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Traditional Basketry Techniques

In Bryan Sentance’s book, The Art of the Basket, he describes basketry as "in one sense the most humble of crafts, employed through the millennia to produce functional objects that feature in all aspects of the everyday life of ordinary people. Yet the care and ingenuity taken in the making of traditional baskets has endowed them with an intrinsic beauty which provides the modern artist and designer with a treasure house of inspiration." Basketry is both functional and a beautiful expression of art.

There are four basic techniques used to weave a basket: coiling, twining, plaiting, and stake and strand. Any one of these techniques can be used to create a variety of different types of containers, from a small basket for trinkets to a huge one for storing grain. Common materials used in this diverse art form include grasses, bark, roots, and wood.

coiling illustrationCoiling:
Coiling consists of sewing a stationary horizontal element (the foundation) with moving vertical elements (the stitches). The stitching and bindings on coiled baskets can be decorative, purely functional, or both.

twining illustrationTwining:
Twining consists of passing horizontal elements (weft) around stationary vertical elements (warp). Specifically, it is a technique in which two wefts cross over each other between warps.

plaiting illustration Plaiting:
Plaiting involves passing strips of fiber over and under each other at a fixed angle. It produces a checked pattern.

stake and strand illustration Stake and Strand:
Stake and strand consists of two sets of interlaced elements; one set is stable, while the other is moved in and out of the stakes.

This online exhibit illustrates each of these techniques using baskets from the Museum’s ethnographic collection. The examples demonstrate both the differences and similarities in traditional basketry around the world.

References and Related Links

Adovasio, J.M. 1977. Basketry Technology: A Guide to Identification and Analysis. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.

Bernstein, B. 2003. The Language of Native American Baskets. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Porter, F. 1990. The Art of Native American Basketry. New York: Greenwood Press.

Sentance, B. 2001. Art of the Basket: Traditional Basketry from around the World. London: Thames and Hudson.

Wood, F. "Basketry Techniques." Basketry in the Pitt Rivers Museum. 28 Jul 2004.

Weaving technique images reused with the permission of David Nutt and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Text and artifact photos prepared by Audrey Gayou, winter 2006.

Winnowing basket
Winnowing basket
mTlingit basket
Tlingit basket
Hopi coiled basket
Hopi basket
Senegal coiled basket
Senegal basket
Uganda coiled basket
Uganda basket
Surinam basket
Surinam basket
Philippines purse
Philippines purse
Papago basket
Papago basket
Hopi plaque
Hopi plaques
Stake & Strand
Chinese basket
Chinese basket

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