a finish on the basket. I use neat lac spray, but any finish can be used.