Project Upcycle: Basket-making with Reused Irrigation Drip Tape

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by Tiana Baca, DOT garden manager

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a basket-making workshop put on by the EECapacity Consortium. The EECapacity Consortium is a project of the Town of Atrisco and the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico.

Before delving into the details of basket-making, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss the concept of upcycling. A cousin to the more common term, recycling, upcycling is concerned with reducing waste and reusing materials. However, upcycling also asks us to consider how we might increase the value of a waste product. For example, using a plastic water bottle as a building material or insulation for a home increases the original value of the water bottle. In the context of the basket-making workshop, we took used irrigation drip tape, which would otherwise go to a landfill, and utilized it to make our own bags and backpacks!

Drip tape, also known as t-tape, is a common material used by farmers for irrigating crops. However, the drip tape is only usable to farmers for a few seasons before small holes and build up in the lines make it less efficient for irrigation. At this point, although the drip tape is no longer usable to farmers, it remains a durable plastic which serves as an excellent material for basket-making!

Step 1: Clean, cut, and straighten.

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Cut the drip tape to the necessary length for your desired finished project. In my case, I used 31 pieces cut to about 4′ each (19 for the base and 12 for the sides).

Once the pieces are cut, use a damp cloth to wipe down the lines to remove any dirt. After cleaning, the drip tape pieces should be straightened. This can easily be accomplished by using a wooden block and your foot. Place the drip tape on the block, step on it, and then pull the drip tape up. Do this on both sides of the drip tape.

Step 2: Weave the base.

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Separate the pieces cut for your base into two piles (length and width). My bag was made to be 6×13 (six pieces wide by thirteen pieces long). You, of course, can make your bag any size. However, make sure the total number of pieces used for your base is an odd number so that the weaving pattern works properly.

Lay out your width pieces (they can be held by a brick) and weave in your length pieces as shown above. Once you have woven together all your base pieces, adjust your base so that your woven base is centered and tight. Use clothes pins to hold in place.

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Step 3: Weave in side pieces.

To begin, take a cut piece for the side and use a clothes pin to clip it to one of the center pieces extending off of the base. Weave the side piece around (you’re making a circle) to meet itself. Make sure to double over the end of the piece to help keep it in place. Clothes pins are your friends here.

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Alternating starting sides, continue this process until the desired height is reached. Keep in mind, the bag will begin to take shape once you have 3-4 of of the side pieces woven in. Don’t stress over the tightness of your weaving at this point. You will be able to adjust the tightness later on.

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Step 4: Tighten weaving and finish top edge.

After reaching the desired height of your bag, you can adjust the tightness of the weaving by pulling on   and scrunching down/over the various pieces of drip tape.

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Once you are satisfied with the tightness of the weave, you are ready to finish the top edge of your bag.     Ideally, the unwoven ends protruding from the top will be 5-8” in length. If they are longer, you can cut them to make them more manageable. Then, begin the process of folding over the top pieces and weaving them back into the bag. Note: the ends will alternately be folded to the outside and inside of the bag and woven in. This will maintain the integrity of the weaving.

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Continue until all edges have been folded over. At this point you can once again make tightening adjustments.

 

 

Step 5: Attach straps

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At this point, you’ll have a fully functional basket. However, if you’d like, you can also attach straps. For this project, I used rivets to hold my straps in place. However, non-rivet methods are also possible.

Cut two or more pieces slightly longer than your desired strap length. Weave your straps into the basket a few inches. Drill a hole through the top of the strap where the strap overlaps the basket rim. Then, using a rivet tool, place the rivet in the hole and squeeze to secure.

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Step 6: Rock your bag!

You’re done! Time to take your bag out and show off your handiwork.

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