reshaping an antique german basket

by | Oct 5, 2021 | All Things Home, Antiques, Cleaning & care | 33 comments

This antique German basket was a last-minute purchase at Gold Rush Days antique market this year.  I had pulled up my van to load in the antique cabinet I got for the basement and spotted a stack of antique German baskets at a nearby booth.  I have bought a couple of baskets from that vendor before and I knew the prices and pieces were good, so I thought it was worth taking a quick look even if my van was questionably parked.  The vendor had two antique German baskets.  One was in better condition, but it was so large that I had no idea where I would even put it!  The second one was a better size, but the top was crunched, likely from being stacked under the weight of other loaded baskets.

These lidded baskets were used as shipping containers, trunks, and suitcases for goods and possessions.  Can you imagine lugging one of these around when you’re moving or traveling?  While the basket wasn’t in perfect condition, I loved the woven pattern, the original latches, and even the repair made with twine.  I’ve said this before, but I love it when I have the chance to buy something that was repaired.  To me, that just adds to the story and it shows the piece was valuable enough for the owner to fix.

The basket just needed a good cleaning and I thought I might be able to straighten it out a bit.  At $60, it was worth giving it a try!

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

Isn’t that twine repair charming?

Icleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

A few people have asked how I know it’s an antique German basket.  First of all, I have seen baskets like this before that were labeled as such.  I suppose there could be some debate if it is French or perhaps from another European country.  I do have some similar baskets that were marketed as French.

But, this one has a strong piece of evidence inside to support that it’s German…

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

There was a large folded piece of paper in the bottom of the antique basket with German words and names written on it…

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

I knew geschenk means gift, but I had to look up what the full meaning of the word was.  Geschenksendung means gift shipment.  Isn’t that so cool?  And Brauersgraben is a place in Germany.  So, it’s pretty safe to say this is an antique German basket.

It makes me wonder what the gifts in the shipment were…

Anyway, I love antiques, but in order to use them in my home, they need to be clean.  (You can read about some of my favorite methods for cleaning antiques in THIS POST.)  This basket was dusty and I knew wetting it would also help in reshaping it.

A lot of people are nervous about just hosing off something like a basket or a piece of furniture, but that was really going to be the best way to clean this basket.  I picked a warm, sunny, breezy day to haul it out on the driveway and give it a good rinse.  (I had to warn Jeff, so he didn’t run over my basket as it was drying!)

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

I didn’t use any soap in this case, but I could’ve scrubbed it with something like Murphy Oil Soap if I felt it was necessary.  Just rinsing it off and allowing it to dry in the sun took away any musty/dusty smell.  The key with washing baskets, wood furniture, or other antiques made of natural materials, is to make sure they can dry quickly and completely.  Sitting water is what causes damage to pieces.  I pulled the basket over into the sun to speed up the drying process and to “sun it out.”

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

While it was still wet, I also took the opportunity to reshape the basket.  I did some bending just with my hands, but that was only going to do so much.  So, I decided to use wood clamps to hold the shape I wanted as it dried.

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

That did the trick!  It’s still slightly warped, but it doesn’t look as “crunched” as it did when I bought it.

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

And, it looks (and smells) nice and clean, too!

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

It really is a beautiful basket.  I love that there is the remainder of a label on one side and that the handles are still intact and in good condition.

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

Not long before I bought it, I actually said the words to my friend Cheri, “I do not need to buy any more baskets.”  And then I snuck this antique German basket in at the last moment!  (Not like she would’ve discouraged me!)  There are just endless uses for good, sturdy beautiful baskets.  They provide great storage in plain sight.  These trunk-style antique baskets are also a good height to use as a sofa side table, which is what this one will be.

cleaning & reshaping an antique german basket | miss mustard seed

I tucked it in next to the sectional in the basement and it’s the perfect place to keep extra blankets for movie nights.  I’ll likely top it with a flat tray so that we can also use it to set a drink on, etc.

Please tell me I’m not the only one with a basket “problem”…

I looked around on Etsy to see if I could find a similar basket, but I came up empty.  I did find some other lovely pieces, though…


  1. Jo

    You are not the only Basket Lover….count me in!!! A beautiful treasure!!!

    • Mary

      Hmmm, I have a tray problem….silver, enamel, vintage hamerred aluminium, brass, wood, handled, flat . You see the problem

  2. Traci J

    Basket lover addict here too! It is a beauty! Love how it cleaned up and has a good home.

  3. Bea

    I’m also a basket lover who has a ‘basket problem’. I’ve loved collecting baskets for most of my life. I have baskets hanging for sale in two of my spaces at the shop and more in my basement. I would love to have a German basket for my own collection some

  4. Theresa

    Marian , I love that you love worn vintage items! It’s such a treasure for your basement makeover. This basket lover is so happy for you and this basket

  5. Kathy L

    Count me in, Love and collect baskets for years, use them every where, most of them are antique’s.

  6. Diane L. Christy

    When I lived in Germany, during the 1970s, I bought a classic German shopping basket. Made of sturdy willow, lined with printed vinyl and topped with a handle, it has served me well for the last 50 years. Our last-dog-but-one chewed on it a little, but the minimal damage is not keeping us from using it every week.

  7. Cassandra E

    Just wow!
    Well, I tried just wow, and got a too short comment error! Ha!
    I will add, I love antique baskets. I’ve been thinking about hanging them from my vaulted ceiling like they do in old cottages.

  8. Jodie Felten

    I am addicted to German baskets! My husbands parents are German immigrants and have given me several large ones
    they used when the came to the US by boat! I use them to store blankets and pillows and linens in plain sight. The cats like to sleep on top of them too! They are beautiful in your home.

  9. Deborah D

    Marion, thrust me, over the years I’ve had too many baskets. I’ve had to thin out a whole bunch.

  10. Rhonda N

    I live in a very small cabin and baskets are my saving grace for storage. Totally get it!
    I also haven’t met a jar I didn’t like either!!

    • Diane H.

      I have a basket issue as well. Second hand stores, yard sales, craft faires,and brick and mortar stores; I have bought at all of them. I had so many at one point I started using them to package and wrap gifts.
      Currently enamored with colorful handmade African market baskets. It’s a happy and useful addiction

  11. Eileen

    I have always called myself “the original Basket Case”!!! Love them, use them constantly.

  12. Cheri

    I definitely would not have discouraged you from buying this amazing basket! However, (beware) I’m adding a basket like this to “look for” list!

  13. Kathleen E Goudreau

    WOW! Like new.

  14. Sandy

    Oh Marion, it’s so beautiful with the old hardware and I love the repair are. Enjoy!

  15. Tracy

    Well you just confirmed that my decision a few months ago, to purchase one more basket I did not need, was a good one. Mine looks nearly identical to yours and it still has a shipping tag attached with the passenger’s name on it, and their cabin number too.
    It is resting happily in our guest room with a down comforter in it. Thanks Marian!

    • Kathryn

      I’m always looking for baskets and ironstone. I don’t find a lot of them in Oklahoma but lately I’ve found a few! Don’t find too much ironstone either. One day I’ll make it to another state with excellent flea markets!!!

  16. Anita

    Another great find! Plus, I believe I see a sailboat peeking from across the room. Where is it going to live? I’m another veteran basket-lover–Funny story…Long ago, I was at a flea market with my 4-year old son along, and when I bent to inspect a pile of baskets at one stall, I heard a small voice..”Don’t you have enough baskets?”” All these years later, I’m still getting a chuckle remembering that day.

  17. Ronda H.

    Living on the coast, I have wicker furniture and loads of baskets. I love their light sunny feel to off-set the heavier antique furniture and trunks. To clean out the dust that collects in them over time, I take them outside to spray down with a hose sprayer attachment filled with Murphies Wood Soap. It cleans, polishes and protects all at once. Any spots from spills are easily scrubbed away with a brush. Which reminds of when my son was three years old and decided to squirt Hershey’s chocolate syrup over the top of a wicker trunk I had. We some how survived his third year of life. Ha!
    Thank you for this wonderful post. Something new to look for when antiquing.

  18. Gayle Stewart

    Baskets AND boxes! I can’t get enough! Saying that they are to store things is my justification. But, really, I just love them!

  19. Patricia Kasparian

    I also always look for baskets every time I antique, I also love them. I’d love to find a large European one like this one day, they have so much character.

  20. Jennifer

    I love this basket and your effort to fix it turned out wonderful! I love the latches on it and think it will make a perfect side table. It is fun to think of such a beautiful way to send a gift-the container is a gift itself! I think I see your pond boat, it must be in your lovely living room!

  21. Lisa

    Basket problem here too…any woven suitcase, picnic basket etc I purchased one that looks similar to yours but a but smaller just because I liked color and shape

  22. Dawn Harris

    My name is Dawn and I have a basket addiction. Hello, Dawn……:) I have LOADS of baskets many of which were handed down from family members. Some of my favorites are ones my grandmother made in the 1980s and ones my mother bought when we lived in Central America. They are some of the nest antiques, I think – beautiful and practical. Would love to find a lidded one such as yours. Always fun to have something to hunt down!

  23. mary m

    I am reading a novel around the time of Henry VIII. The solders are marching towards Portsmouth, England to ward off a Frenach invasion. They kept refering to panniers………What???? I looked it up and they are baskets for transporting stuff. So lets hear it for panniers!!!! Last year I had a chair recained ($160/ouch) and the weaver told me once a year to wash it down with a light mixture of glycerine and water. Tour basket is lovely. How clever to use clamps.

  24. Valerie Gerards

    Hi Marian,
    if you like to find out more about that basket, I can help you.
    The basket must be from 1953 to 1990, when Chemnitz was named Karl-Marx-Stadt during the DDR. For me it looks like a typical Picknick-Korb (Korb means Basket). People put Bread, Wine, Coffee, Cheese and Sausuges inside, even small plates and Glasses, to have a picknick in the countryside. Maybe the Basket was used for sending food to the “Feierabendheim”, which I can read on the piece of paper. Feierabendheim were homes for old people in the former DDR.
    So if you still search for a similar basket, look for Picknick-Korb!
    Regards from Germay!! 😘😘😘

    • Birgit

      Hi Marian / Valerie,

      I think, I can add some more information.
      I run an antique and old linen business nearby Hamburg, Germany.

      You´re right with Chemnitz/Karl-Marx-Stadt, it was surely used there. It must have been used as a parcel, because – Geschenksendung nicht Handelsware – referrs to having been sent by mail to make clear, that there are private, not business goods inside. Typically, DDR people with relatives in western Germany got parcels with goods, they could not buy in eastern Germany. F.e. recommended brands selling coffee, chocolate, chewing gum, cosmetics,…

      I don´t believe in your opinion as a picknick basket. Usually, they are not that big. They have one top handle, like a shopping basket and a top cover.

      This basket is for sure older than 1950´s, it is more likely from 1910´s until 1930´s. Presumably, it was a, so called, -Aussteuertruhe- which means originally, it was a hope chest. Depending, how wealthy a girls family was, the chest was made from oak or other hardwood, sometimes with carvings or paintings. A farmer´s daughter may have had a simpler one, made of wicker.

      I really enjoyed reading, how interested all of you are in our heritage. That makes me proud and happy.

      By the way, in american blogs, I often read about something maybe French or German. Don´t agonize over that question…many a time, it is just not relevant. Many items have as well a history in France, as in Germany.

      Yours Birgit

  25. Ruby Megan Sugar

    There are three things I look for when shopping, baskets, tablecloths and at one-time throw pillows before I realized that was silly and started making my own pillow covers so I change out decor on a whim. I use baskets in my pantry, in the bathroom, in my bedroom, in the living room for throws and extra pillows. Each time I spot a basket, I have to fight with myself to walk away (sometimes I lose and the basket comes home with me).

  26. Connie

    Fabulous find ! I have some smaller vintage baskets from family. I have had to thin my collection at times over the years.

    I like baskets, boxes, bottles, jars and items made of metal.

  27. Lynnett Ratchford

    My oldest basket (I think) is a small oval shaped open design about a foot long. I discovered it in the attic of a friend’s rental house in Council Hill, Illinois in the 1960’s along with bits of tatting, lace, crochet thread and some old wooden spools. I keep it on my treadle sewing machine and fill it with sewing notions.

  28. Patricia L

    Thank you for posting these pictures and all the information! I bought one of these baskets in a local antique store many years ago when I was a penniless student ; I’ve used it as a coffee table, side table, and now for storing empty canning jars. Always loved it but had no idea it was German or what it was used for, and that adds so much to my appreciation of it. Good to know how to clean it now, too!

  29. Diane Marie Lanford

    Yes, I love baskets! My grand pops was from Prussia and I love all things German but have not seen a German basket! Thanks for sharing your lovey purchase. I have a stack of woven vintage baskets I got from my Aunts friends shop. I have used them for every thing!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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