How to make a paper basket
December 2, 2011 by Selka
Would you like to make a strong, beautiful basket, entirely out of paper? That’s right- no glue, no scotch tape; just paper (although a few staples will make it easier, they aren’t necessary).
This is a fantastic way to recycle old, garbage books. How they look and feel is all about the finish of the paper you use, and the colour, and the width of the strips that you make.
The finished product is surprisingly stiff and durable, perfect for papers and yarn, kittens and craft supplies (though not at the same time). It takes 2-3 hours to make one.
I made a pair of baskets (the prototypes) last Christmas out of some ancient “home medical” encyclopedias. My mom loves them. The medical book boxes are a pastel monochrome, while two of these are all bright blocks of colour, both made from a discarded coffee table book about the 1988 Winter Olympics, full of beautiful photographs. The smaller monochrome basket turned out quite lovely, made from the B&W program from the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies. The Olympics theme was coincidental.
With these simple supplies (the stapler is optional and the clothespins merely helpful), you too can go from this...
...to this. Cat not included.
Start with some paper; tear that book apart. Glossy paper is nice and heavy and holds a fold, which is a good property for a sturdy basket.
Fold the short edges of edge piece of paper over, about 3/4 of an inch.
Fold the pages in half lengthwise, with the side you want to see showing. Half of the pages will have that end fold to the inside, and some to the outside (this will become more clear soon).
Fold one half of the sheet into the center...
...and the other side.
Now unfold the pages. That's right. Here we have an example of the end fold both to inside and outside.
Link the pages together like this. This is why you need some end folds going the opposite way, to hook into each other.
Here's what that looks like up close.
Do this in a series: link several pages together. I was making three and four-page strips.
Now refold your linked strip as a unit- one side...
...and closed. This creates a band with all the cut and rough edges hidden, and lots of longitudinal strength (tug it and see).
Staples are an option here. Staple right at the edge through the folds where the paper laps, and the staples will be entirely hidden inside when the strip is folded. Turn to staples if you're frustrated with the sections popping apart.
Make lots of strips. Start overlapping them. Now you're weaving.
It is important to have the tails equal length on each side. They should be as long as you want the sides of your basket high, plus twice the width of your strips. In this case, that's the desired height of basket, plus about 4". With one inch strips, it would be desired height plus 2". Make sense?
Stop when the overlapping area is as big as you want the bottom of your basket to be. Mine is five courses wide and seven courses long, and that's about 12 x 19"
Snug all the strips together tightly. No spaces between.
It's time for an extra long strip, maybe best made by putting two shorter strips together. The clothespins are useful here, two joints away from the joint you're working on, to keep the whole thing from popping apart.
Now it gets wild. Fold up every second strip, and wrap your extra-long strip around, on its edge. Liberal use of clothespins is a good idea at this stage to hold things where you want them, especially for me with the slidy glossy paper.
Wrap the big loop right around, creasing the corners of it. Erring on the side of tight here is better, but this is where you figure out exactly how long your side strips need to be . There are a couple of options for the joinery on the long strip. You can cut it off, like this, with a couple inches of overlap...
...and then wrestle... I mean - use the standard 3/4" end fold overlap, only use it to create a loop. Staples and clothespins recommended. You can see here how the adjacent joint opened on me just as the picture snapped.
That way you end up with a nice circle the size of your basket perimeter (this is what I did, because it's very strong. It's a little more difficult.
OR you can lap one end of the band under/inside the other, as shown, but the lap should be several inches, and you must place the joint on a corner of the basket. If you sleeve the two together, one inside the other (not shown), it's even better. Both pieces must overlap and turn a corner, otherwise they will just slide apart. Incidentally, orienting your horizontal strips so the single fold is up (as shown), is a little more attractive.
The second horizontal tier is where the sloppy mass of strips attains the resemblance of an actual basket form. Now that you know the exact circumference of your baskets, fold up all the other strips, and weave your perimeter pieces on.
The third tier makes it downright look like a basket. This is where I stopped, but you can go as high as you wish. It is very important to snug down all the strips. Give the tails a firm upward tug and push down the horizontal bands. You can fold over a band on each side and clip with a clothespin to keep them tight.
Finishing the top: give the tails a good tug, and fold them snug over the top
Crease it where it will land once it's folded under the top band. If the tail is longer than twice the width of your strip, trim it.
Tuck it in...
and tuck it right to smoothly flat. Repeat all around the basket, folding in every second tab.
I did all the tabs that fold out first, and then did all the inside tabs. It doesn't really matter the order, as long as each tail is tugged equally snug.