Four basic weaving techniques are used to construct baskets: wicker, plaiting, twining, and coiling. Wicker, plaiting, and twining all interlace wefts (horizontal elements) and warps (vertical elements), but each technique brings to basketry subtleties of design, color, and form. Coiling is more like sewing. Each of the essential weaves has numerous variations, and weavers sometimes use several variations on a way in a single basket, or combine two or more techniques. Ultimately, the great thing about a basket_s weave reveals the weaver_s creative vision and technical adeptness at both preparing her materials and manipulating them right into a basket form.
In plaiting, or checkerwork, two elements are woven over and under one another at right angles. Twilled weave is much the identical, except that the weft (horizontal) materials are woven over two or more warps (verticals). Within the Southwest, winnowing baskets, often known as yucca-ring baskets, are often plaited. Southeastern basket-makers have made twill-plaited cane basketry for thousands of years. Checker- and wicker-plaiting predominate in the Northeast, where 19th-century basket-makers also used curled weft overlays to begin the _fancy basket_ tradition that continues among today_s weavers.
In wicker, the basket-maker weaves the weft material over and under a stiff foundation or warp of rods or bundles of fiber. In the American Southwest, wicker is used to make serving baskets and trays. Hundreds of wicker plaques are made annually at Hopi to be utilized in katsina and basket dances and give-aways. Wicker is found less frequently in other parts of North America.
Twined work begins with a foundation of rigid elements, or warp rods_fairly often whole plant shoots_around which two, and sometimes three or four, weft elements are woven. The wefts are separated, brought around a stationary warp rod, brought together again, and twisted. The action is repeated time and again, building the basket. Subtle and elegant patterns are made by changing the number of wefts (as in braiding and overlay), or the number of warps the wefts pass over (as in diagonal weaves). A weaver may use any variety of twining variations in a single basket. False embroidery, a technique by which a decorative element is wrapped across the wefts, on the skin face of the weave, is usually seen on plain twining.
Coiling begins at the center of a basket and grows upon itself in spiral rounds, each attached to the round before. Weaving coiled baskets is a sewing technique, because the basket-maker uses an awl to punch holes in the inspiration through which she draws sewing strands. These strands are single pieces of plant fiber that have been trimmed to a uniform size. The inspiration is made up of one, two, three, or sometimes more slender plant shoots, bundles of grass or shredded plant fibers, or a mixture of grass and sticks. In coiling, designs will not be made by changing the weave, but rather by using a unique color sewing thread. Imbrication, a decorative technique unique to coiled baskets made by Salishan peoples of the Pacific Northwest, involves folding a strip of grass, bark, or other fiber under each sewing stitch on the outer surface of the basket.