|Basketmaking is an ancient art form that dates back to the beginnings of civilization. Historically, baskets have generally been made of natural fibers such as twigs, roots, canes and grasses, all of which can deteriorate over time. However, basket artifacts have been found in the desserts of Africa which apparently date to 7000 B.C.
Baskets have been used in many different ways from carrying water, food, grain and cooking utensils to being used as a baby cradle. They have been used in a variety of religious and secular functions. Baskets have been found in every corner of the world and the most primitive cultures. As with many things, baskets take on the character of each maker's heritage. Certain Indian tribes are a good of example of this with their intricate designs and multiple colors.
Flea markets, antique shops and sometimes even garage sales are good places to find old baskets. Oak splint baskets are a good example of early American baskets. These baskets, if considered old or antique, can be very expensive ranging into the hundreds of dollars. Obviously, the age, condition and availability of the basket are important factors in determining the value of the basket.
I generally have had little success in finding printed information on caring for baskets of natural fibers. I primarily learned how to care for my baskets through the trial and tribulations of others who shared their secrets with me. Below are a few helpful hints that have helped me in caring for my baskets. You may want to consider them as well. But always check with the manufacturer or retailer, if possible, for special instructions on caring for their particular products:
1. Never put anything in your basket that doesn't fit because it may warp or otherwise change the shape of the basket and it could eventually break.
2. Protect your baskets with liners when using them for food items. I often line them with wax paper, then place a tea towel over the wax paper. This is generally more than adequate.
3. Remember that placing baskets near fireplaces, heating vents and other sources of dry heat may cause excessive drying to your baskets, will make them brittle and can permanently damage them. While they may look good in that location and serve a good function, it may ultimately destroy your basket. If you do choose to use them in these areas, try to set them somewhat to the side to reduce the amount of dry heat they will be subjected to. You definitely should re-hydrate your baskets more often if used in this manner.
4. At least once a year, but preferably twice a year, soak your baskets in warm water for 30 minutes. This will place moisture back into the natural fibers. Let the baskets dry in a place out of direct sunlight. If your baskets have a handle, then consider hanging them from the handle.
I hope this helps you in being able to enjoy your baskets for a long time. Baskets are worth preserving and can even become heirlooms. So preserve your baskets for your future generations.