Handi-hour Crafting: Coil and Yarn Bowls

  • GLORIA KENYON: Hi, I’m Gloria Kenyon, Public Programs Coordinator for the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, and for this month’s Handi-Hour we are going to be making baskets.

    I’m joined once again by my good friend, Libby Weiler, hi Libby. And she’ll be making a basket as well.

    To do this, it’s super simple. You need your palon coil, yarn - whatever color you like – a tapestry needle. It’s also called a child sewing needle because it’s blunt, it’s long, and it’s got a huge eye for you to thread that yarn through – and a pair of scissors.

    To get your coil started, you just cut a really sharp angle. You can see where I’ve already cut this one, and I’m going to start wrapping my yarn around.

    LIBBY WEILER: Yeah, so what do I do here? I’ve got some yarn.

    GK: So you’ve got yours. Nice. That’s a really sharp angle.

    So you’re going to take your yarn, take one end, and lay it against your coil and hold it.

    So you’re going to put the end of your yarn facing the sharp side.

    LW: How close do you need to be to it?

    GK: I like to give myself about an inch, inch and a half, from the end, and then you start wrapping it around, and as you wrap you want to wrap over that end piece.

    LW: That makes sense.

    GK: So you hold it in place. As I get to my angled piece, I’m not going to wrap on the angles.

    LW: Does it matter which way I bend it?

    GK: As long as you bend it back on itself.

    LW: Ok, so probably that goes this way.

    GK: Yes, you want that flat angle touching the coil.

    So you’re going to take your yarn, and using your other hand, you’re going to hold that point down against and pull the yarn around both pieces.

    So we’re going to wrap.

    LW: You just keep going around both?

    GK: Yes, you wrap it around both until you’ve run out of both the original piece, and you’re back down to a single piece.

    LW: Ok

    GK: At that point, you’re going to wrap for about another inch, or 10 to 15 wraps – whatever seems appropriate to you – and then we’re going to bend it back on itself yet again because we’re going to start coiling the basket together.

    This is where you need about three hands. So I’m going to hold this really tightly to hold it together, I’m going to thread my needle, and then I’m going to take this and come up through that center hole we created and pull my yarn through and hold it together.

    So this is how you’re going to start holding your coils together.

    Now I’m starting to run out of my original piece of yarn. I have another piece of yarn pre-cut. I’m going to lay it down just like I did in the beginning to hold that yarn down. I’m going to wrap my old piece of yarn around my new piece of yarn for about three wraps.

    LW: I’d like to switch colors to this brown.

    GK: So wrap that around for about three to four wraps.

    LW: Now there’s a little bit showing. Is that going to matter?

    GK: Pull that out a little bit. You can also adjust as you make your coils to put that on the inside so it’s not as visible in your finished piece.

    LW: Then I just keep wrapping this one?

    GK: And the tuck your white under so you’re wrapping that tail in.

    Yes, just like that. You’ve got it. Perfect.

    I’ve got a stitch through there to hold it, and then I’m going to keep wrapping individually around this coil.

    Now we’re going to join our two pieces together. I’ve cut them at sharp angles so the angles can match up, and I’ve found that taping them together – and I’m just using some clear tape, you can use masking tape or whatever tape you have on hand – really helps get them adhered. You can then wrap without having to worry about holding them in place while you do it.

    So I’ve got my two pieces wrapped and taped together, and I’m just going to keep wrapping around like I normally would.

    You create the angle so that they nicely slot together and fit together and you don’t have gaps or lumps.

    So this is where I’m going to very carefully going to go through this because I’m in my very first coil right up against my edge where I put the start of my basket, and I’m just going to keep wrapping around.

    I don’t keep an exact count, but every 10 to 15 wraps is when I make a stitch. It depends on how tight you want your basket. If you want it really tight and even, you can do it every 10 and keep count and really create a pattern that way, especially if you switch colors as you go.

    So this has gotten started pretty well. You can see where I’ve joined it – this is my beginning. You can see a little bit of white, but you can also see some white on this side.

    I’m going to show you how to finish the basket.

    LW: Question – so if I wanted to make this into a tiny bowl, I would just push it in? Is that the trick?

    GK: Actually, when you stitch it, you pull your coil out just a little bit each time. It’s a little bit easier to do it as you build. So with that one, I would in your next row pull it out slightly so you’re building those sides up. You keep a flat bottom until you want to start creating the sides of the walls of your bowl.

    As I go, I hold it in place where I want to go as I make that stitch and then wrap it. You do have to pull it back out a little bit as you wrap just by the nature of getting the yarn in there.

    You kind of want to create a fiber memory for where it goes as you wrap so you don’t end up in a too wonky place.

    Okay, so I’m going to end my basket here, and just like when we joined the pieces and we started it, we cut it at an angle. I’m going to do the same, and I’m going to cut it so that the angle is down toward the basket.

    So we’re going to wrap all the way to the start of the angle.

    LW: Okay.

    GK: Then you’re going to stitch it down. You’re going to wrap and stitch.

    LW: So this time you’re going around both of them each time.

    GK: Mhm.

    LW: Okay. Then at the end how do you hide the yarn?

    GK: You will pull it back through all of these stitches you just made. So I’ve got all of these stitches here.

    LW: Oh, you go through it that way.

    GK: Then do a final wrap just to make sure it’s well hidden and secure.

    So yours is all done.

    LW: Yeah, I have a coaster now. I need to a drink to put on it.

    GK: That is the finished basket.

    Public Programs Coordinator Gloria Kenyon demonstrates crafting for the next Handi Hour program at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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