I crocheted a ton of Christmas presents this year, and I worked really hard to make sure these were neat, meaningful gifts, not just, "I crocheted you an impersonal scarf because I could."
I especially wanted to make something worth playing with for our niece, who will turn 2 in Feburary. I thought it would be fun to crochet her a picnic basket and some play food.
I made this basket from scratch after not finding many other options for free patterns online. You can buy this adorable pattern , but I decided to challenge myself by making my own. The weave is created by alternating chunks of front-post double crochet and back post double crochet. I used this tutorial to figure out the basket-weave pattern before creating the basket. 
The picnic basket is made of six rectangles crocheted with a worsted-weight brown and a size G crochet hook. I think I used about two skeins of yarn, but to be honest, I started in September and didn't write it down. So, you might want to have three on hand just in case.
It also requires probably a half a yard of a brightly-colored cotton for the lining, a sewing machine or a hot glue gun and a much smaller amount of a different-colored yarn for crocheting a border around the top. I also used this contrasting yarn color to highlight the handle. Itrequired easily less than half a skein.
I used about six sheets of plastic canvas and a thin wooden dowel to give it some structure and a top that opens realistically. If you use the latter, you'll need a drill and a very thin drill bit to make it work.
You could also add toggle-style buttons to the center of each side that has an opening, to secure the lid, but I didn't because it was a gift for a toddler.
OK, here's how I made it. I counted chains at the end of the row to count as one stitch.
Bottom of basket: Will define the size of its footprint. Mine measured about 8.5-inches-by-11-inches, but that will probably vary for you. As long as you use the same yarn, hook and don't get crazy with making sections tight or loose, gauge shouldn't matter.
Row 1: Chain 33, then turn and DC in third chain from hook. DC 29 more, Ch 2 and turn. (31)
Row 2: DC in next 30, CH 2, turn (31)
Row 3 -14: Repeat Row 2. After Row 14, Chain 1.
Row 15: SC 30 across, CH 1, and without turning work over, rotate and SC 25 stitches down side, then CH 1. Rotate again and SC 30 across opposite side of foundation chain, then CH 1. Rotate again and SC 25 up the remaining side. Join with SS and fasten off.
As you make the sides (the patterns follow), you'll want to make sure the base of each is the same length as the side of the bottom it corresponds with. Similarly, you'll want to make sure all four walls are the same height.
Short side wall (make two)
Row 1: Chain 27, turn. DC in third CH from hook, then DC 24 more. CH 2, turn. (26)
Row 2: Skip first DC. (FPDC in next 3 stitches, BPDC in next 3 stitches), repeat 4 times, CH 2, turn. (25)
Row 3: Repeat Row 2.
Row 4: Skip first DC. (BPDC in next 3 stitches, FPDC in next 3 stitches), repeat 4 times, Ch 2, turn. (25)
Row 5: Repeat Row. 4.
Row 6-7: Repeat Row 2
Row 8-9: Repeat Row 4
Row 10-11: Repeat row 2. After last BPCD in Row 11, CH 1 and turn.
Row 12: SC 24 across, and CH 1. Do not turn work (over) after this point. Rotate and SC 17 down side. CH 1. Rotate and SC 25 in opposite side of foundation chain. CH 1. Rotate and SC 17 up side. Join with SS and fasten off.
Long side wall (make two)
Row 1: Chain 33, turn, and DC in third CH from hook. DC next 29, CH 2 and turn. (31)
Row 2: Skip first DC. (FPDC in next 3, BPDC in next 3) and repeat until row's end, CH 2, turn (31)
Row 3: Repeat Row 2
Row 4: Skip first DC. (BPDC in next 3, FPDC in next 3) and repeat until row's end, CH 2, turn (31)
Row 5: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 6-7: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 8-9: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 10-11: Repeat Row 2. After Row 11, CH 1 and turn.
Row 12: SC across top, Ch 1. Do not turn work after this point. Rotate and SC 17 down side. CH 1. Rotate and SC across opposite side of foundation chain. CH 1. Rotate and SC up 17 side, SS to join and fasten off.
When these five pieces are complete, cut down sheets of plastic canvas to make rectangles slightly smaller than each. You should also cut your lining fabric to be about a half-inch larger than each rectangle at this point.
I used a tapestry needle and brown yarn to stitch the crocheted rectangles together into a basket shape. It will be super-floppy. I then stitched in the plastic canvas rectangles for support. I found it useful to stitch up all the edges, then across the middle, so the canvas didn't pull away from the sides. I also stitched the pieces of plastic canvas to each other for strength. Don't worry if it doesn't look great, because the basket will be lined.
But don't line it yet. Instead, crochet the top of the basket. I made it in one piece, still using the basket weave pattern. I then used more plastic canvas and a wooden dowel to give it structure. More on that after the pattern for the top.
Row 1: Chain 33, DC in third CH from hook, then 29 more. CH 2 and turn. (31)
Row 2: Skip first DC, (FPDC in next 3, BPDC in next 3), repeat across, CH 2 and turn.
Row 3: Repeat Row 2.
Row 4: Skip first DC, (BPDC in next 3, FPDC in next 3), repeat across, Ch 2 and turn.
Row 5: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 6-7: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 8-9: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 10-11: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 12-13: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 14-15: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 16-17: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 18-19: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 20-21: Repeat Row 4.
Rows 22-23: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 24-25: Repeat Row 4. After Row 25, CH 1 and turn.
Row 26: SC across top, CH 1, and do not turn after this point. Rotate and SC 39 down side, CH 1, rotate. SC 31 in opposite side of foundation chain, CH 1, rotate. SC 39 up final side, SS to join around corner, fasten off.
Rows 27: Attach contrasting color. (SC in next SC, Ch 4, skip next two SCs, SC in next SC), repeat across and around the entire top. End with a CH 1.
Row 28: (SC 5 in each CH 4 space, CH 1), repeat across and around. Join with SS around final corner, fasten off.
Cut wooden dowel to be about the width of this piece (the width of the short side, if that makes sense) or maybe just a smidge longer. You'll use it to make your basket open like a real picnic basket.
Use your drill and bit to make several (I probably had about 10) equidistant holes through the dowel, including one near each end. It will go in the middle, so you might want to dry fit it as you cut down the two plastic rectangles that will also give your top structure.
You'll want them to fit pretty snugly to the dowel in the middle, so you can stitch the dowel to both them and the crocheted top. I sewed on the canvas pieces first, then added the dowel in the middle, stitching through those holes I had my husband drill.
But don't put it in yet – you'll want to cut a handle and get the rest of your lining in place first.
I made the handle from a strip of plastic canvas. Make it long enough to give it a nice curve. A tip: make sure you cut the canvas for this evenly, with no little half-squares. I wasn't careful enough and had to add extra yarn in some places to hide these little guys. In fact, that's why I added the extra contrasting yarn to the handle, although I think that turned out to be a cute solution.
I sewed the handle to the middles of the basket's long sides (stitching plastic canvas to plastic canvas), then wrapped it in yarn. I used hot glue as a wrapped to make it stick.
Then, I worked on the lining. I took each rectangle for the lining and folded down a 1/2 inch hem around all sides. I pinned these and dry fitted them inside the basket. That way, I knew they'd fit snugly and look OK.
I was making the basket at a time when my sewing machine was broken, so I secured the hems with hot glue. If you sew, you'll probably prefer your machine.
After using hot glue on the hems, I hot glued the lining pieces inside the basket, with the exception of the areas near where the handles were attached, to allow for stitching in the wooden dowel, which, of course, was attached to the top.
I also cut and hemmed a piece of fabric to line the top, but didn't glue down the fabric nearest the dowel ends. That's because you'll need access to them to attach the top to the rest of the basket.
That step was next. I attached it it by stitching several times through each drilled hole near the end of the dowel and the plastic canvas on the base where I'd also attached the handle.
I sewed it tight enough to keep it in place. I then added more hot glue to the sections of lining that weren't secured, to cover this part up. And that's the last step - your basket should be complete.
Please let me know if you run into any typos or instructions that don't make sense. This is the first pattern I've written.
I had my mom use the extra lining fabric to make a cute little picnic blanket, and used online patterns for amigurumi crochet food to fill it.
This project was a bit time consuming, but part of that was because I started from scratch. I'd say the hardest part was remembering which row I was on when crocheting the basket weave pattern. I used a pen and a piece of scrap paper to keep track. Once you get the hang of it, though, you'll see the pattern emerge. This helped for me, at least.
The basket seems pretty durable, and it should, for the amount of hot glue that went into it. I told Rob's sister that if pieces of the lining come up, she should just re-attach them with hot glue.
Photos of the finished basket are by Emily Speight and are used with permission (I forgot to take my own photos before wrapping the basket for Christmas).