A fabrication woven of straw, rushes, canes, and other elastic materials; but, in this country, principally of willow; which last, according to their growth, are called osiers and sallows. Osiers for white work are deprived of their bark by an instrument called the braker, and afterwards are cleaned by a common knife. They are then exposed to the sun and air in order to dry them thoroughly; after which they are housed, and kept carefully from moisture, which, if attended to, will preserve them for years. The same precautions against moisture are necessary for preserving osiers with their bark on. When these osiers are intended to be used, they are soaked for a few days, according to their age and dryness. Osiers deprived of their bark are assorted by the basket-maker into large and small rods, according to the work for which they are intended; the larger ones forming the slat and skeleton of the basket, and the smaller ones for weaving the bottom and sides. For common work, such as clothes-baskets, market-baskets, etc, the rods are used whole; but, for the finer work, as table-mats, fruit and work baskets, and the like, the osiers are divided into four parts, lengthways, which are called splits, and these are afterwards reduced to various degrees of fineness, when they are called skeins.
The method of making a basket of the ordinary kind is as follows: - The workman having cut off the large ends of as many osiers as he deems necessary, and of a length somewhat more than the width of the bottom, lays them on the floor in pairs, all ranging the same way; he then places on them two of the longest osiers, with their largest ends towards him, crossing the direction of the former; on the large ends of the two long osiers he places his foot, weaving each alternately under and over the short ends, which confines them in their places, and forms what is called the slat, or slate, which is the foundation of the basket. He next takes the long end of one of the two rods, and proceeds to weave it under and over the pairs of short ends all round the bottom, until he has wove the whole of it; this is, likewise, done with the remaining osier, and after this is exhausted, other long osiers are wove to, until the bottom is of a size sufficient for the intended basket. The workman next proceeds to sharpen the ends of as many long and stout osiers as may be necessary to form the ribs, or skeleton of the basket; the sharpened ends are planted, or forced, between the rods of the bottom, and are turned up in the direction of the sides, and the other rods are woven in and out, between each of the uprights, until the basket is raised to the intended height.
To finish the edge, or brim of the basket, the ends of the ribs, which are now standing up perpendicularly, are turned down over each other in a manner easily understood by inspecting a basket, although difficult to describe. There remains only to add the handle; this is done by planting or forcing down close to each other, between the weaving of the sides, two or three osiers, cut to a proper length; when in their place, a hole is made through them, about two inches from the brim, into which a pin is put, to prevent their being drawn out; they are then covered, or bound together with skeins, sometimes of various colours, forming different kinds of platting on the handle. Basket-work is well adapted to many other purposes than those to which it is at present applied, as it combines, in an eminent degree, the three qualities of strength, lightness, and elasticity.