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Basketry/softening and preserving philodendron spaths


Dear Carol
I'm a beginner in combining gourds and basketweaving. I recently collected some rather large split-leaf philodendron spaths while on vacation in Florida just because they were interesting and I felt I could use them someplace in my weaving.  Imagine my surprise when I attended a gourd show and saw them already being used in gourd basketry.  It was obvious, however, that some kind of preservative or softening process had been used to make them pliable and hold up to the weaving.  I'm hoping you might know what I need to do to them to accomplish this.  I'm not sure whether glycerin is the answer, and if so, just how to go about it.  They're already dead material, so they aren't going to soak up the glycerin through their stems.
I appreciate any help you can give me.  Thanks so much.     Sincerely, Pat Breyo


Hi Pat,

I've just soaked the dried philo sheath briefly in warm water and then mellowed it in a towel until it was pliable (and the time needed for that seemed to vary by the size of the plant, how long it had been dry, the humidity in the air and who knows, maybe the phase of the moon. Never could
get a handle on the timing. Sometimes it got pliable just with the few minutes soaking, sometimes it had to mellow almost an hour.)  and then I wove or coiled it into the basket...when it dried again, it's hard again.

I've heard of using glycerin to make various materials more pliable but have never used it so have no idea what effect, if any, it actually has. I presume the water carries it into the cells in the rehydrating process but leaves it when it dries again.

The Indiana Gourd show is the end of this month, I'm impatiently waiting for it...Love to see all the awesome creations! Where was the show you attended? A couple of the vendors/exhibitors that travel to all these gourd show are part of the Pine Needle can see their work or follow links to their homepages by going to

Have fun with you philo. Experiment!  And good luck with your weaving,


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Carol Antrim


I can answer most questions about basketry techniques, and how to or where to find instructions/instructors. Also most questions about the materials used in basketry, either preparation and/or sources. I cannot answer questions regarding value or appraisal of baskets. Nor can I address questions about locating cheap wholesale baskets for gift basket businesses, or how to fill such baskets or conduct such businesses.


I have been weaving baskets since 1986. Studied with Native American basket makers from several Woodland tribes as well as with teachers from coast to coast and Canada,Japan and Russia. Have taught basketry in Indiana, Ohio, New York, Montana, Michigan and Tennessee. Had acceptances in shows and won awards in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, including purchase awards to the permanent collection at Minnetrista Cultural Center. Twice had baskets at the Indiana Governor's residence in the Indiana Arts and Artist Program, and was in 'Innovation--Baskets and Beyond' an invitational at The Firehouse Gallery in Damariscotta, Maine in 1999. My work can be viewed at

Member of the Virtual Basketmakers Guild
and the Indiana Basketmakers Association

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