This section is from the "Hand Sewing Lessons" book, by Sarah Ewell Krolik. Also available from Amazon: Hand Sewing Lessons: A Graded Course For Schools And For The Home.
Materials. Reeds are the stems of coarse grasses that grow in wet places and are common in America and Europe.
Raffia is a palm of Madagascar, with very large leaves having a fibrous cuticle. The prepared fiber is also called raffia. It is used for mats, tie bands, baskets, and fancy articles. The natural color is cream white. Reed, wire, cord, and twisted raffia are used as foundations for Indian baskets. Raffia is a substitute for the fine material, not easily obtained, which is dyed by Indians and used with cheaper fiber back of it to give body to the texture. Dyed porcupine quills and the colored feathers of birds are also used for patterns. The color is carried along the cord or reed when not required.
A book on Indian Basketry has been issued by the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D. C, and is sent free of charge to those who are making a study of this art.
Illustration 54. Three ply Braid woven with Reeds.
Basket Making. Reed baskets are easily made. The reeds are soaked in warm water for fifteen minutes, if they are fine. Eight are cut the desired length. Several inches are allowed to turn in for the border.
A Reed Mat is the first piece made. The reeds are crossed in the center, four at right angles to four. Some basket makers cut slits along the center of four through which the other four are passed. The end of a reed, called the weaver, is inserted and is carried around the center, starting under the lower four and passing over the upper four from left to right twice around to hold them firmly in place. Another spoke is added to make an uneven number. The weaver is pressed closely each time that it is carried around between the spokes until the mat is of the required size. The ends are then trimmed and turned in to form a border.
Illustration 55. Nine ply Raffia Braid.
A reed basket is started in the same manner. Bend up the spokes when the bottom is between three and four inches in diameter and weave around them to form the sides of the basket. After some skill is acquired, two or more weavers can be used at a time. For
Illustration 56. Raffia and Reed or Wire, No. I.
Illustration 57. Raffia and Reed or Wire, No. 2.
larger baskets, more spokes are added. When within several inches of the top, trim the reeds evenly and carry them forward and down beside the third or fourth reed to form the border, if they are thick, or beside the second reed if only the nine spokes are used.
Raffia Baskets. Dyed raffia is rolled in a damp cloth to moisten it, the uncolored may be soaked. As it is thin at the ends
Illustration 58. A twisted cord of raffia wound and sewed with raffia.
it is lapped when joined. The strips should be kept uniform in size for weaving. Lap at intervals when making a braid of raffia.
Wind from left to right and sew through from back to front. Form a small ring of the end of the cord. Thread a strip of raffia into a darning needle and sew around the ring until it is covered. Pass the raffia around the cord twice, and through or around the preceding row from the back to the front, and draw it up until the cords meet. Continue to pass the raffia twice around the cord, and once around it and the preceding row or through the latter.
To separate the rows of cord with rows of openwork, draw up the strip of raffia so that the cords will be one quarter of an inch apart and sew around this thread from right to left to form a shank.
Baskets are made in the same manner by using reed 1/8 inch in diameter, and making longer spaces and shorter shanks.
Illustration 59. Raffia and cord with rows of openwork.
The illustrations show several modes of making baskets. When two strands are used at a time they are crossed at the back.
In illustration 57, the five lower rows, in two colors, are woven the same as the upper two. White raffia is carried at the back of each colored strip to give body to it.
Illustration 60. Design for patch-work pillow of strips and 31/2 inch squares for young pupils.
Illustration 61. Design for stitching; also to be enlarged for sofa pillow cover.
Illustration 62. Design for stitching; also to be enlarged for sofa pillow cover.