Basket Weaving: A 10,000-Year-Old Craft

Did you know?

Humans have been weaving baskets for at least 10,000 years, and the basic principles used by the first weavers are still in practice today. As the craftsmen working in Discovery Park of America’s Settlement will tell you – “over and under, over and under, and then over and under again.” A number of more advanced techniques have been developed over the millennia, of course, including several Appalachian and Midwestern traditions that pioneers of this region were among the first to employ in the 19th century.

The primary material used by pioneers in this area for basket weaving was the bark of hickory, willow and white oak trees, which can be removed from the trunk, cut into strips and woven into baskets. This is accomplished using drawknives, like the four on display in the Settlement’s Tool Barn. This was a long process and the entire process, from falling a tree to completing a basket, could take weeks or even months. This made baskets a precious commodity in the 19th century and a pioneering family would have treated them with great care.

Handmade baskets can be found in the Regional History Gallery in Discovery Center, but the David Crockett Cabin in The Settlement offers the unique opportunity to watch the magic happen. Discovery Park’s basket-weaving demonstrator, Carol Whitmore, has been weaving baskets for over 30 years and has worked in historical interpretation and museums even longer. Carol can be found working in the Craftsmen Room of the David Crockett Cabin alongside a collection of her work.

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