Earth Colors

The clay or rock is ground on a small flat stone, then mixed with an oil made by chewing squash seeds. The paint is put on the twigs with a bit of fur or o rabbit foot, either before or after they have been woven into the basket.

Foundation of Hopi

Plate 11-3. Foundation of Hopi Third Mesa wicker troy.

Start of weaving on Hopi

Plate H-4. Start of weaving on Hopi Third Mesa wicker tray.

Finished wicker tray

Plate 11-5. Finished wicker tray, Hopi Third Mesa.

White: Kaolin

Black: Soot or Coal Green: Copper Carbonate

Red, Brown, Yellow: Iron ochres

Vegetable Colors: These are made by boiling the roots, bark or flowers mentioned and then dipping the basketry twigs in the solution. To set the dye, the twigs are sometimes held in the smoke of burning wool, white for light colors, black for darker ones.

Black: ;Navy bean, Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris) seed smoked over black wool.

Dark Blue: ;The above used in weaker solution.

Light Blue: ;Larkspur (Delphinium scaposum) or indigo.

Purple: ;Purple corn, amaranth (armaranthus plameri).

Pink: ;Amaranth (Amaranthus plameri), Cockscomb. (Varying intensities of the cockscomb dye give carmine, lavender).

Red: ;Alder (Alnus tenuifolia) bark; sumac (Rhus trilobata) berries; Cockscomb, flowers.

Red Brown: ;A grass, (Thelesperma gracile), boiled, strained, native alum added.

Yellow: ;The yellow composite flowers, many of which are known as rabbit brush. The most common are: Chrysothamnus graveolens, Ch. bigelovii, Howardii, pinifolius.

Orange Yellow: Saffron (Carthamus tinctorius), flowers. Green: ;Blue dye and yellow mixed. Sometimes the bark of rabbit brush.


Plaiting is very like wickerwork and, in fact, the two are sometimes spoken of together as basket weaving. The difference is that wickerwork is done with stiff twigs, while plaiting uses reeds or grasses which may be quite flexible. Finer work can be done by this method and there is more chance for variations.

Long ago pueblo people used this method for their beautifully woven sandals which were given up when moccasins came in. They used it for floor mats also and those floor mats were in use, at least with the Hopi, until a short time ago. They were made of cattails or of the long tough leaves of the yucca (yucca angustifolia) split and kept moist by burying in wet sand so that they would handle easily. The weaver began in the center of the mat, laying three strips down parallel and three others across them at right angles. Then she wove in more strands in each direction, passing them over three, under three, or possibly over two, under two. This process, which gives a look of slanting lines to the whole product, is called twilling and we shall meet it again in weaving.

Whirlwind design

Plate 11-6. Whirlwind design, vegetable dye, wicker tray, Hopi Third Mesa.

The edge of the twilled mat was neatly finished, so that no ends showed. When the mat maker had almost reached the edge she cut off every other one of the cattail strands at that point. She plaited the remaining ones together for two or three inches, then turned them down at an angle and plaited back toward the mat, making a double border whose diagonals, on one side, ran at a different angle from those of the mat. When the plaiting reached the mat proper, she could tuck the last ends under these diagonals.

The sketch (11-7) shows one of these common plaited mats, but, as it happens, this time with a wicker border. Other articles made in plaited work were a bandage-shaped ring, about three inches wide and five or six in diameter, which a woman might place on her head or on the floor to support the bottom of a pot. Half of such a ring, a little larger, served as an awning for the baby's cradle. There were also pack straps and the wide belt used with the waist loom. Sometimes the support for the plaster chimney hood was made of carefully plaited yucca strands instead of wickerwork.

Plaited mat of yucca

Plate 11-7. Plaited mat of yucca.

The most popular plaited article was the wide, shallow tray used for winnowing. All the pueblos once made this tray and many do so still. Particularly at Jemez, the women say that they cannot get anything at the white store that will do as well.

A basket tray is started just like a mat but of finer materials. The yucca leaves are split into narrow widths and the sharp edges peeled off. They are woven into a square mat, with diameter a little greater than the basket is to have. When the size is right, the women wets her finished mat and pounds it with a stone to soften the yucca and make it bend easily. (11-8 and 9)

She has already made the ring which will bind the edge of the basket. It is a long sumac rod, peeled, wet, bent into a circle and tied that way to keep its shape. She slips it under the mat, then stands on the mat and pulls its edges up until they come within the ring and the mat has the shape of a shallow bowl. The ends of the mat stand up straight inside above the ring, high at the corners and a little lower at the sides. She bends them down toward the outside over the ring and binds them with strands of split yucca leaf which have been soaking in water to make them flexible. Then she clips the ragged edge even.

Yucca ring basket

Plate 11-8. Yucca ring basket, after the ring has been placed around the edge.

Basketry Coloring Of Second Mesa 14

Plate 11-9. Softening leaves of yucca mat used in making ring basket.

With this same technique she can make circular baskets of any depth, by weaving a larger mat and pushing it down deeper within The ring. Pueblo women used to make nests of such baskets in varying sizes, like the modern housewife's nest of kitchen bowls.