Basketry is one of the oldest handicrafts known to man, but it reached its greatest excellence with the tribes of American Indians who wove baskets from the grasses, reeds and rushes which they gathered as they wandered from place to place in their nomadic life. These materials were colored with dyes made by cooking the bark of certain trees and the roots and bulbs of plants, a knowledge of which was handed down from mother to daughter.
The designs were not meaningless, but represented by symbols their prayers to the Deity for rain, success to a war party, or a petition for favorable crops. Or it might be they chronicled the victory over a hostile tribe, a maiden's love for a stalwart brave, or a thousand other events of their lives in conventionalized symbolic form. The shape, size and use varied as much as the design.
The material used by the Indians is not available for us but imported raffia, rattan and rushes form excellent substitutes. Raffia, a product of the Island of Madagascar, is a soft, pliable, yellowish fiber growing next to the bark of a species of palm tree. Rattan is the product of a kind of palm which grows in India. It is stripped of leaves and split into round or flat strips of different sizes.
A more instructive occupation cannot be found for children than basketry and its allied subjects. It not only is fascinating in itself, but develops patience, judgment, dexterity and skill, and embodies the satisfaction of making a beautiful and useful article. It is not only an educative occupation for school, but for the home as well.
Baskets are known as the woven baskets made of the round or flat rattan and the sewed baskets made from the raffia and reeds.
General Directions for Making the Coil Basket.