Here’s the perfect project for celebrating the beginning of spring and the end of a long winter. Making moss baskets is fun for everyone and can be an ideal way to introduce children to crafting. This basket takes just an hour to make and can be personalized with pieces of lichen, bark, acorn caps or dried flowers. You can make it any size and with or without handles.
Having a dinner party? Decorate each guest’s place with little moss baskets filled with pots of fragrant herbs, miniature daffodils or tiny roses. Or cluster the baskets in the center of the table with votive lights tucked around them, then give them to guests as gifts at the end of the evening. Use a large basket as a centerpiece, overflowing with potted herbs, hand-colored eggs or fresh strawberries on a bed of clean straw.
Several sheets newspaper
Two or four 15- to 20-inch twiggy branches, leaves removed
Three 12-inch pieces of #28 florist wire
One 8-inch shallow round basket (without handle)*
Pint of white glue
Plastic container for glue
Green sheet moss, about 28 inches square total
2-inch foam brush
Optional: dried leaves, lichens, small pieces of bark, nutshells, acorn caps, ribbon, raffia, dried flower heads and petals, strands of beds
*I like to use inexpensive florist baskets often called "Chinese rice bowls," available in sizes from 6 to 14 inches across.
Attach the Handle
1. Attach first side of handle. To attach the branch handle to the basket, first bend one piece of wire into a large U-shape. Select a basket rib, then lay the cut end of one of the branches inside the basket on top of the rib. The base of the branch should rest on the slight curve of the rib.
Holding the bottom 2 inches of the branch firmly against the rib with one hand, place the ends of the wire on either side of the branch, then push both ends through the basket weave. Pulling the wire tightly against the branch, twist the two legs of wire tightly together where they emerge on the outside of the basket.
2. Secure attachment. Thread the two wires back through to the inside of the basket, one leg emerging on either side of the branch. Twist wires sharply against the branch. Repeat the threading process, working the wire up the stem as you push and tightly twist. Continue until the branch is firmly woven or "shoelaced" to the inside of the basket. Trim off any excess wire, then tuck the sharp ends under the branch.
3. Attach second side of handle. Use a second piece of U-shaped wire to attach another twiggy branch to the rib at the opposite side of the basket. (If either branch isn’t full enough, wire an extra branch to the same spot.)
4. Attach center of handle. Snip the third piece of wire into several 1½-inch pieces. Gently pull the tops of the branches together to form an arch. Carefully wire the arch together in two or three key places.
Moss the Basket
1. Prepare materials. Pour the glue into a plastic container; spread moss out on the newspaper. Gently shake each piece of moss to remove excess dust and soil, and carefully remove any pebbles or thick bark from the back of the moss.
2. Arrange moss inside basket. Use the largest, greenest pieces for the basket interior. (Save browner pieces for the outside and base.) Arrange a large piece to cover part of the interior and fold over the rim about an inch on the outside. If a piece is too large for a space, tear (do not cut) it to fit. Tearing maintains a natural edge. Abut the torn edges to create the look of a single unbroken piece. Key: Pieces should never butt at the rim, which receives the most wear.
3. Attach moss, one piece at a time. Lift the moss from the basket, then spread a thick layer of glue on the basket where moss had been. Firmly push the piece of moss onto the glued area. Use the back of your fist to secure the moss firmly in place. Moss is a natural sponge and can absorb a lot of glue. If an edge or corner doesn’t stick, lift it and add more glue. Continue fitting additional pieces of moss, tearing if necessary. Remove, glue the basket and attach each piece. Repeat until the basket is covered. Cover the base last.
4. To personalize your basket, glue dried leaves, lichens, bark, nutshells, or dried flower heads and petals to the moss. Add loops and bows of raffia or ribbon to the handle or twist glittery beads through the twigs.
5. Allow to dry. Place basket in a warm location, out of direct sunlight, to dry for several hours. Never keep your basket in direct sunlight for long periods; this will bleach the moss.
— Floral designer Betsy Williams, owner of The Proper Season in Andover, Massachusetts, has taught and written about herbs and flowers since 1970. Visit www.betsywilliams.com for more information about Betsy.