Basket Weaving Resources, Techniques, and more!
Based on the carbon dating performed on the oldest known basket, the practice of basket weaving has been used in cultures all over the world for at least 12,000 years. There are a multitude of uses for baskets, ranging from table top decorations to traps meant for catching fish, and they play a prominent role in some religious ceremonies. In fact, during WWI and WWII baskets were used to contain the food and supplies that were dropped down from aircraft to the troops. Baskets made for purely aesthetic reasons incorporate intricate patterns, striking colors, and often more flexible fibers. On the other hand, baskets intended for utilitarian purposes, like the gathering of food, are crafted using stiffer ribs and thicker fibers for increased durability.
While the oldest known basket is estimated to be approximately 12,000 years old, it is speculated that basketry has been practiced for much longer than that. Unfortunately, the natural fibers used to make baskets are difficult to preserve, which makes it hard to define exactly how old the craft is - if not impossible. Although Native American cultures are most predominantly referenced when the topic of basket weaving is discussed, the art of basketry has been practiced in many other cultures around the world, as well. For example, baskets have played an integral role in both China and Japan, where they are used for both aesthetic and utilitarian purposes, like fishing, funeral basketry, and food storage.
There are many types of natural fibers that can be used to weave a basket, like various kinds of tree bark. For example, grasses, bamboo, vines, oak, willow, reeds, and honeysuckle are all commonly used materials for weaving. When choosing a suitable material for basketry, the flexibility of the fibers is the most important aspect. If the material is too brittle, it will not be able to flex enough to be woven into tight coils and through small spaces. However, it is important to note that stiffer fibers are also used in some techniques to create a frame, or the ribs, for the basket.
The basic process of basket making involves carefully weaving strands of fiber over and under each other to create a round shape. A simple coil basket starts out as a thick piece of fiber that is shaped into a basic coil while a thinner, flexible fiber is woven around it. Wicker baskets are more difficult to master. They start out as a series of stakes, also known as spokes, which radiate from the bottom of the basket - these are used as the supporting frame. Then, a series of strands are woven over and under the spokes to create the sides of the basket.
Terms and Techniques
There are four different types of basketry methods: coiling, plaiting, twining, and wicker. Some of the terms that are specific to basket weaving include loops, twining, ribs, and spokes. It is common practice to lash the rim and wrap the handle of the basket to give the finished product a more polished look, and to protect the owner's hands from sharp protrusions. To start the upward weaving process in wicker basketry, many basket makers will "upsett" the spokes, which involves carefully bending them upwards from where they meet in the center.
- Basket Weaving for a Living (PDF) - Read through a personal story about one family's roots in basket weaving, as well as a brief explanation of how a basket is constructed by hand.
- Facts about Oakwood Baskets (PDF) - Learn about the history of using white oak as a basketry medium, including the preparation that the wood has to undergo prior to being woven into a basket shape.
- Black Ash Baskets - Check out a brief explanation that details the tradition of using black ash as a basketry medium in Native American cultures, as well as a list of other informative links about basket weaving.
- Traditional Basketry in Native California (PDF) - Discover the deep roots that basketry has in California by reading about the history and uses of basketry by Native Californians.
- How to Construct a Basket (PDF) - Learn how to make your own basket by using this comprehensive guide to basket weaving.
- Cahuilla Basketry - Read about the importance of basket weaving within the Cahuilla culture.
- Basketry of the Pomo Indians (PDF) - Learn about the materials, techniques and patterns that are characteristic of traditional Pomo basketry.
- Pomo Utility Baskets - Look at pictures and read about the differences that make utility baskets used for gathering, cooking and the storage of goods different from other types of baskets.
- Appalachian Basket Weaving - Find out why basket making became popular again during the Craft Revival period.
- Native Basketry in Canada - Read about the history and prominence of making baskets for decorative and utilitarian purposes in Canada.
- History of Traditional Basketry (PDF) - Check out a brief overview of basketry that includes history, picture examples, and common terminology.
- Kentucky Basket Weaving (PDF) - Learn more about the complex art of basket weaving in this in-depth explanation that includes the uses, various techniques, materials and care of baskets.
- Virtual Basket Weaving - Create your own basket patterns using this virtual basket weaver.
- Basketry of the Northwest Coast - Become familiar with the different types of baskets that were commonly used by native tribes along the Northwest Coast.
- Basket Weaving Tutorial - Follow along as this picture tutorial shows how to make your own basket in ten steps.
- Introduction to Wabanaki Baskets (PDF) - Look at examples of Wabanaki basketry and learn about the history of each basket.
- Basketry Methods (PDF) - Check out a comprehensive look at the different fibers and techniques that can be incorporated into basket weaving.
- Introduction to Plant Fibers (PDF) - Read about how various fibers are used in both decorative and utilitarian applications.
- Traditional Japanese Basket Making - Learn about the history of using bamboo fibers in Japanese basketry.