Friday, September 16, 2005

Basket Materials

Cherokees of the southeast used mainly rivercane, which has become increasingly hard to gather, but they also use the Palmetto to weave baskets. In Oklahoma the traditional double walled wicker made by the Cherokee after the removal, is made of honeysuckle, buckbrush or willow. These are all natural materials gathered and processed by the Cherokee prior to making the basket.

Today, for lack of many of the natural materials and because I live in California, where there just isn't any Cherokee natural materials, other than maybe Palmetto, I currently use commercial reed or chair cane. I think also these are good for learning to weave the baskets and then one can expand on other materials to use.

I am currently growing some rivercane, but that will be awhile before it will be ready to use. I also plan to plant a palmetto tree or two for use in basket weaving.

Chair cane comes in a variety of widths and will not accept the dye used for basket making. The Hamburg or bleached cane is used for the adding colored stakes for the designs. Hamburg cane has the outter hard shell of the cane removed or bleached from it, which allows for a porous cane that will accept color. So when using chair cane and if you want to add a color design, you will also need the Hamburg or bleached cane for that. Both the regular cane and Hamburg cane should be of the same size, otherwise, the baskets can come out lopsided. You can make the the baskets without color, the design just won't be as clearly visible. That is also anther way to learn the baskets and you don't have to worry about dyes.

The choice is up to the individual basket maker.

Of all the places that I have purchased cane from this is where I have found the best Hamburg cane and common cane: Bamboo & Rattan Works They have a catalogue you can download and a toll free number to order cane. Also there should be local cane shops in your area, many don't carry the Hamburg cane however, so checking around will help you locate the best source for your cane and basket supplies.

You can also use flat reed or flat oval reed, but both types are hard to weave with, not as fexible as the chair cane. Reed also makes a much bulkier basket, which I think detracts from the finished basket, especially if you're making a lidded basket. The chair cane is probably more bulky than the rivercane but less bulky than the reed. From the looks of old baskets made of rivercane, this natural material is very thin but extremely durable for making baskets, which eliminates the bulk found in other basket materials as well as giving your basket a very long life.