Basket Making

Basket-weaving is one of the oldest known Native American crafts, there are ancient Indian baskets from the Southwest that have been identified by archaeologists as nearly 8000 years old.

Basketry includes a number of groups of utensils distinguished from one another by the use to which they are devoted. There are baskets proper, hampers, cradles, shields, quivers, sieves, etc. There is frequent historical mention of the use of basketry, but the descriptions of form and construction are meager. An excellent idea of the ancient art can be gained from the art of the present time, and there is every reason to believe that close correspondence exists throughout.

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Basketry Historical Information

Basket Weaving is a very old art. Fragments of baskets have been found in pyramids, and inside pottery. The oldest known baskets are (according to radiocarbon dating) between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, earlier than any established dates for archeological finds of pottery, and were discovered in Faiyum in upper Egypt.

The chief use of baskets is as receptacles, hence every activity of the Indians was associated with this art. Basket work was employed, moreover, in fences, game drives, weirs, houses, shields, clothing, cradles, for harvesting, and for the disposal of the dead. This art is interesting, not only on account of the technical processes employed, the great delicacy of technic, and the infinite number of purposes that it serves, but on account of the ornamentation, which is effected by dyeing, using materials of different colours, overlaying, beading, and plaiting, besides great variety in form and technic.

The failure of the textile art to secure a prominent place in the field of archeologic evidence is due to the susceptibility of the products to decay. Examples of archaic work survive to us only by virtue of exceptionally favorable circumstances; it rarely happened that mound fabrics were so conditioned, as the soil in which they were buried is generally porous and moist; they were in some cases preserved through contact with objects of copper, the oxides of that metal having a tendency to arrest decay.

In its technic basketry is divided into two species - woven and coiled.

Woven basketry has warp and weft, and leads up to loom work in softer materials. Of this species there are the following varieties: Checkerwork, in which the warp and weft pass over and under one another singly and are indistinguishable; twilled work, in which each element of the weft passes over and then under two or more warp elements, producing by varying width and colour an endless variety of effects; wickerwork, in which the warp of one larger or two or more smaller elements is inflexible, and the bending is done in the weft; wrapped work, wherein the warp is not flexed, and the weft, in passing a warp element, is wrapped once around it, varied by drawing both warp and weft tight so as to form half of a square knot; twined work, in which the warp is not bent and the weft is made up of two or more elements, one of them passing behind each warp element as the weaving progresses. Of this last variety there are many styles - plain twined, twilled twined, crossed or divided warp with twined work, wrapped, or bird-cage weaving, three-strand twining after several methods, and three-strand braid.

Coiled basketry is not weaving, but sewing, and leads up to point lace. The work is done by sewing or whipping together, in a flat or ascending coil, a continuous foundation of rod, splint, shredded fibre, or grass, and it receives various names from the kinds of foundation employed and the manner of applying the stitches; or the sewing may form genuine lace work of interlocking stitches without foundation. In coiled work in which a foundation is used the interlocking stitches pass either above, through, or quite under the foundation. Of coiled basketry there are the following varieties: Coiled work without foundation; simple interlocking coils with foundation; single-rod foundation; two-rod foundation; rod-and-splint foundation; two-rod-and-splint foundation; three-rod foundation; splint foundation; grass-coil foundation; and Fuegian stitches, identical with the buttonhole stitch. By using choice materials, or by adding pitch or other resinous substance, baskets were made water-tight for holding or carrying water for cooking.

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The more clothespins you use on the first rows of your basket, the better your basket will turn out.

Use vinegar in the dye pot and in your soaking pan and this will help prevent dyed reed from bleeding.

Run soaked, dyed reed through paper toweling or an old towel before weaving with it. This will help remove excess water and dye, preventing bleeding.

You must air dry damp / wet reed before storing in any kind of a container, including paper bags. If you put away wet reed, it will mold and grow "hair" or mildew.

When rewetting dyed reed before weaving into your basket, add a handful of salt, or a cup of vinegar to the the COLD water. Then pull the dyed reed through a dry paper towel to absorb excess water. This will help keep the colors from running.

To get that "old look" on wood bases for baskets, or any piece of wood, stain the wood first, then paint with an acrylic, doing one or two coats as you desire. When completely dry, sand back the "wear" areas, such as corners, setting area, or areas that would naturally show wear. The stain under the paint makes the wood look older


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