Crafts | Make a May Basket

4.25 avg. rating (84% score) - 4 votes

When I was a child growing up in Maine, my grandparents came to our house each and every May Day with little baskets filled to the brim with candies, animal cookies and popcorn.  These vibrant baskets were decorated with frilled papers and tissue flowers and were a delight to look at, even after the contents were emptied and enjoyed.

May Baskets

May baskets can be decorated in an assortment of color palettes.

My mother and grandmother would sometimes purchase these baskets from a small penny candy shop in Bar Harbor for a quarter.  Once in a while we would even make them ourselves.

Bought or handmade, giving May baskets on the first day of May has become a tried and true cherished tradition.  I love to fill May baskets with flower seed packets, chocolates, and little trinkets or toys.  You can also add other items such as miniature soaps; lip balm; baked cookies or homemade candy;  nostalgic candies from a penny shop; coupons; photos; stickers; a gift card; hand drawn pictures from your child (if giving baskets to relatives); magnets; treats and snacks; crayons; and petite flower bouquets.

Materials to Make a May Basket:

  • Various colored streamers
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Seed pots or recycled and cleaned paper milk cartons
  • A recycled cereal box (or other thin cardboard)
  • Ribbon (optional)

Instructions to Make a May Basket”

If using milk cartons, trim them down to a square shape. Seed pots need not be trimmed.

To Make Basket Handles:

I often use a ribbon for my May basket handles.  If you opt for using ribbon, you can simply punch a hole on opposite sides of your basket and tie your ribbon to each side.

To make a cardboard handle, cut a ½ – ¾” wide strip of thin cardboard, i.e. from a recycled cereal box.   The length of your handle will depend on the size of your milk carton or seed pot.  You can test the length by holding it in place in your basket. Trim as needed but do not attach the handle yet.

Decorate the basket handle with streamers—one color is easiest.  Tightly wrap the handle by turning the handle over and wrapping with streamers as you go. Apply glue as needed. Repeat till the handle is wrapped tightly in streamers.
When handle is wrapped and trimmed, staple the handle in place on the basket.


To  Make Baskets:

Choose the color of streamers you want to start with—this will be the top layer of color on your basket.

Measure and cut the streamers into one foot strips (longer if doing the entire basket one color).

Fold the streamer in half lengthwise.


Hold the seamed edge of the streamer in your non-dominant hand.  With your other hand trim tiny snips along the entire length of the streamer (like making grass).

Place one end of the streamer at the top of the basket rim so that the frills are up and over the rim of the basket.

Tape the end of the streamer down to hold it in place.

With glue or glue stick, put a small amount of glue in a strip along the rim of the basket.

Wrap the base of your May basket in colorful streamers

Wrap the base of your May basket in colorful streamers.

When you finish trimming the entire rim, pull the streamer gently down (just a hair, so to speak) and continue wrapping around the basket, adding glue as needed.

If you need to stop wrapping at any point (i.e. to start another row of color) simply trim off the streamer and glue or tape it down.  If the streamer runs out, then glue or tape that down also.

Repeat the process above using different colored streamers to make layers of color.

When you get to the bottom layer, you will need to glue the streamer down along the bottom rim of the carton.  This is the bottom of your May basket.

Wrap the streamer around the rim.

For a fuller look to your basket, gently slide your hand down each side of the basket in the opposite direction of the frills.
Fill the basket with Easter grass, paper grass, or other filling.  Then add your May basket goodies!

Finished May Basket

Finished May Basket

Deliver your baskets to friends and loved ones!

  • Oh my, does this bring back memories. I grew up in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. When I was in elementary school there in the 1940s, it was the custom to “surprise” our classroom teacher with a May basket. We started with a carton. Some of us girls decorated the carton with crepe paper ruffles, flowers and anything else that struck our fancy. Meanwhile we collected food items, candy and other treats from our classmates. On May 1st during lunch or recess we would place the basket outside the classroom door, knock on the door and run. Of course the teacher always feigned surprise and expressed her pleasure with all the goodies in the basket.

  • Bonnie

    Pam, you can certainly use the image! I’m sure you know the protocol– provide credit for the photo as well as a link to the blog :) Thank you so much!

  • Bonnie, I would like to use your image of the May baskets on the sill for an article I am writing about May Day for our online magazine. May I have permission to use that? We will give you credit.


  • Dory– that is such a wonderful memory. I love the idea of grandparents and grandchildren making baskets together. When my son was your son’s age he loved to deliver the baskets to neighbors :)

    Teresa– I am so excited to come and make May Baskets! And I can’t wait to see what Wade Zahares has done to the Seafood Center!

  • Want to make some May Day baskets with us at the Seafood Center in Arundel this Wednesday, 4/18 at 11am? I am so confident I can make one, based on Bonnie’s awesome writing, that I took the plunge and began planning a May Day Basket casual crafting event. Kids are on vacation beginning Monday. We open for the season Wednesday.Bonnie’s son needs a burger, and we are more than happy to serve him one, so she said she would stop by around 11AM. I will purchase some seedling pots, unless anyone can offer ideas where I can nab several recycle-ready cardboard containers (like pint, quart or 1/2-gallon cardboard containers that may have held milk, juice or Half & Half)?

  • This looks like fun! When I was little, my Gram Maxine and I would go to a church sponsored May basket making evening. We had fun ‘making’ and chatting, ending up with these elaborate umbrella-looking tissue baskets. Thanks for reminding me of the memory. :)

  • I grew up in Mass. making May baskets and delivering them to friends. I enjoyed this article so much and plan to make some with my grand daughter. Thanks.


Leave a Comment

Enter Your Log In Credentials