What is the History Behind Baskets & How Are They Made?

by Jasmine Savery

Baskets have been used for thousands of years for a multitude of different purposes worldwide. From the earliest renditions discovered buried with ancient Egyptian pharaohs, basket weaving is an ancient craft that has been passed down and used for centuries. As it has been passed down from generation to generation it has evolved giving us a range of baskets all of which come in different shapes, sizes and purposes. We’re here to give a deep dive into the different types of baskets, their history and purpose as well as answer all your basket-related questions.

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The History Of Baskets

What Materials Can Wicker Baskets Be Made From?

How Are Wicker Baskets Made?

What Are Wicker Baskets Used For?

How Can You Tell if Wicker is High Quality?

Read on to discover the types of baskets and what material and function they provide, as well as how to tell if your wicker basket is genuinely high quality.  

The History Of Baskets

Basket making has been recorded as an ancient art which predates both stone and pottery baskets. The earliest evidence that has been found of ancient basket-making has been found in pyramids buried with ancient Egyptian pharaohs. There are only a few examples of other basketry that have been found because the fact that baskets are made from biodegradable materials, so any evidence has been lost over time. 

Baskets were used for a multitude of reasons for both container and carrying purposes including for food, clothing, storage and transport. This is how the art of basket weaving was able to spread around the world, when goods were transported the recipients were inspired by the craft of basket weaving. That's why even in modern baskets we see different cultural influences such as Asian hexagonal weaves which can be seen in European baskets.

There are a plethora of different types of baskets available, with several materials that they can be made from. We’ve researched some of the most popular types of baskets, and here are some of the most common ones we found. From water hyacinth storage baskets to willow planter baskets perfect for the garden- whatever your basket needs, we have everything for you to understand what basket is right for you. As soon as you know what basket is the right one for you, why not explore the range stocked at Northern Willow? We don't just have the basket knowledge but also a range of elegant basket ware for you to choose from, including our gorgeous garden baskets our stylish bathroom ware, and more.

What Materials Can Wicker Baskets Be Made From?

Baskets can come in a wide variety of materials. Different materials can affect the style and shape of the baskets but not the overall quality of the basket, typically the material choice usually comes down to personal choice. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most common types of basket materials and where they come from. 

Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth is a natural aquatic plant and was considered a nuisance to waterways so it is now harvested, dried out and used as a sustainable material to create beautiful woven homeware such as hyacinth baskets. 


Rattan baskets are made from the rattan palm, which is a tree which is native to places in Africa and Southeast Asia. It is harvested typically from the wild or from farms which are dedicated to growing it. They are then steamed or soaked making them easier to shape for products such as baskets.


Hessian fabric is commonly taken from the skin of a jute plant which is made into a woven fabric. This fabric was traditionally used for products such as shipment sacks for vegetables and tobacco, because of its versatile storage qualities of being robust, breathable and strong. 


Willow is one of the most popular materials used for baskets because it is a lot stronger than other weaving materials. The material is taken from the willow tree and because of its durability, it is perfect for cargo purposes for products such as picnic baskets and wine carriers.


Seagrass is harvested from fields which have been flooded by the sea. It is native to South-East Asian coastal areas and is incredibly durable, making it a firm favourite amongst basket weavers and buyers alike. 

Paper Rope 

Unlike other materials, the paper rope is made entirely of paper pulp which is twisted like a rope around a stainless steel frame. Traditionally paper rope baskets come in a wider variety of colours because of their versatile material, at Northern Willow, we offer a range of colours such as our paper rope hamper which comes in green, red, blue and more. 

How Are Baskets Made?

Although basket weaving is probably the most popular and well-known way in which a basket is made three main techniques can be used to make a basket. These are coiling, twining and weaving, these are ancient techniques which have evolved over the years into how they are created today. The most common type of basket making however is basket weaving.

Basket weaving is the process of sewing or weaving pliable material into basket shapes. This process involves carefully weaving strands of material over and under each other over and over to create the desired shape, depending on the size and design of the basket this can take from a day to a few months to make. 

What Are Wicker Baskets Used For?

Modern-day baskets are still utilised by people very much in the same way in which their historical counterparts were. People still use baskets for transporting food and drink through basket types such as picnic baskets and wine carriers. Baskets nowadays however are now used for both practical and decorative purposes including elements such as:

  • Storage 
  • Transportation 
  • Hampers 
  • Dog beds 
  • Plant pots 

Baskets are a great choice for storage as they are incredibly versatile and sustainable, so you can hide away that unwanted mess or stylishly organise the chaos. 

How Can You Tell if Wicker is High Quality?

To ensure you’re getting the best, high-quality wicker there are two things that you will want to check, we’ve highlighted them in more detail below.

The Weaving and Wrapping 

If the wicker is of high quality you should not be able to unpick the weaving or wrapping of the product. Look at the product if there are any areas where you can pick apart the weaving or pull it away from the metal frame (if there is one) then you want to avoid this product. 

The Tension 

High-quality wicker products should be both durable and bouncy when you apply pressure to them to ensure that they hold their shape for as long as possible. You can test this by pressing your hand against the product and applying light pressure, if it is quality it should not lose its shape under the tension.

Handmade Wicker Baskets at Northern Willow 

At Northern Willow, we offer a range of handmade baskets to add stylish storage to any room in your home. A family-run business, we're proud to deliver handmade, timeless wicker baskets and home accessories to customers across the UK. We value quality both in the products we produce and the service we provide to ensure you're always getting the best experience possible when shopping with us.

From office wear to elegant kitchen storage, and more we have baskets to suit anyone's taste or needs. Offering a range of different materials that are all sustainably sourced you can have basket wear that is both stylish and eco-friendly. Explore our site to discover more about our beautiful range of sustainable, handmade baskets. 

Basket FAQs

Are All Baskets Handmade?

In short, yes, all woven baskets are handmade. Basket weaving is one of the most ancient human crafts and has not fallen to mechanisation as of yet because of its intricate, detailed work. 

Are Wicker Baskets Environmentally Friendly?

Wicker baskets are typically very environmentally friendly, the materials they use are most commonly made from are biodegradable. At Northern Willow, we provide ourselves with the fact that all our baskets are sustainably resourced. 

Can You Leave Wicker Baskets Outside?

We recommend that you only use baskets that are designed to be outside such as our range of garden baskets. This is because natural wicker can break down very quickly, especially when it gets wet, so we want to prevent this by choosing the correct products to withstand harsh weather conditions.

What is the Difference Between Rattan and Wicker?

Rattan is a type of material whereas wicker is the method by which the product is made and its style. So a basket made out of rattan would be considered a wicker basket because of the style and method in which it was made.

Are Baskets Eco-Friendly?

Wicker baskets are typically very eco-friendly due to the material they are made from. At Northern Willow, we pride ourselves on creating products that are both stylish and eco-friendly by using sustainable materials and ethical business practices.

What is the Most Common Type of Basket?

The most common type of material used for basket making is bamboo, however, both rattan and hessian are also extremely popular due to their durability and style.