Since I first got my hands on some raffia and delved deep into basket making, and then shared it with you guys through The Creative Year – there’s been a whole lot of talk in my Insta and in my home about how the bleep to keep raffia out of the children’s toys, the bed, the floor, the …. well… everywhere. It sure has a way of getting deeply tangled around life and things, and family members. Because we live in a small home and I do my crafting in our lounge-room or in bed, and take it from room to room I had to work out how to keep it under control. So, here’s my
How to Wrangle Raffia tutorial…..
by tutorial I mean a simply little how-to of written instructions. Sorry I didn’t manage to get step by step photo instructions, if you need that just let me know and I’ll talk some photos. This is what you do ::
When I get a big bundle of raffia fresh from Cass at String Harvest*, it’s always tied up on itself, and has a knot at one end keeping it all together. I undo the tied up strings and keep them neatly to one side, then I tie one of those spare threads around the middle of the whole giant bundle, not too tightly but not too loosely – enough so it random threads can be pulled out. I untie the knot keeping it all together (or cut it as a last resort if it won’t untie).
I now have one giant bundle ready to be broken down into smaller bundles. I grab a section that’s about 50 or so raffia strands, or fits in a handful (like holding a bunch of flowers). Pull this whole bundle out as one section, keeping it all neat and together. Then wrap one strand around the middle. Continue doing this with the whole big bundle, until you have lots of smaller bunches of raffia. These are now ready to tie up and use as natural raffia for your basket weaving or perfect to put into the dye pot so you can have all the pretty colours.
You can then fold this mini bundle in half then quarters and use a spare strand to tie it all up. It keeps neat and looking sweet and lovely while it waits for you to use it. If you make the mini bundles just the right size, then you can have a few in your ‘on the go project bag’ for the one basket you’re working on, and keep the rest stored away until you need them. That way you only have a few smaller bundles in use at a time – maybe 3 or 4 depending on what colours you’re weaving with.
When you need a strand of raffia to add to your basket, you simply pull one strand out of the mini bundle, and it keeps the rest contained and not flying all over the place. If you are careful when you pull each strand out, it really does work by keeping your mini bundle tidy.
I decided I’d share a little tutorial on how to Naturally Dye raffia as well, because it’s such a fun way to create your own colours and make your work different to everyone else’s. If you want an in-depth look at Natural & Botanical Dye then please do check out my online Creative course which shows Raffia Basket Weaving as well as Natural Dye & Indigo vat.
Naturally Dyeing Raffia for Basket Weaving using things from your Kitchen – a tutorial!
+ Natural raffia that has been undyed or unbleached. Read this to find out about what to look for when buying raffia.
+ A large saucepan – stainless steel is best if possible
+ Turmeric powder or fresh root grated
+ Tea or coffee remains, ie save your tea bags or espresso coffee grounds. Try black, hibiscus or even rooibus tea.
+ Onion skins – both brown and red onions create different colours.
Fill your saucepan with enough water so that your raffia can float freely. Fully wet your raffia (in the kitchen sink is fine); this helps it take the dye better.
In your saucepan, one dye colour at a time, gently heat the water with dye stuffs (that’s the true technical term of what you’re using to dye – ie the turmeric or onion skins). Immerse your wet (but squeezed out) raffia into the pot. Bring it to a very gentle simmer until you’re happy with the depth of colour, could take an hour or so. Turn the heat off, with the lid on and leave overnight. Depending on depth of colour and quality of your raffia you may need to re-heat again the next day. Raffia can take many days to develop a strong colour, or it can take the colour after only a few hours. It depends on what you’re dyeing with, the quantity of your dye stuff and the quality of your raffia.
Quantity of dye stuffs to raffia can vary depending on each dye, it’s particular strength and what depth of colour you want. But basically the more dye you have the brighter, deeper, clearer the colour will be. Onion skins you’d want same weight of skins to raffia, turmeric will need a good couple of tablespoons of fresh powder to 100g of raffia, tea & coffee might need a lot more to create deep colours.
If you want to dye lots of different colours at a time, once you’ve done the initial hour heating in the saucepan transfer the raffia and dye water into a large glass jar, while still warm, and with the lid on you can leave it in the sun for a few days to further develop colour. I love solar dyeing – it’s a great way to experiment with colour and dye stuffs, and you have pretty jars of coloured water on your verandah / windowsill / garden.
Wash the raffia well when you’re happy with the colour and allow to dry – which can take a couple of days even in warm weather.
I like my raffia to be dyed in a varigated manner, ie not all one block solid colour. So you can tie some other strands of raffia around the bundle to create simple Shibori marks, which means when you weave your basket you’ll get patterns of colour, rather than blocks of colour.
If you want to know more about raffia, the sustainability of where it comes from and more, then you can read this mini-interview I did with Cass from String Harvest.
*this post is not sponsored or anything, I just really do like to support and promote Indie business whenever I can. Cass can post raffia worldwide, but if you happen to know someone outside of Australia selling ethical raffia I’d love to hear so I can promote them as well.