Weaving a Grass Basket, Bowl, Dish: This South African craft can be made with a variety of materials and painted, stained, or stamped.

For centuries Zulu people have braided and woven grasses into bowls and baskets, formed pottery, created intricate embroidery and beadwork, and sculptures using the same techniques that have been used through the ages.

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Are you ready to try your hand at making your own basket? Simply follow the directions below. Once you get the basics down you can have fun trying different alterations.

Materials Needed:

  • Needle
  • Upholstery thread
  • Grasses, pine needles, or whatever you have growing in abundance
  • optional – bowl to use as formI used pine needle but you can use any material you have with the same technique.

I prefer to use the materials while they are still green because they are more malleable. They will turn brown later.The bundle measurements given are for the thickness of a round bundle. Length doesn’t matter. Regardless of the length, you are going to attach the bundles in a staggered pattern. Think in turns of making a braided rug but you have a lot of short pieces. You would overlap each one to the next. We will be using the same concept.Take about 1/4 inch bundle and using the end of a 36″ piece of thread, tie the bundle in the middle. Put the needle on the other end of the thread. Loop the thread around the bundle and through the back to the front. Take a second 1/4 inch bundle and lay it next to the first bundle. The top of the second bundle should come to the middle of the first.Now wrap the thread around the entire bundle and then through the back to the front. Continue from the halfway point of the first bundle to the halfway point of the second bundle. Fold in half and begin sewing the two bundles together, looping the thread around the new bundle by putting the thread through where the two bundles meet.Sew the next loop to include the previous bundle. Continue to the half way point. At each halfway point add another bundle. Continue working until you get to the end of the previous section. Fold around it and sew into place using the technique discussed earlier of sewing a loop around the new bundle by putting the thread through were the two bundles meet.Sew the next loop to include the previous bundle. Continue around while shaping the basket by placing the new bundle on the side of the previous bundle, slightly raised from the previous bundle or directly on top of or below the previous bundle. There is no wrong way.Your basket can be dish shaped, bowl shaped, vase shaped or plate shaped. After you have done this once and understand the basics, you can try new materials, different threads, different shapes and sizes. You are only limited by your own creativity.When you have finished, end off by sewing into the basket to reinforce and knot. You can either leave the vessel as is or add colour by painting, staining or even stamping.Use some of the traditional symbolism below to tell your own story

  1. Lines painted can represent tears and recall the pain of death. The tears also denote the hardship of a woman’s life
  2. Large eyes, ears, and nose signify the ability to see and hear everything
  3. A small mouth conveys the idea that the you should be slow to speak to give you time to think and not say something in haste that can not be retracted.
  4. Black denotes the relationship between the living and the dead.
  5. Red symbolises life and women
  6. White rimmed eyes express uncontrolled anger.
  7. Zig zag geometric patterns refer to moral principles, a difficult moral path that all people must follow if they are to succeed in life.
  8. The checkerboard pattern represents opposing sides: ignorance and knowledge, dark and light, good and evil, wise from stupid, male from female

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