East Troy Basketry Company is owned and operated by Jim and Eileen Mirsberger. It all started in 2000, when Eileen, a full-time nurse in a local hospital, was invited to a basket weaving retreat. You know how it is, one basket and you are hooked. Eileen was delighted to find a basket shop nearby, she needed to buy basket materials and when she found out the basket shop was for sale, she bought that too!
Still a new weaver herself, Eileen reached out to basket makers locally and nationally. They responded by mentoring her and coming to East Troy, Wisconsin to teach in her shop. Her husband, Jim, joined her in the shop in 2005.
In 2013, Jim and Eileen made the decision to close the store front, however they did not close the store. They moved the ‘store’ home, expanded their website, www.easttroybasketry.com and went mail order. Thanks to loyal customers, their business is thriving. While they are mail order and do much of their business online, they are still available to give advice and take orders over the phone.
Over the years, Eileen has often worked two jobs, hospital nurse or school nurse and small business owner. Now that she has retired from nursing, she is enjoying being able to devote more time to the basket business. You might see them vending at an event and Eileen is thinking about starting up basket classes again.
Dyed Reed is Their Specialty!
When Jim came on full time, he discovered he loved dying reed. So he has worked to perfect his technique, color and colorfastness. His colors are beautiful and he’ll dye any color you want, including dying to match something in your home. Custom colors, including custom space dyed reed, can be ordered while the basic colors are almost always in stock. Eileen posts ‘what’s available’ daily, so you just might see what you are looking for already available. Custom orders take about two weeks.
And just so you know, Jim only dyes premium reed; you can be sure you are getting the best reed available.
In addition to selling dyed to order reed, Jim and Eileen also sell products to help you dye your own reed: Rit dye (powder), Synthrapol and Retayne. They also graciously told me how they dye reed.
Jim’s Reed Dying Method
Bring water to a boil. Lower the heat to keep the temperature just below boiling. Stir the Rit dye powder and Synthrapol into water. Add reed, submerging it until the reed is a shade darker than you want. Remove the reed, rinse in hot water. Then soak in cold water and Retayne for a half hour. Hang to air dry.
Synthrapol is a surfactant used by fabric dyers, it helps the fiber absorb the dye. Retayne is a mordant or a fixative, it helps the dye adhere to the reed. The use of these two chemicals gives a deeper color and prevents bleeding.
In addition to dyed reed, they also sell other weaving materials like natural reed in all sizes (they carry PLButte Blue Ribbon), cane, seagrass, and waxed linen. They also have tools, tie-ons, D handles and Weaver’s Stain. A local woodworker makes all of their bases. And they are the only place I can find Insta-Cure glue with a clog resistant cap.
Jim and Eileen are a wealth of knowledge and they are always happy to help you out.
East Troy Basketry Company