Basketry – A Useful and Traditional Craft
A basket is a simple container usually constructed from strong fibers and is made of a variety of materials, ranging from wood to wicker to cane. While many baskets are constructed using animal products, other non-animal materials like wicker, horsehair, or wire can also be used. Baskets are usually handmade by hand. The baskets used in burlap bags, on canvas, or inside big drums are examples of hand crafted baskets. They have traditionally served the purpose of holding goods but are now used in a number of additional ways.
The traditional craft of basketry dates back to ancient Egypt and is evident in numerous paintings and sculptures found around the world. In Western culture, basketry is seen in a number of forms such as a tote bag, a handbag, a laundry hanger, a baby diaper bag, and a large bowler hat. The term “basketry” is derived from the Greek word that meant weaving. Basketry was practiced in Egypt for thousands of years before it was brought into the world of modern civilization. Artisans in Egypt would use reed, grass, twigs, petals, and leaves as material for baskets. Basketry became popular as people learned how to manufacture them and the methods of plaiting were developed.
Plaiting refers to joining two or more pieces of fabric to form some type of shape. The earliest example of basketry that we have evidence of comes from the cultures of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. The word basketry comes from the Latin for woven or basket like. Egyptian basketry can be found in a variety of different sizes and shapes, with some of the larger pots being over eight feet in diameter. Greek basketry is sometimes referred to as gourds baskets.
The most common item found in a basket is usually a small amount of fruit or nuts. Other materials that are commonly found in basketry include pasta (netted and/or untied), dried flowers, small amounts of candy, dried fruits, small pieces of pottery, seashells, bone fragments, shells, ceramic items, leather goods, and various types of jewelry. A basket can also be a decorative tool. The common shapes of bakeries that decorate homes are usually animals, flowers, birds, fruits, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms, and human or animal faces. A variation of basketry is the gourd basket which is typically round or square and made of gourds. This type of basket is quite distinctive as it contains water.
The most popular method of basketmaking is knitting, although plaiting has developed out of it. With knitting, the weft or inner layer of the fabric is separated into multiple layers by the use of various types of needles. The wefts are then plaited to form patterns. Plaiting typically involves twisting two long thin needles together, and yarn from each separate strand is run through the plaits. The end result is a thick plait with multiple layers.
When using knitting or plait techniques, there are many different ways to organize the actual patterns. One of these options is to make use of a basting pin, and slide one end of the plait through the basting hole of the pin. The other option is to tie the end of the yarn around a hook, and then loop the other end through itself. Both of these methods can be shaped to have the appearance of basket shapes.