Raffia is a strong yet pliable leaf material commonly used in a wide variety of craft projects, including baskets. A palm tree from the African continent, the raffia found in craft stores is the dried fibers from the palm leaves. Thin and paper like in appearance and texture, raffia is not easily torn, especially when bunched together. Woven raffia creates a softer, more flexible style of basket than woody, thicker materials and is easy to work with. The fibers can be woven like grass or rushes, and when bunched together and coiled make a strong basket with a tight weave.
Things You'll Need
- Size #14 to #18 hand sewing needle
- Raffia grass
Thread a single strip of raffia into the hand sewing needle. Use a large gauge hand sewing needle ranging in size from #14 to a #18 shank. A curved hand sewing needle can also be used if preferred.
Grasp a bundle of raffia grass about 1/4 inch in thickness.
Lay 1 inch of the tail end of the strand of raffia threaded through the needle, on the end of the raffia bunch. Bring the strand of raffia back around the bunch and over itself, wrapping it around the bundle and securing the tail beneath the wrap. Do two wraps around, then thread the needle down through the center of the raffia bundle, beneath the two loops you wrapped, to secure the raffia you are using as thread.
Bring the needle back out of the center of the bunch beneath the two wrapped loops. Continue wrapping the raffia thread down the bundle, laying the strands tightly together as you work, until it covers 1 1/2 inches of the bundle.
Grasp the end of the bundle where you began wrapping, and begin coiling it in a tight, flat spiral. Coil until you reach the end of the wrapped section. Hold this tight by pinching it together in the fingers of the hand you do not use to sew.
Bring the needle up through the center of the coil. Whip stitch around the inner coil, stitching it to the coil adjacent to it on the outside. Continue stitching until you have all the coils you wound secured. Whip stitch means bringing the thread up between fibers, then over, around, and back down through a few strands of the next coil, drawing them together.
Begin coiling the unwrapped raffia bundle around the outside of the inner wrapped coil. Whip stitch the raffia in place in a continuing wider and wider coil as you go. The stitches should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart depending on how tight you want the basket weave.
Add raffia bunches to the one already being sewn as it runs out, by overlapping strands of the new bunch with the ending bunch as you coil and sew.
Add new raffia to the needle when the strand runs out, by threading a new piece in with the old, 4 inches before it runs out. Overlap the two strands when stitching so both are secured and form a continuous thread.
Coil and sew until the mat is the size of the base of basket you want.
Form the sides of the basket by bringing the raffia bundle up on top of the last coil you sewed on the rim of the base. Stack the bundles, continuing to coil and sew, but vertically now rather than in a flat formation.
Manipulate the basket walls by gradually widening, or reducing the coils as you stack them. To widen, offset the top coil just slightly further out from the one below it. To reduce, use the same technique but move them to the inside, rather than out. This technique is used to form a bowl shaped basket, or one with a smaller opening than sides.
Finish off by wrapping the raffia bundle with a tight spiral at the end, just like was done for the beginning. Wrap the bundle until you reach the end point, then clip the excess grass tails if any are left. Put the needle down through the tip of the wrapped end, and bring it out through the bundle. Create a loop by putting the needle through the coil, and then thread the raffia with the needle through the loop, then draw tight to secure the end. Clip off any excess.