The Wire Harvesting Basket is made using a simple basket weave technique where a long strand of material, wire in this case, is placed under and over spokes which radiate from the center. Strong wire is needed for a harvesting basket so that it can carry the load of a bountiful harvest and still keep its shape.
The harvesting basket is perfect for harvesting all types of produce and root crops from the garden. It has other uses which I will share as well.
Step 1: Creating a Unique Item From Discarded Fencing Material
A coworker had collected barbed wire from an old fencing project and left varying lengths of old barbed wire in the bed of the work truck. I decided to recycle the wire as it was otherwise going to be sent to the landfill. I took it to the recycling center and was surprised to hear that they did not accept wire. I didn’t want to just throw it away so challenged myself to come up with a creative way to use the wire and decided on making a wire harvesting basket.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
Barbed wire is perfect for making a harvesting basket. It is typically a double strand of 12.5 gauge (2.24 mm) galvanized steel wire. It is stiffer than similar wire yet pliable enough to shape and make loops.
This project only requires the following simple hand tools:
When working with wire, always wear safety glasses and gloves. There is enough “spring” in the wire which could cause it to move unpredictably and unexpectedly potentially resulting in serious eye damage. The barbs are sharp and can puncture or scratch exposed skin. Be sure to keep friends at a safe distance as you work with the springy wire.
Step 3: Preparing the Wire
The barbed wire comes as a double strand, one of which is smooth, the other is barbed. The barbs are made from smaller diameter wire that is coiled around the larger wire with an angle cut on either end. To begin, separate the double strand of barbed wire. The two strands of wire will have slight dips and bends which are the result of the wire having been twisted together. Use the pliers to straighten out the wire as best as you can. It won’t be possible or desirable to completely straighten the wire. The irregularity of the wire adds to the rustic appearance and appeal of the harvesting basket. To remove the barbs, use both pliers to grasp both ends of the barb and bend the ends toward one another to loosen the coil. This will allow the barb to slide off of the larger strand of wire.
Step 4: Creating the Wire Spokes
With the wire cutters, cut 16 pieces approximately 10 inches (255 mm) long from the wire. Use the needlenose pliers to create a loop on one end of the wire. The loop should be small but still large enough so that it will hold another segment of wire. For now, do not fully close the wire loop. Create similar loops, on one end only, for all of the 16 wire pieces. These pieces will radiate outward from the center to create the foundation for the harvesting basket.
Step 5: Forming the Center
Using the longest wire you have, measure approximately 10 inches (255 mm) from the end and make a sharp bend in the wire as seen in Photo 1. Then create a second bend in the opposite direction to form a loop that is roughly 1.5 inches (40 mm) in diameter as seen in Photo 2. Loosely coil the wire clockwise around the center as seen in Photo 3.
Step 6: Begin Weaving
Next thread each of 16 looped wire spokes on to the longer wire so that the spokes are all within the inner circle and roughly radiate in all directions as seen in Photo 1. The 10 inch (255 mm) straight end of the long wire actually becomes the 17th spoke. An odd number of spokes, 17 in this case, are needed to allow for the longer wire to alternately weave around the spokes as the diameter of the harvesting basket increases.
Now take the longer wire and weave it around the spokes so that it alternates around each of the spokes. For the first spoke, bring the longer wire under the spoke. For the second spoke, bring the longer wire over the spoke. For the third spoke, bring the wire under the spoke as seen in Photo 1.
Continue weaving around the 16 looped spokes. When you come to the 17th spoke bring the longer wire underneath it then bring the longer wire over the top of the first spoke as seen in Photo 2. This initial coiling process is the hardest part of this project. The spokes will move out of place along the inner ring and will need to be repositioned as you work the longer wire around each of the 17 spokes. It may require a bit of patience or help from a friend to get the longer wire around the spokes. However, once you start making the second and third rounds, the spokes are now held in place and the spiral weaving is much easier.
Strive to make your spoke spacing and coil spacing as uniform as possible. As mentioned previously, it is not possible or desirable to achieve complete uniformity due to the stiffness of the wire. However, it is best to make an effort to get as much uniformity in as possible otherwise the weaving can become very lopsided and contorted and only gets worse as weaving continues.
Step 7: Adding Additional Spokes
As the weaving progresses the distance between spokes increases requiring the need for additional spokes. Cut an additional 16 spokes approximately 7.5 inches (190 mm) long and bend one end as seen in Photos 1 and 2. Keep the loops open enough so that you can clamp them onto the longer coiled wire. You won’t be able to thread them on as was previously done.
Once you have the fourth coil completed, pause the weaving and insert the smaller spokes on the third coil as seen in Photo 3. Insert the spokes in groups of two taking care to maintain the alternating pattern of the existing spokes. Insert one spoke so that it is under the wire of the fourth coil and then insert the second spoke so that it is over the wire of the fourth coil. Place the smaller spokes where they are most needed to fill large spaces between the existing longer spokes. You don’t need to place the shorter spokes uniformly along the coil. Once you have the spokes correctly inserted use the pliers to pinch the end loops closed so that they do not slide off of the third coil.
Step 8: Continue Weaving
Once the shorter spokes are added continue weaving. In time it will be necessary to splice in another longer wire. Simply make a small loop in the existing coil and a small loop in the new long wire. Join the two loops and use pliers to close the ends of both loops as seen in Photo 1. Despite your best efforts to maintain uniformity in spacing as you weave, the stiffness of the wire causes irregularities. It seems that the end result is a compromise between uniformity and irregularity. The spokes will bend, coil spacing will vary and because the basket is created with a coiling technique, the basket is never truly round but more of an oval in shape. To a perfectionist, the irregularities that are guaranteed to happen may be discouraging. Keep in mind that it is these irregularities that give the harvest basket a unique homemade look. It is important, however, to ensure that the alternating pattern of the weaving is maintained throughout the creation of the harvest basket. The alternate weaving pattern keeps the spokes in place and keeps the basket rigid and strong. It is easy for the weaving to get out of sequence so check your weaving frequently and if you find a place where you deviated from the alternating pattern, unravel the weaving and make the correction. Once you finish the fourth loop, bend the spokes upward to give the harvest basket a shallow bowl shape. Continue weaving as seen in Photo 2.
Step 9: Weaving the Rim of the Harvest Basket
Once you reach the seventh coil, bend the spokes backward and continue weaving to create a rounded rim as seen in Photo 1. Decrease the spacing of the coils so that the coils are closer together. This adds strength to the rim. At around the tenth coil, it is time to make the final round. Look at the basket and find the best place to end the coil. As the basket is slightly oblong and not truly round, the best place to end the coiling is at a point that can help fill in the roundness of the basket. At the ending point bring the outermost coil so that it is as close as possible to the preceding coil as seen in Photo 2. To end the coil, make a loop at the end and clamp it around the nearest spoke (Photo 2). You may need to cut the wire so that it connects to the nearest spoke. Finally bend the ends of the spokes over the outermost coil as seen in Photos 3 and 4. Place pliers or some other object in between the coils as you bend the spoke ends. This helps preserve the space between the coils, as bending the spoke ends squashes the coil spacing. Use a file to smooth any protruding wire ends (Photo 5). The finished basket is seen in Photo 6. The next step is to make handles for the harvest basket.
Step 10: Making Handles for the Harvest Basket
Now that the harvesting basket is complete the next step is to make handles. Cut two pieces of wire 24 inches (610 mm) long and bend each one in half. Insert the end of the pliers into the bend of the wire and rotate the wire while holding the wire with the other hand (Photo 1). This creates a double strand wire needed to make the handle. Use two pliers to create a loop at the cut end of the wire as seen in Photo 2. Next cut four pieces of wire approximately 4 inches (40 mm) long and bend to form a loop and slide it into the end loops of the handle (Photo 3). Twist the wire loop closed as seen in Photo 4. Do the same for the rest of the loops as seen in Photo 5. Finally place the wire handles on the harvest basket and determine the desired location to fasten the handles to the basket. Insert the wire loops through the basket and bend the ends over to secure the loops to the basket as seen in Photo 6. The handles come together in the center so that the harvest basket is balanced when loaded with produce from the garden (Photo 7). As seen in Photo 8, the handles also lie flat against the rim of the harvest basket.
Step 11: Ways to Use the Harvest Basket
Now that the harvesting basket is complete, wash and dry the harvesting basket and it is ready for use. The harvest basket is great for harvesting anything from the garden. It is convenient to lay the harvesting basket on the ground and place fresh, pesticide-free vegetables into the basket as soon as they are cut. The harvest basket keeps the vegetables up off of the ground and can be taken into the kitchen directly or hosed off outside before bringing inside. In the Photo I harvested rhubarb for a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Rhubarb is one of the first plants to spring up in the garden.
Step 12: Harvesting Root Vegetables
The harvest basket is especially useful to preclean root crops that are dug from the soil. Simply place sunchokes, for example, into the basket and dunk everything into a tub of water to rinse off a lot of the adhering soil particles. Alternatively, a garden hose could be used to spray the soil off. The harvest basket keeps everything in place. I harvested the onions for everyday cooking. The bulbs and green tops are very flavorful such that a little goes a long way. The sunchokes have been available all winter, kept perfectly fresh under the soil. Now I need to use them quickly before they start sending up new shoots. I add sunchokes to stews and soups. I also pickle them and take them to work to snack on during the day.
Step 13: Display Basket
The Wire Harvesting Basket can also be used as a unique display basket. Here I added weedy forbs and dandelions to the basket and placed colored eggs on top for a colorful seasonal display. Using straw as a base with small colorful pumpkins and ornamental corn would be another display idea for Fall. Conifer branches and colorful holly or other bright berries would make for a creative winter display, both indoors or outdoors.
Step 14: Final Thoughts
The wire harvesting basket is a one-of-a-kind item made from unwanted barbed wire, destined for the landfill. The basket is a great tool for use in the garden to harvest and clean produce. The harvesting basket is incredibly strong and will last for as long as one gardens. It is something that could be passed down to the next generation of gardeners.