Reed (Phragmites) is a natural fiber that grows in wetlands. This natural, plant based fiber (cellulose fiber) is widely used for baskets and mats. It is also a great material for isolation and for music instruments such as the flute.

Next to that reed makes the water cleaner therefore a great solution in canals, ponds or lakes.

One of my favourite baskets is made of savanna grass. It is a widely used material in West Africa to weave baskets and mats from it. But I was curious if I could source my own material to weave a basket or something else with it.

Research questions

  • Can I locally source materials for weaving?
  • What kind of products can I weave from it?
“What happens with the reed that the municipality cuts off?”

Can I locally source materials for weaving?

By further research into weaving I learned that flexible and long trunk plants are a great material for weaving. One of these plants, reed, grows in The Netherlands. During one of my walks through my neighborhood I found a bunch of reeds that I could collect to experiment with.

It is allowed to cut reed for personal use from local parks, but it is not allowed to use for commercially. However, the municipality of Rotterdam often cuts off the reed to stimulate new growth. I am very curious to find out what happens with the reed that the municipality cuts off and if in the future I can purchase or use some of it.

Weaving reed

After a bit of research I found out that dried reed is too old and fragile to weave it into a shape of a basket. Therefore I had to think about other possibilities such as combining the reed with fabrics.

Before weaving I had to soak the reed in water to soften the outer layer. By doing so the rough part of the reed could be easily removed by twisting it. After removing it, only the smooth part of the reed stays to work with.

As a next experiment I wanted to try the wrap around way of weaving. By doing so parts of the reed still stays visible but the weaving part makes it stronger to stay together. It also adds an aesthetic look to it by combining cotton thread with raw reed.

next step

As a next step I want to combine reed with weaving on a bigger loom such as weaving a tapestry by adding raw materials to it.

This is an ongoing investigation and experimentation about materials that I find in my closet. For more behind the scenes and tips please visit my instagram account @doraevarga