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basketweaving-msg - 6/12/09


Medieval basketweaving.


NOTE: See also the files: wood-bending-msg, rattan-msg, straw-crafts-msg, pottery-msg, weaving-msg, lucet-cord-msg, spinning-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: The Custer Family <jcuster at alpha.clarion-net.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Basketweaving

Date: Sun, 29 Dec 1996 21:10:50 -0500

Organization: EMI Communications


bestfam wrote:

> If anyone could give me the titles of any books on period basketweaving,

> 'twould be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.  :)


> Cicely de Neuton


Check out the list of past Complete Anachronists. I know one of the one

I recieved over the past 3 years was on basket weaving. (I'd give you

the number etc., but most of mine are on loan to othr Shire members.)


Eaine Flamme



From: irontree at wavefront.com (Daniel Jay Kretchmar)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Basketweaving

Date: Fri, 03 Jan 1997 06:35:00 GMT


bestfam wrote:

> If anyone could give me the titles of any books on period basketweaving,

> 'twould be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.  :)


> Cicely de Neuton


You might check out Shire publications or Dover Books.  I have some

information (somewhere) on Norweigian woodweaving and bentwood boxes.

I know that Colonial Williamsberg also does a style of basket weaving

that was unchanged from medieval days so that it is still period.  I

spoke with their reaver about the use of a draw knife (bevel side

down, which I found unsual) on making their basket strips.


Daniel Kretchmar (irontree at wavefront.com)



From: Daniel Kretchmar <irontree at wavefront.com>

To: Mark S. Harris

Date: Wed, 08 Jan 1997 00:24:53 -0800

Organization: Irontree


Mark S. Harris wrote:


(Daniel Jay Kretchmar) wrote:


> >You might check out Shire publications or Dover Books.  I have some

> >information (somewhere) on Norweigian woodweaving and bentwood boxes.

> >I know that Colonial Williamsberg also does a style of basket weaving

> > that was unchanged from medieval days so that it is still period.  I

> > spoke with their reaver about the use of a draw knife (bevel side

> > down, which I found unsual) on making their basket strips.


> I'm not sure what you mean by this. Which is the bevel side? the back?

> If so, then I am even more confused now.


When using a draw knife the most common method of using it is bevel side down. The edge is sharpened only on one side, not both sides like a

kitchen knife. That edge side is called the bevel.  Strips of wood used

in baskets are taken off in long strips in which the fibers are not cut

but instead are split. The fibers need to remain intact for a basket

strip. By using the drawknife bevel side up, the reavers at colonial

Williamsburg don't cut through the fibers but instead use the drawknife

as a wedge and split the fibers (it doesn't cut as well bevel side up,

which is a good thing when you are splitting wood and don't want to cut it)



From: slicer8370 at aol.com (Slicer8370)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Basketweaving

Date: 3 Jan 1997 13:26:16 GMT


My mother learned how to basketweave and taught me many years ago.  The

Appalachian style baskets aree almost all in the complete anachronist (I

can't remember the number either) but any books about appalachian baskets

will have the egg basket design..that one I KNOW is period.



From: Tireachan <alphafem at cyberhighway.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Basketweaving

Date: Sat, 04 Jan 1997 19:06:57 -0700


Slicer8370 wrote:

> My mother learned how to basketweave and taught me many years ago.  The

> Appalachian style baskets aree almost all in the complete anachronist (I

> can't remember the number either) but any books about appalachian baskets

> will have the egg basket design..that one I KNOW is period.


Sorry it took me so long to respond.  Yes the egg, fanny or melon basket

is period - in fact, there is a color illumination of one included in

the book Fabulous Feasts (at least its good for something) that uses

flat reed (probably ash wood, oak or hazel) instead of the more commonly

used willow.  As for actual books on period basketmaking, there are

none, it is simply one of those arts that has been passed down from

father to son for generations and basketmaking was only recently a

subject that anyone wrote about at all (last 80 years or so).  The

closest is the Complete Anachromist mentioned above.  As for sources

though, I use the following:


Heseltine, Alastair _Baskets and Basketweaving_ Shire Publications.  

This one has been misplaced so I cannot remember all of the information

on it.  It does date a treatise by Pliny on the harvesting of willow for

basketry at 79 AD and talks briefly about age-old methods of basketry.  

This is _probably_ the closest you'll come to anything concrete.


Cort, Louise Allison _A Basketmaker in Rural Japan_.  A Smithsonian book

that came out a few years back about Japanese basketweaving - it has

obviously changed little in the last thousand years.


Gabriel, Sue and Goymer, Sally  _The Complete Book of Basketry

Techniques_. It isn't complete, in that it only covers round reed but

it is an excellent learning guide and shows how to make some baskets

that I have seen in period paintings.


Hoppe, Flo _Wicker Basketry_.  I had the opportunity to study under Flo

Hoppe once and her book is almost as informative as she is.  Again, it

only covers round reed.


_The Medieval Health Handbook_.  Which I have not yet seen, but a friend

assures me that it has _many_ pictures of period baskets.


Art books.  The only way to become an accomplished medieval basketmaker

is to learn modern basketry first, and then pour through books of art

and reproduce what they actually made.  Documentation can be

difficult because of the lack of period treatises, but not

impossible. Flat reed basketry was _comparatively_ very uncommon, so

round reed is where you will best focus your efforts.  Besides, its more

challenging _and_ fun :)


Lady Tireachan




From: Tireachan <alphafem at cyberhighway.net>

To: Mark S. Harris

Date: Mon, 06 Jan 1997 15:10:39 -0700

Subject: Re: Period Basketweaving


> Why do you find round reed basketry to be more challenging and fun?


Round Reed is just inherently more difficult, especially when you are dealing with willow.  Anyone with any degree of arthitis can attest to it.  Round reed isn't nearly  as easy to move around as flat reed, all the flat reed baskets made in period were  extremely simple, and you don't have the patterning options.  It's pretty easy, if  you  look at any round reed basket, to see that it a complex assortment of different  weaves.  With flat reed you have two basic weaves, plaiting and twill weave.  With round reed  you  have weaves that involve one to four reeds that are being twisted into the basket  all at  the same time. It can be quite challenging to keep track of it.  Also, more of the   period baskets were round reed - so there are more challenges out there to begin with.   Hope to see you at my basketry class at Estrella!


> I may try some basketry again some day. I did a little back in the

> Biy Scouts. I'm getting tired of pay high prices, even here in the

> middle of Texas, for baskets that fall apart within a year or two

> of SCA use. The best basket I've ever had was also one of the cheapest,

> bought just across the border in Mexico over six years ago.


I know what you mean, I've never had one of my baskets wear out - and I've put them through alot!  Especially my backpack basket!





From: Eric & Lissa McCollum <ericmc at primenet.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: basket--making?

Date: 25 May 1998 01:15:01 -0700


> I'd like to start making baskets. I'm getting tired of carrying my fluids

> around in bags that look about as period as Igloos!! :-) Unfortunately, I

> misplaced Mistress Elfwyn de Harfleur's CA on this subject. If you have any

> ideas, advice, etc, etc, please let me know! Thanks in advance.


> Isabelle de Foix

> College of Misty Mere

> Kingdom of Meridies


I found "The Basket Book" by Lyn Siler to be very helpful to

teach the basics of flat reed basket making. And Mara Cary's

"Basic Baskets" has good instructions for a general round

reed basket. Check your library or bookstore in the crafts

section--there are some good instructional books out there.


Also, check around at your craft stores. Reed is kind of

hard to find, but someone should carry it. (There are also

catalogs to mail order the reed, though I haven't tried

any of them yet.) Often times the stores that carry the

raw materials will also have kits that have intructions.

I'd suggest learning on the commercial reed, then if

you get hooked you can progress to gathering your own



On the net, I've bookmarked:


That has links to other basket related sites.


I've made maybe a dozen different baskets--if you get stuck,

feel free to write. :)


Gwendolen Wold

(posted & emailed)



From: "Preferred Customer" <Hamner at email.msn.com>

Subject: Re: basket--making?

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 09:55:04 -0700

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca


One reference for you is the book:


Basic Pine Needle Basketry by Judy Mulford.


It covers everything from the history of pine needle basketry, materials

emaving and stiches, to dyes and embellishing.


Judy is not SCA, but she is a master of her art, and a very good teacher.


The book is available through her at:


Judy Mulford

2098 Mandeville Canyon Road

Los Angeles, CA 90049


I don't know how much she asks for it.





From: Mike Boelter <nerakkpb at earthlink.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: basket--making?

Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 11:08:37 -0400


     Check out the May 1998 issue of Mother Earth News which has an

article on basket weaving. Also be warned that you should consult the

July 1998 issue as there were some errors in the original issue that are

corrected in the July issue (page 6 & &) with slightly better drawings.


   The notable thing about these baskets are that they are made of

recycled paper bags and would be a nice cheap project to keep the

smaller SCA members amused and entertained.


   Material outlay is saying 'Paper' at the grocery check out line,

some white glue and staples. For a large number of baskets I'd probably

buy my Lady a brand new cloth cutting wheel and use the old one to cut

paper with :s)


   The baskets appear to be fairly durable and will at the very least

look much better than paper or plastic bags.


Tirion at aol.com

aka Sir Starhelm Warlocke KbSCA



Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1999 21:23:08 -0500

From: "Maggie Allen" <maggiea at empireone.net>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: Baskets?


>Ohhh. These soft handles sound wonderful. I've had trouble trying to pack

>a basket into my footlocker for shipment to Pennsic. I've got other baskets

>that have almost lost or have completely lost their handles.  We were given

>a nice, large basket as a wedding gift that lost it's handle within a few

>uses. Are these soft handles something that could be retrofitted to an

>already made basket? I've also seen some good baskets but didn't but them

>because their handle was too flimsy or non-existant.


>Are these soft handles made of rope? Or of flat reeds or willow?

>Instructions to make these handles or book referances to do the same would

>be appreciated.


I use a cotton webbing (like the straps they use on canvas totes).  For a

single handle I use at least 2-inch (5.08 cm) wide straps.  The strap

consists of one single piece wrapped around the basket and threaded between

the weaving in at least 2 places on both sides and the bottom and firmly

sewn together where the ends overlap.  One basket I have has two 1-inch (two

2.54-cm) pieces stitched together with a nice pattern, very decorative.  I

suppose you could just work it through several places on either side, fold

the ends around and sew them to the strap above the last weave through but I

think all the way around is more solid.


You can also do this so that you end up with two handles that meet over the

opening of the basket.  It is done with the same interweaving but you need

to start on the bottom go up towards the edge of one side, leave a loop at

the top and go back down the opposite edge of the SAME side, pass under the

basket (remembering to interweave at least once) and repeat the process on

the other side, firmly sew the ends where they come back together.

Generally you can hide the sewing underneath one of the interweave spots so

it doesn't show.


I have only done this with baskets woven with flat basket reed (rattan

actually - yet another use for rattan) but I think the principle would be

the same for many other types (anything you can get the webbing through I

would expect).   I also think that you might be able to do this with a

basket that has lost its handle with a little creative weaving utilizing the

gaps in the weaving where the original handle went.


I have one basket (the one with the two 1-inch strip handle) that my lord

and I used for Pennsic shopping.  We had about 30 to 40 pounds (13-18 kg) in

it and the handle held wonderfully.


My lord recommends padding the handle for the touch of luxury.  He suggested

wrapping duct tape around foam, inelegant perhaps but probably soft.  Maybe

sheepskin would be nice - hmmmm, (insert mad plotting/planning noises here).



Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 02:31:24 -0500

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

To: "INTERNET:sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu" <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Baskets


>Anyone know what type of basket or basket material would have been common

>at the northern shore of the Black Sea in the mid to late 10th c., probably

>heavily influenced by Byzantium and the Kievan Rus.


Borbart -Basketwork through the Ages. Great ref. Try interlibrary loan or=


it can be got as a reprint here in the UK


>Basket info of all types is also of interest.




One of my persona is a basket weaver (in fact 2 but only one does it as a

proffession !)





Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 02:19:32 -0500

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

To: "INTERNET:sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu" <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Baskets-Willow


Yes I use willow for most of my basket work it is the traditional material

of the English basket worker, hard to say how long, but for a very long



Basketwork is very easy, but quite tough on the fingers, you need strong

hand (especially doing it all day as I do on displays!). There are loads

of good book on techniques I only know English ones, but I'm sure there are

US ones. Dorothy Whites one is very interesting from technique & History

but OOP & UK publication. I'm sure you could find a good basic book in






Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 18:39:12 -0500

From: "Maggie Allen" <maggiea at empireone.net>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: Baskets?


>Do you know of any examples of surviving Viking baskets?  I'd

>love to get more info on that.


The one picture I have is from Kurver by Jan Henrik Munksgaard published by

C. Huitfeldt Forlag (ISBN 82-7003-026-0) that a member of my household

brought back from Norway for me.  It is a photo of basket fragments that I'm

told is a period piece (by someone who reads Norwegian).   It is a round

core with an overwrap of some type of flat reed/grass (maybe) done with a

coiling type basket weave. I have no idea of the size because it is merely a

photo of the existing fragments with nothing for reference.


I have seen one other picture and the person who showed it to me is looking

to see if she can remember which book it was in.  I'll forward the info when

I get it.


I have also been told that there is a reference to wrapping something around

rolled hay which was then coiled into basket form.


Another good source for information and additional references is Complete

Anachronist #77 by Lady Elwyn de Barfleur called Medieval Baskets in Our

Modern World.  The bibliography alone is worth the cost, all the useful info

she imparts is just a wonderful bonus.


>I notice a lot of baskets in general SCA use, but does anyone

>know of actual shapes of baskets that are medieval?  A lot of the

>'fancy' baskets that I see in stores seem more Victorian to me, but I

>don't know.


To the best of my knowledge most, if not all, modern basket weaving

techniques have existed since pre-history (it seems like there must be some

pieces that survived or how would they know) and materials were generally

whatever was at hand and worked (so if anyone just happens to know what was

available at the mouth of the Dneiper river at the Black Sea in the mid to

late 10th century - let me know.  :o)  )


Personally I would like to see more baskets of any kind being used.  Even if

the shape is not 100% period it is certainly less jarring than a mundane

knapsack or some other options (I recommend soft handles for better packing



>One of my persona is a basket weaver (in fact 2 but only one does it <as a

proffession !)




My persona is also a basket weaver (Kofinopoia is Greek for basket maker).

I suspect that almost everyone made their own household baskets or had

someone in-house who did, it is a *relatively* simple craft and materials

were collectable.


My favorite thing about basket weaving though is that they haven't been able

to come up with a machine that can do it yet :-))))))


Margarita Kofinopoia/Maggie



Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 14:53:03 -0600

From: Roberta R Comstock <froggestow at juno.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Rope


The making of cords and ropes is extremely ancient - predating both

weaving and pottery.


There's a dandy little book  called _Rope, Twine and Net Making_ , Shire

Albums number 51, published by Shire Publications Ltd., Aylesbury, Bucks,

UK.    I don't have my copy handy to give you author and ISBN  at the

moment, but I highly recomend the Shire Publications series (in addition

to the albums on dozens of historical technology and rural life themes,

they also publish series on ethnography and archeology).


Some of the titles listed  on the volume I have in my hand now (_Spinning

and Spinning Wheels_ by Eliza Leadbeater, #43) are:


Agricultural Hand Tools -  100

Baskets and Basketmaking  -  92 (which I don't have yet)

Bricks and Brickmaking - 75

Shepherding Tools and Customs - 23

Straw and Straw Craftsmen - 76

Woodworking Tools - 50





From: "Mira (Tanya Guptill)" <tguptill at teleport.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Basketry Group

Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 12:38:31 -0700


Some of you may be aware that there is an online discussion

group for historic/SCA basketry, that can be found at

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SCAbasketry .  There has been

a  lot of good recent discussion regarding documentation and

materials, and if basketry is an interest of yours, you may

want to check it out.


Mira Silverlock

An Tir



Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2006 08:39:55 -0400

From: "Cash, John Joseph" <jcash at indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: [SCA-AS] basket weaving

To: Arts and Sciences in the SCA <artssciences at lists.gallowglass.org>,

     "Merritt, Cheryl" <merritt at tatrc.org>


Dear Allessandra,


<<< (...what difference is there) between what we are doing now and historically?

Are there references specific to times/locations for baskets? >>>


There can be a great difference between our attempts to reproduce a

basket with physical accuracy, and the actual relationships involved in

producing a basket in a given historical society. These are excerpts

from an encyclopedia entry I wrote on basketry for the _Encyclopedia of

American Folklife:_


"Basketry techniques are common across cultures, and assimilation of

styles and materials is frequent. What tends to make basketry

traditions distinct, and innovative, is the use of resources available

in the environment in which a community lives/lived. Competence in

basketry traditionally meant knowledge of how to select proper

materials, prepare and store the plant fibers, and work them into

recognizable forms. As well, baskets frequently had connections to the

sacred, and their role in sacred stories reflected the role of the

basket maker in a society."


"As an example of how complex this interaction can be, there are Navajo

'jewel baskets.' For the Navajo, jewel baskets were present in the

actions by which the medicine ways came to the Navajo at the time of

the First World, the origins of the Navajo. 'Before the earth was

created as we know it now, there were the jewel baskets one of white

shell, one of turquoise, one of jet, one of abalone, and two others.

When First Man and First Woman were created, then the regular

ceremonial basket came after these baskets. The ceremonial basket is

all of the jewel baskets combined into one.' So, the sumac used to make

the basket is blessed before removing strips; the materials must be

stored properly; and the maker must have the proper attitude while

weaving, as the artifact becomes part of its creator as well as a

channel for the creative processes -- the typical design of the broken

ring allows the artist a clear path out of that process. As part of the

respect shown during use and storage after completion, one doesnt

rotate the basket, as this disturbs thoughts and causes memory loss.

Altogether such a basket is said to have 'personhood.'


These two resources might help:


Law, Rachel Nash, and Cynthia W. Taylor. Appalachian White Oak

Basketmaking: Handing Down the Basket. Knoxville: University of

Tennessee Press, 1991.


Simpson, Georgiana Kennedy. Navajo Ceremonial Baskets: Sacred Symbols,

Sacred Space. Summertown, TN: Native Voices, 2003.


-- johannes v.n.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org