Sunday, June 6, 2010

What a Basket Case!

I think it's been pretty well established that I am the Contessa di Terrible Painters, right?

And, yes, we have discussed the concept of rubber gloves. It's hopeless.

With such demonstrable  ineptitude, it's rather ironic that several of my recent tutorials have included painting techniques. After thinking this over, it seems to me that distressed finishes suit the fact that I'm a perfectionist who has absolutely no hope of ever achieving a perfect paint job. On the other hand, with my background in marketing, I'm perfectly (hee) able to rationalize anything - and with shabby and distressed finishes being so au courant, that makes it a piece of cake to find excuses for my lousy finish work.

Uneven coverage? Yeah, I planned that so it would look old. Missed spot? Uh-huh, you're seeing the distressed finish. Streaks and drips? Why, thank you, that's a shabby chic white wash.  (This talent for rationalization is why many people like to shop with me -- I can find a variety of exceptional reasons to buy or not buy -- just let  me know which side you want me to argue.).

And so, I offer the following tutorial in transforming an inexpensive unfinished basket into a fine, handcrafted antique (sorta). I bought a typically light-colored basket for a dollar at the St. Joan of Arc Thrift Shop in Orleans. I'll going to bet it originally came from the Christmas Tree Shops, and it's modeled along the style of the famous Nantucket Baskets like the ones in this photo.

Of course, the knockoff I found doesn't come close to the real deal, and the light color doesn't help. There's no character, no experience. And that starfish glued on the side. Ya-ick.  Now, I certainly can't recreate an actual  lighthouse basket (and, gosh, you'd rightfully pay handsome prices for either true antique baskets or  handcrafted contemporary baskets). I can, however, show you how to faux-age your new purchase to show a bit more personality and distinction.

New basket

New basket after antiquing

Here's my tutorial on how I did it. We won't cover how I got the starfish off. I didn't need that fingernail anyway.

Antiquing a cheap new basket
by Jude at
Gather your tools and materials
Inexpensive unfinished basket
Wood stain in a desired finish 
(I used several and mixed them)
Black paint
Lemon oil or beeswax
Sponge paint brushes
Paint stirrer
Several small containers for paint
Several rags
Paper towels

Step One
Mix the stain with a small amount of water until it's the consistency of paint.

With the sponge brush, cover the entire basket, inside and out with the stain mixture, trying your best to get into all the crevices. You want to cover as much of the basket's woven strips and get as much into the woven areas as possible. 

Step Two
Let the basket dry several hours, then repeat the staining process. 

 You can use a different shade of stain if you like. 


Step Three
Pour a small amount of black paint in a container, and add a bit of water. Stir well.

Soak one rag in water, and wring it out so it's just damp.
Bunch rag up in your hand, and dip it in the black paint mixture. Dab it on a dry rag or paper towel to remove the excess, and wipe it across the surface and edges of the basket. Use the dry rag to blend and burnish the paint into the surface.

Do you think the handles of an old basket would get darkened over the years? I think you're right! That's why I made sure to concentrate on those areas, going back over it several times with the blackening paint. I also made all the edges as dark as I could.

Now, listen! The lathing strips for these cheap imported baskets are not made from a high quality wood. Even if you were trying to create a perfect finish, it wouldn't be possible. You'll see that some areas seem to soak up lots of color, and others seem to say, "Uh, no thanks." But that's what happens with aged wood, anyway, and that's what makes this so easy, so fun and so darn infallible. The imperfection is the perfect finish!

Okay, enough about imperfection and back to the tutorial.

Step Four
Let the basket dry thoroughly. Apply a liberal coating of beeswax or lemon oil, and buff it in well according to the instructions on the container.

 I used an old shoe polisher to buff.

 And since the "Nantucket Basket" was still drying, in this photo, I'm giving a fresh coat of bees wax to a basket I antiqued last fall.
This final step gives a warm patina, and oh, boy, it smells divine. Your friends will catch the scent of citrus and beeswax, and exclaim, "Oooh, that's so old." (Well, I'm thinking they'll exclaim something like that...)

Here's the finished Faux Nan-basket. Hope you like it!
Oh, gee, were you worried about the poor innocent starfish I tore off the side? It's fine!

Did you buzz over from a great party like the one below?
Glad to have you - and it's so sweet to read your message!



  1. So pretty! I have a cousin who makes baskets from scratch, and she has helped me make several for my own home. But this is a technique I don't think I've ever seen on her work!

  2. Great idea, it doesn't look like the same basket!

  3. Great job!!! I love how it turned out!

  4. I think you did a great job. I love the way it looks now so much better.

  5. This is great! I love the transformation. What a perfect project this is to share at my Time Travel Thursday linky party - goin' back up tonight.

    I would like to invite you to visit the cottage, and join in on the fun for all three of my linky parties:


    You can get the details here:

    Hope to see ya there!
    Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage

  6. Just darling. I enjoy your fun perspective :).

  7. Good idea! Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog, and to answer your question I got my clock at a Store called Real Deals. I think it is a national franchise but I'm not sure. Try goggle. Thanks Ronda

  8. That is one lucky basket, to get turned into a jem. I love the way it turned out. Great tutorial.
    Always, Beth

  9. Great tutorial. It looks so much better and aged to perfection!


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