Basket weaving

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Artist Lucy Telles and large basket, in Yosemite National Park, 1933
A woman weaves a basket in Cameroon
Woven bamboo basket for sale in K. R. Market, Bangalore, India

Basket weaving (also basketry or basket making) is the process of weaving or sewing pliable materials into three-dimensional artifacts, such as baskets, mats, mesh bags or even furniture. Craftspeople and artists specialized in making baskets may be known as basket makers and basket weavers. Basket weaving is also a rural craft.

Basketry is made from a variety of fibrous or pliable materials—anything that will bend and form a shape. Examples include pine, straw, willow, oak, wisteria, forsythia, vines, stems, animal hair, hide, grasses, thread, and fine wooden splints. There are many applications for basketry, from simple mats to hot air balloon gondolas.

Many Indigenous peoples are renowned for their basket-weaving techniques.


While basket weaving is one of the widest spread crafts in the history of any human civilization, it is hard to say just how old the craft is, because natural materials like wood, grass, and animal remains decay naturally and constantly. So without proper preservation, much of the history of basket making has been lost and is simply speculated upon.[citation needed]

Middle East

The earliest reliable evidence for basket weaving technology in the Middle East comes from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic phases of Tell Sabi Abyad II[1] and Çatalhöyük.[2] Although no actual basketry remains were recovered, impressions on floor surfaces and on fragments of bitumen suggest that basketry objects were used for storage and architectural purposes. The extremely well-preserved Early Neolithic ritual cave site of Nahal Hemar yielded thousands of intact perishable artefacts, including basketry containers, fabrics, and various types of cordage.[3] Additional Neolithic basketry impressions have been uncovered at Tell es-Sultan (Jericho),[4] Netiv HaGdud,[3] Beidha,[5] Shir,[6] Tell Sabi Abyad III,[7] Domuztepe,[8] Umm Dabaghiyah,[9] Tell Maghzaliyah,[8] Tepe Sarab,[10] Jarmo,[11] and Ali Kosh.[12]

The oldest known baskets were discovered in Faiyum in upper Egypt[13] and have been carbon dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, earlier than any established dates for archaeological evidence of pottery vessels, which were too heavy and fragile to suit far-ranging hunter-gatherers.[14] The oldest and largest complete basket, discovered in the Negev in the Middle East, dates to 10,500 years old.[15] However, baskets seldom survive, as they are made from perishable materials. The most common evidence of a knowledge of basketry is an imprint of the weave on fragments of clay pots, formed by packing clay on the walls of the basket and firing.

Woven baskets made of rush and palm fronds

Industrial Revolution

During the Industrial Revolution, baskets were used in factories and for packing and deliveries. Wicker furniture became fashionable in Victorian society.[citation needed]

World Wars

During the World Wars some pannier baskets were used for dropping supplies of ammunition and food to the troops.[16]


Basketry may be classified into four types:[13]

  • Coiled basketry, using grasses, rushes and pine needles
  • Plaiting basketry, using materials that are wide and braid-like: palms, yucca or New Zealand flax
  • Twining basketry, using materials from roots and tree bark. This is a weaving technique where two or more flexible weaving elements ("weavers") cross each other as they weave through the stiffer radial spokes.
  • Wicker and Splint basketry, using materials like reed, cane, willow, oak, and ash

Materials used in basketry

Bending vines for basket construction in Pohnpei

Weaving with rattan core (also known as reed) is one of the more popular techniques being practiced, because it is easily available.[13] It is pliable, and when woven correctly, it is very sturdy. Also, while traditional materials like oak, hickory, and willow might be hard to come by, reed is plentiful and can be cut into any size or shape that might be needed for a pattern. This includes flat reed, which is used for most square baskets; oval reed, which is used for many round baskets; and round reed, which is used to twine; another advantage is that reed can also be dyed easily to look like oak or hickory.[citation needed]

Many types of plants can be used to create baskets: dog rose, honeysuckle, blackberry briars once the thorns have been scraped off and many other creepers. Willow was used for its flexibility and the ease with which it could be grown and harvested. Willow baskets were commonly referred to as wickerwork in England.[17]

Water hyacinth is used as a base material in some areas where the plant has become a serious pest. For example, a group in Ibadan led by Achenyo Idachaba have been creating handicrafts in Nigeria.[18]


Because vines have always been readily accessible and plentiful for weavers, they have been a common choice for basketry purposes. The runners are preferable to the vine stems because they tend to be straighter. Pliable materials like kudzu vine to more rigid, woody vines like bittersweet, grapevine, honeysuckle, wisteria and smokevine are good basket weaving materials. Although many vines are not uniform in shape and size, they can be manipulated and prepared in a way that makes them easily used in traditional and contemporary basketry. Most vines can be split and dried to store until use. Once vines are ready to be used, they can be soaked or boiled to increase pliability.[citation needed]


The type of baskets that reed is used for are most often referred to as "wicker" baskets, though another popular type of weaving known as "twining" is also a technique used in most wicker baskets.[citation needed]

Popular styles of wicker baskets are vast, but some of the more notable styles in the United States are Nantucket Baskets and Williamsburg Baskets. Nantucket Baskets are large and bulky,[citation needed] while Williamsburg Baskets can be any size, so long as the two sides of the basket bow out slightly and get larger as it is weaved up.[citation needed]


The parts of a basket are the base, the side walls, and the rim. A basket may also have a lid, handle, or embellishments.

Most baskets begin with a base. The base can either be woven with reed or wooden. A wooden base can come in many shapes to make a wide variety of shapes of baskets. The "static" pieces of the work are laid down first. In a round basket, they are referred to as "spokes"; in other shapes, they are called "stakes" or "staves". Then the "weavers" are used to fill in the sides of a basket.

A wide variety of patterns can be made by changing the size, colour, or placement of a certain style of weave. To achieve a multi-coloured effect, aboriginal artists first dye the twine and then weave the twines together in complex patterns.

Basketry around the world


South Asia

Punjabi Basketmakers, c. 1905

Basketry exists throughout the Indian subcontinent. Since palms are found in the south, basket weaving with this material has a long tradition in Tamil Nadu and surrounding states.[citation needed]

East Asia

Basket making in Hainan, China. The material is bamboo strips.

Chinese bamboo weaving, Taiwanese bamboo weaving, Japanese bamboo weaving and Korean bamboo weaving go back centuries. Bamboo is the prime material for making all sorts of baskets, since it is the main material that is available and suitable for basketry. Other materials that may be used are ratan and hemp palm.[citation needed]

In Japan, bamboo weaving is registered as a traditional Japanese craft (工芸, kōgei) with a range of fine and decorative arts.[citation needed]

Southeast Asia

A falaka crafted by the Bontoc people of the Philippines.

Southeast Asia has thousands of sophisticated forms of indigenous basketry produce, many of which use ethnic-endemic techniques. Materials used vary considerably, depending on the ethnic group and the basket art intended to be made. Bamboo, grass, banana, reeds, and trees are common mediums.[19][20][21]



Basketry is a traditional practice across the Pacific islands of Polynesia. It uses natural materials like pandanus, coconut fibre, hibiscus fibre, and New Zealand flax according to local custom. Baskets are used for food and general storage, carrying personal goods, and fishing.[citation needed]


Basketry has been traditionally practised by the women of many Aboriginal Australian peoples across the continent for centuries.[22][23][24]

The Ngarrindjeri women of southern South Australia have a tradition of coiled basketry, using the sedge grasses growing near the lakes and mouth of the Murray River.[25]

The fibre basketry of the Gunditjmara people is noted as a cultural tradition, in the World Heritage Listing of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in western Victoria, Australia, used for carrying the short-finned eels that were farmed by the people in an extensive aquaculture system.[26]

North America

Native American Basketry

A Seri basket of the haat hanóohcö style, Sonora, Mexico

Native Americans traditionally make their baskets from the materials available locally.

Arctic and Subarctic

Arctic and Subarctic tribes use sea grasses for basketry. At the dawn of the 20th century, Inupiaq men began weaving baskets from baleen, a substance derived from whale jaws, and incorporating walrus ivory and whale bone in basketry.

Handmade kudzu basket made in the Appalachian Oriole style

In New England, they weave baskets from Swamp Ash. The wood is peeled off a felled log in strips, following the growth rings of the tree. Maine and Great Lakes tribes use black ash splints. They also weave baskets from sweet grass, as do Canadian tribes. Birchbark is used throughout the Subarctic, by a wide range of tribes from Dene to Ojibwa to Mi'kmaq. Birchbark baskets are often embellished with dyed porcupine quills. Some of the more notable styles are Nantucket Baskets and Williamsburg Baskets. Nantucket Baskets are large and bulky,[citation needed] while Williamsburg Baskets can be any size, so long as the two sides of the basket bow out slightly and get larger as it is woven up.


Southeastern tribes, such as the Atakapa, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chitimacha, traditionally use split river cane for basketry. A particularly difficult technique for which these tribes are known is double-weave or double-wall basketry, in which each basketry is formed by an interior and exterior wall seamlessly woven together. Doubleweave, although rare, is still practiced today, for instance by Mike Dart (Cherokee Nation).[27]

A basket made by the Mono Lake Paiute - Kucadikadi (Northern Paiute) and Southern Sierra Miwok (Yosemite Miwok) artisan Lucy Telles

Northwestern tribes use spruce root, cedar bark, and swampgrass. Ceremonial basketry hats are particularly valued by Northeast tribes and are worn today at potlatches. Traditionally, women wove basketry hats, and men painted designs on them. Delores Churchill is a Haida from Alaska who began weaving in a time when Haida basketry was in decline, but she and others have ensured it will continue by teaching the next generation.

Californian and Great Basin
Native American basketweavers working in San Rafael, California in 2015
Pomo people girl's coiled dowry or puberty basket (kol-chu or ti-ri-bu-ku), late 19th century

Indigenous peoples of California and Great Basin are known for their basketry skills. Coiled baskets are particularly common, woven from sumac, yucca, willow, and basket rush. The works by Californian basket makers include many pieces in museums.

Traditional Tohono O'odham basketmaking, 1916

In northwestern Mexico, the Seri people continue to "sew" baskets using splints of the limberbush plant, Jatropha cuneata.[citation needed]

Other North American Basketry

  • Matt Tommey is a North American artist who weaves sculptural baskets out of kudzu.[29]
  • Mary Jackson is a world-famous African-American sweetgrass basket weaver. In 2008, she was named a MacArthur Fellow for her basket weaving.[30]



1. For long African baskets is one of the many specialties of the tribal communities and also the source of income for a lot of them. However, African baskets are considered as one of the most popular African art items and have a special art value all over the world. Types of Baskets Because of the huge geographical region that encompasses the African region there are a variety of baskets that you can buy. 2. 1) Wolof Baskets – Senegal- Wolof Baskets are woven by the Wolof people native to Senegal. These are coil baskets with rigid walls and soft colors. They are mostly used as a home décor item can come in various shapes and sizes too. 3. 2) Zulu Ilala Palm Baskets-South Africa One of the most famous basket types in the world, Zulu baskets are weaved by the popular Zulu tribe in South Africa. The pot shaped baskets are hand-woven using grass and ilala palm leaves. Mostly Zulu Ilala Palm Baskets are used as decorative items due to its attractive finishing and color combination which done through usage of natural material which is found locally in Africa. 4. 3) Zulu Telephone Wire Baskets- South Africa Very popular and coming in gorgeous colours, these are collectors items but also accessible for daily home use. They are made with telephone wire, originally discareded pieces but now are bought in special factories. Creating employment for the makers of the wire and the artisans that produce the baskets. 5. 4) Bwindi Baskets-Uganda Bwindi Baskets are weaved using local grasses and Papyrus. These are open bowl shaped baskets and can be used to hold fruits and other stuff on dining tables. 6. 5) Bukedo & Raffia Baskets- Uganda These type of African baskets are made using dyed raffia which is weaved around banana leaf stems. These baskets are dyed in bright colors and made of different patterns as well. The Bukedo and Raffia baskets are mostly used as decorative items in houses. 7. 6) Bolga Baskets- Ghana The Bolga baskets are made by the Gurune community. This basket is made from the veta vera straw which is found locally. It’s a round shaped basket with sturdy handles and can actually be used as means of storage. Some baskets even come with leather handles and certain basket patterns can take up to 3 days for weaving. 8. 7) Lutindzi grass baskets- Swaziland Lutindzi grass basket as the name suggests is made from Lutindzi grass found on the mountains of Swaziland. These baskets are woven in an intricate patterns which makes them very beautiful to look at. These baskets are woven by the local women and the patterns using traditional weaving techniques. 9. 8) Beaded wire baskets- Kenya Beaded wire baskets are put together by stringing tiny colored glass beads on wires in a pattern. The beauty of it is that the beaded wire baskets are made using only a pair of pliers to cut the wire and give it the desired shape. In Kenyan tradition the beaded wire baskets are mostly given as gifts. These African baskets can be used to store jewelry or ornaments of daily use. 10. 9) Zambia Tonga Baskets-Zambia Tonga baskets are weaved using creepers, palm leaves and tiny vines. These are simple style baskets mostly used for grain winnowing. The baskets are colored using natural vegetables dyes. 11. 10) Nubian Baskets- Sudan Nubian baskets are made from papyrus stalks on the inside and palm leaves on the outside. It is a complicated weaving process which produces a top quality basket with wonderful patterns and colour dyes. 12. 11) Makenge Bush Root Baskets-Zambia Makenge are large bushes that are found throughout the region. The roots of this bush are cut and peeled and the interior is used to make the baskets. The beautiful baskets are woven in intricate patterns and given the shapes of vases and other forms. 13. 12) Sisal Coil Woven Baskets- Swaziland The sisal baskets are made from sisal plant that grows in abundance throughout Swaziland. The sisal fibers are sturdy substances and hence the baskets are sturdy too. These are the most laborious of the African baskets as it takes around 30 hours to create an 8 inch of basket. Only the very skilled weavers are able to weave a perfect sisal basket. 14. The weaving is complex and the patterns delightfully bright. These baskets make for good decorative items and can even be displayed on the walls. The people of Swaziland give the baskets as gift which signifies long and happy life.

See also


  1. ^ Verhoeven, M. (2000). "The small finds". In Verhoeven, M.; Akkermans, P.M.M.G. (eds.). Tell Sabi Abyad II: The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Settlement. Leiden and Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut. pp. 91–122.
  2. ^ Wendrich, W.; Ryan, P. (2012). "Phytoliths and basketry materials at Çatalhöyük (Turkey): timelines of growth, harvest and objects life histories". Paléorient. 38 (38.1–2): 55–63. doi:10.3406/paleo.2012.5458.
  3. ^ a b Schick, T. (1988). Bar-Yosef, O.; Alon, D. (eds.). "Nahal Hemar Cave: Basketry, Cordage and Fabrics". 'Atiqot. 18: 31–43.
  4. ^ Crowfoot, E. (1982). "Textiles, Matting and Basketry". In Kenyon, K. (ed.). Excavations at Jericho IV. British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. pp. 546–550.
  5. ^ Kirkbride, D. (1967). "Beidha 1965: An Interim Report". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 99 (1): 5–13. doi:10.1179/peq.1967.99.1.5.
  6. ^ Nieuwenhuyse, O.P.; Bartl, K.; Berghuijs, K.; Vogelsang-Eastwood, G.M. (2012). "The cord-impressed pottery from the Late Neolithic Northern Levant: Case-study Shir (Syria)". Paléorient. 38 (38): 65–77. doi:10.3406/paleo.2012.5459.
  7. ^ Duistermaat, K. (1996). "The seals and sealings". In Akkermans, P.M.M.G. (ed.). Tell Sabi Abyad: The Late Neolithic Settlement. Leiden and Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut. pp. 339–401.
  8. ^ a b Bader, N.O. (1993). "Tell Maghzaliyah. An Early Neolithic Site in Northern Iraq". In Yoffee, N.; Clark, J.J. (eds.). Early Stages in the Evolution of Mesopotamion Civilization. Soviet Excavations in Northern Iraq. London and Tucson: University of Arizona Press. pp. 7–40.
  9. ^ Kirkbride, D. (1972). "Umm Dabaghiyah 1971: A preliminary report". Iraq (34): 3–15. doi:10.2307/4199926. JSTOR 4199926.
  10. ^ Broman Morales, V. (1990). "Figurines and other clay objects from Sarab and Cayönü". In Braidwood, L.S.; Braidwood, R.J.; Howe, B.; Reed, C.A.; Watson, P.J. (eds.). Prehistoric Archaeology Along the Zagros Flanks. Chicago: Oriental Institute Publications. pp. 369–426.
  11. ^ Adovasio, J.M. (1975). "The Textile and Basketry Impressions from Jarmo". Paléorient. 3 (3): 223–230. doi:10.3406/paleo.1975.4198.
  12. ^ Hole, F.K.V.; Neely, J. (1969). Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Deh Luran Plain. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
  13. ^ a b c Erdly, Catherine. "History". Basket Weaving. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  14. ^ Diamond, Jared M. (2005). Guns, Germs, and Steel : The fates of human societies. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-393-06131-4. Nomadic hunter-gatherers are limited to technology that can be carried....You can’t be burdened with pottery and printing presses as you shift camp....For example, the earliest attested precursors of ceramics are fired clay figurines made in the area of modern Czechoslovakia 27,000 years ago, long before the oldest known fired clay vessels (from Japan 14,000 years ago)....the oldest known basket appears around 13,000 years ago
  15. ^ "Oldest woven basket in the world found in Israel, dates back 10,000 years". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  16. ^ Lynch, Kate. "From cradle to grave: willows and basketmaking in Somerset". BBC. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  17. ^ Seymour, John (1984). The Forgotten Arts A practical guide to traditional skills. page 54: Angus & Robertson Publishers. p. 192. ISBN 0-207-15007-9.CS1 maint: location (link)
  18. ^ How I turned a deadly plant into a thriving business, Achenyo Idachaba, TED, May 2015, Retrieved 29 February 2016
  19. ^ Philippine basketry: an appreciation, RF Lane - 1986
  20. ^ Basketry Weaves and Bau-Malay Earthenware Pottery in Southeast Asia. WG Solheim II - Hukay, 2005
  21. ^ Weaving traditions from Island Southeast Asia: Historical Context and Etnobotanical knowledge. D Novellino, 2006
  22. ^ "About weaving". Maningrida. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  23. ^ "History of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textiles". 9 April 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  24. ^ Mills, Vanessa (21 July 2011). "Weaving magical baskets and sharing Aboriginal knowledge". ABC Kimberley. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Ngarrindjeri basket weaving". Sustainable Communities SA. 24 August 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Budj Bim Cultural Landscape". UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  27. ^ Cherokee basketry artist to be featured at Coffeyville gathering. News from Indian Country. 2008 (retrieved 23 May 2009)
  28. ^ a b "Washoe Basket Weavers | ONE". Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  29. ^ "Weaving Kudzu into Art". Garden & Gun. 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  30. ^ "A Lowcountry Legend: Mary Jackson". Garden & Gun. Retrieved 2021-10-29.

Further reading

Basketry products, Bulgaria
  • Blanchard, M. M. (1928) The Basketry Book. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
  • Bobart, H. H. (1936) Basket Work through the Ages. London: Oxford University Press
  • Okey, Thomas (1930) A Basketful of Memories: an autobiographical sketch. London: J. M. Dent
  • Okey, Thomas (1912) An Introduction to the Art of Basket-making. (Pitman's Handwork Series.) London: Pitman
  • Wright, Dorothy (1959) Baskets and Basketry. London: B. T. Batsford

External links