The name Basta, or Bass, is the Russian word for the inner barks of the lime or linden tree, used principally for making coarse mats, plaited shoes, etc., so much employed by the Russian peasants.
In these days of games and general outdoor life, one still comes across women who are glad to hear of a fresh indoor hobby. But even with these, work is more appreciated if it is of a kind that can be done quickly as well as effectively. For this reason, "Basta-Basta," or raffia embroidery work, is sure to become popular with them, as it is not only quickly and easily executed, but has a most effective appearance when finished.
Another point in its favour is that it is work men need not scorn to do, and many articles for their own use can be made successfully. A convalescing man, therefore, might find great pleasure in whiling away a few weary hours by this means. Also those with industrious fingers, but failing eyesight, will find the work a great boon, owing to the large mesh of the canvas.
The materials required in addition to the raffia, or bast, are a coarse, large-mesh canvas, a rug needle, with a large eye, and a book containing cross-stitch patterns, obtainable from any fancywork shop. Or, the design can be drawn by the worker in ink direct on the canvas, various stitches, such as long-stitch, darning and cross-stitch, being suitable.
It is best for an amateur to commence with a simple cross-stitch pattern, consisting of stars or diagonals, as if using silk or cotton on a fine canvas, for in contrast with these the raffia seems stiff and wayward.
When drawing the raffia through the mesh of the canvas care should be taken that it lies flat, and does not become twisted, otherwise the effect will prove disappointing. Should the raffia be inclined to split while working, it may be slightly dampened.
Basta work is usually applied to such articles as shopping-bags, mats, book-carriers, covers for cushions, especially those used in the garden or when boating, curtain bands, waist-belts, and if the colours are artistically blended, a quaint Oriental effect is gained that is most attractive.
The straight piece of work shown in Fig. 1 clearly indicates the canvas used, as well as the stitch, such a design being very suitable for a belt or bell-pull.
Fig. 1. A simply worked design for raffia embroidery. Used in one length, as shown, this would form a charming waist-belt, or the
Begin by bringing the needle through the seventh hole from the turning allowed for at the end, and eleven holes from the side, then put it down in the next hole on the right-hand side; bring it up again one hole above and to the left of the first hole. Put it down one hole above and to the right of the second hole.
Fig. 2. A cushion-cover worked in raffia. Plaited strands of raffia form the finish to the edge
Make four .more stitches in this manner, each stitch passing over more threads than the last; the sixth stitch extending over eleven threads. Now work five stitches, decreasing each, until only one thread is passed over. When the first row of diamonds is complete, work a second row in the opposite direction.
Continue to work rows of diamonds for the required width of belt, the remaining blank spaces being filled in with half diamonds.
The diamonds look particularly charming when carried out in two colours, one row of pale grey and the next in scarlet forming a good contrast.
A soft sateen should be used for the lining, and a buckle may be covered with closely worked blanket-stitch in raffia. But perhaps the best effect is gained by using a crochet-hook and covering the buckle with double crochet.
For a cover for a knockabout cushion for the garden Basta embroidery is eminently suitable. It is not affected by damp, and is most durable in wear. The finishing cord for the edges can be formed simply of plaited strands of the raffia, or a line cord can be used as a foundation round which to plait the raffia.
The bag shown in Fig. 3 was lined with sateen and finished with plaited raffia, the cord used for the handles being unravelled at the sides.
The chief beauty of this work is its quaint, foreign appearance, but it is only as the worker becomes expert that Oriental designs and antique patterns can be copied with advantage, thus rendering it difficult to realise that canvas and raffia are the only materials used.
Simple designs, which call for a few sharply contrasting colours and no elaborate shadings, will always be found the most effective.
When arranging a piece of Basta work it is necessary to plan out the pattern and take into consideration the amount of each coloured raffia which will be required. Dyes, in the hands of amateurs, are apt to vary in tone, and it is tiresome to begin a large piece of work to find that the amount dyed for the purpose runs short, and it is not possible to match the tone.
A large amount of raffia is required for even a small article. So that experience with silks, or wool, is by no means a sure guide. Inequalities in the raffia, the inevitably clumsy fastening off, and beginning of fresh threads, take much more of the stuff than a novice would expect. A safe rule would be to allow as much as for silk embroidery, and then half as much again. It is, however, experience alone which will teach the worker the amount which should be dyed for a certain pattern, and then the dyeing process can be entered upon with equanimity. If leaves, fruit, or flower motifs are undertaken, such as the chestnut-leaves of the cushion in the illustration, variations in the tint of the dyes are an advantage. Such a pattern worked in the autumnal tints of the Virginia creeper would cause no anxiety with regard to uniformity in the dye. Every shade of green to yellow and orange could be utilised, while judicious dashes of chrome and crimson would give a touch of reality to the autumnal scheme.
Fig. 3. A shopping-bag in raffia work, lined with sateen, is both uncommon and useful