After my brief investigation of rushes last year, I got it into my head that come early summer, I would go to the drainage pond behind my house, collect a bunch of rushes, and make a basket out of them. But when the time came, I thought, "Are you, in fact, mad? You have never made a basket before, except that wicker one back when you were eight. Maybe it would be better to do a trial piece using materials that will not occupy the entire basement for several weeks while they dry out."
I should also point out that my only evidence for basketry for my general period is a single mention in this 1921 report on the Oseberg burial and this single picture (which comes from a Norwegian museum photo database). The report says that the basket is made "of bast" (plant fibers) and the picture shows that it's coiled work, and the stitch used.
I went and got some 5/32" diameter hemp cord from the jewelry section of the craft store. The word hemp comes from Old English and is mentioned in the Leechdom, c. 1000 CE. I actually doubt it would have been used in a basket this way - why use up your good and useful cordage to make a basket when you can turn otherwise useless reeds into a basket? But since I didn't have to make the hemp cord, it was a labor savings for me.
I thought about using my linen thread to sew the coils, but decided that for a trial piece, some of the random perl cotton lying about the house would be just fine. I got a large tapestry needle to use as an awl.
Basket 1 was supposed to be a flat, circular bottom piece, as seen in the Oseberg picture. But I lost control of the shape quickly and it turned into a small cup. I cut my losses, and the hemp, and called it complete. It's about the right size to catch earrings or loose change or other small items.
Basket 2 is coming along much better. The bottom isn't perfectly flat, but it's close enough. Coiling the bottom seemed to take forever, with few markers of progress, while building up the sides feels more rewarding. I want to make a lid, but that means making another flat coil. Bleah. We'll see. I could also put a handle on it and use it as a purse-like carrier.
I think I am using the same stitch as the Oseberg basket, but because I'm using thread instead of a wide weaver, it looks different.
It's a nice little handicraft, very portable. I need my ball of hemp, my ball of cotton, my needle and snips. Hard on the hands, especially if you don't take the time to gently wiggle the needle between the coils and try to force it through instead.
I'll try and get some pictures up. Finally found the battery charger and the camera at the same time.