Monday, August 6, 2012

Very Basic Basketry Research

There are so many terms used for baskets or in basket making that I get a little confused sometimes, therefore, I wanted to try sorting it all out, especially as it relates to Germanic baskets.


According to Jackie B at SCABasketry, willow (German: Weide) was a very traditional Germanic basket material, as well as hazel (German: Haselnuss).  So this is where I started when I tried to determine what traditional Germanic basket materials may have been.  I'm afraid this is my current "shot in the dark", especially since I am not an expert in the study of plant life by any stretch of the imagination.

Wicker:  I've seen the term used in relation to baskets and furniture, but it didn't mean quite what I thought it meant.  Falling back on I came up with - a slender, pliant twig; osier; withe.  I always thought it referred to another type of material, but it's really the shape of the material.  Willow is what is normally identified as falling into this category, or, as indicated, osier, another type of willow.

Style: [I may not have the proper pictures with the proper techniques.  These are all guesstimates on my part.]

Stake and Strand
"Stake and strand baskets are woven in much the same way as textiles, but without the aid of a loom.  The warp and weft, which may be of different materials and widths, are interlaced at right angles to produce a fabric.  The warp elements remain passive, while the weft passes actively over and under them, one row at a time.  Many European willow baskets are of stake and strand construction..."  - The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Vol 1 by Gordon Campbell

Saint Elizabeth Clothes the Poory and Tends to the Sick by an Unknown German Master, c. 1390s
"Knitting Madonna" from the right wing of the Buxtehude Altar by Meister Bertram of Minden, c. 1400-1410

Adoration of the Magi by Unknown German Master, c. 1420 (top: bread basket)

The Magician by Hieronymus Bosch, Duchy of Brabent, c. 1475-1480

"Plaited baskets are made with two or more sets of elements, usually all of the same material and width; there is no distinction between warp and weft, all elements being equally active." -  The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Vol 1

Garden of Paradise by Master of the Upper Rhine, c. 1410 (left side: fruit basket)

Leather Worker from Mendel Hausbuch I, c. 1425 (chair seat)

Virgin and Child with Saints Barbara and Dorothea / Dorothy by Master ES, c. 1450s, most likely Upper Rhine

Saint Eligius in His Workshop by Master of Balaam, c. 1450 (far left: work basket)

Detail from Saint Luke Painting the Virgin by Derick Baegert, c. 1470

Christ Nailed to the Cross, Ecce Homo, Nuremberg, Germany, c. 1520, MS M 896, fol 1r

"Rib baskets, which tend to be oval in shape, are woven over a rigid framework.  They seem to be of European origin..." - The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Vol 1
I'm not quite certain to what this refers, therefore, I'm leaving it alone for now.

"Twined baskets are woven using two or more wefts at once, crossing over each other at intervals between the warps." - The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Vol 1
This method appears to have been used most frequently in fence construction.

Grabow Altarpiece: Nativity by Meister Betram, 1383 (center and bottom: fencing)

Children of the Housebook: Venus and her Children by Meister des Hausbuch, c. 1475-1490 (bottom: fence)


Without wanting to spend an arm and a leg on basket making supplies since I have no idea whether it is something I want to spend my time learning, I wanted to at least begin with something relatively easy to find and local... cattails.  [I have yet to figure out how to either identify or find willow (osiers) in my area, but I've been given to understand it is available, which would be the more ideal choice for weaving period baskets.  When I figure that out, I'll post something to that effect so that others can find willow as well.  Until then, I'm going to play with cattails.]

   Typha latifolia (aka European bulrush) -- Broad-leaved cattail measures up to 1 inch wide or 2.5 cm and can grow to around 9 feet tall
   Typha augustifolia -- Narrow-leaved cattail measures up to 1/2 inch wide or 1.3 cm and around 3 feet tall.

Both of these are common to the Northern Hemisphere in the United States and Europe (I've seen pictures of them in Germany).  Near my home in Kansas, my daughter and I have found mostly the narrow-leafed variety, at least so far.  We're still searching for the longer variety.  We've found most of the cattails we've foraged from the side of the highways, in ditches by the roads, and along lakes and ponds.  It has been an interesting experience so far, but we're only beginning.  For now, we're waiting for the leaves to dry out, which I've been given to understand takes anywhere from 2-3 weeks.  Some sites say that it is easier to weave cattails when the leaves are still fresh, which is something we'll have to test.  There was another site (which I'm afraid I lost) that indicated the Irish flattened bulrushes for centuries, using them for curtains, baskets and other woven projects.

Further Information:

1. Basket Weaving Terms
2. Cattails (Typha Species)
3. How to Weave a Basket: A Primer - This particular page is more about styles than actually weaving a basket.
4. Traditional Techniques of Basketry
5. Wood in Use in the Middle Ages

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