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Yuchi Basket Making

Another handicraft in the seemingly well-rounded industrial life of the Yuchi is basket making. The women possess the knowledge of at least two processes of basket weaving; the checker work and the twilled. The baskets in general are of two sorts. One is a large rough kind made of hickory or oak splints not unlike the ordinary split baskets made by the Algonkian tribes, with handles for carrying. The other kind, in the manufacture of which cane rinds are chiefly employed, is distinctly characteristic of the Southeastern and Gulf area. A collection of Yuchi baskets resembles those of the Choctaw or Chitimacha in general appearance and technique, although the Yuchi forms obtainable today do not show as much diversity as the others. In their present location, unfortunately, the Yuchi are handicapped by the lack of basket stuffs, while the other tribes still occupy territory where cane is abundant. This may perhaps be the reason why we find the Yuchi comparatively deficient in variety of basket forms and weaves, when other tribes of the southern or Gulf area, as the Chitimacha, Attakapa and Choctaw, are considered. The regular basket material is cane {Arundinaria). For baskets of the common household storage type, intended as well for general domestic utility, the cane rind is the part used, as the outside is fine and smooth. Splints from the inner portion of the cane stalk are employed in the construction of basket sieves and other coarser types. The forms and outlines of common utility baskets, däst’, shown in PI. IV, Figs. 1, 2, seem to resemble the common pottery forms in having the opening somewhat narrower than the bottom. Another type of basket (PI. IV, 5, 7) is the flat one used in the preparation of corn meal. The largest of this class is two feet in breadth with walls not more than an inch or so high. This tray basket is used with another, the sieve (PI. IV, 6), which is also rather flat but not so much so as the former. The bottom of the sieve basket is of open work. Corn meal is sifted through this into the broad tray. Some idea of their respective proportions is given in PI. IV, Figs. 5, 6. The plan of the bottom of all of the basket forms described is rectangular in general, while that of the top is nearly round; at any rate, without angles. The sides of the typical basket invariably slope inward with a rounding outline. This form, as can be readily seen, is largely determined by the nature of the weave.

Fig. 13. Basket Weaves

Fig. 13. Basket Weaves

Nearly all baskets of this region, with little exception, are manufactured by the twilled process of weaving. It is noticeable that the bottom is customarily done in one pattern of twill and the sides in another variety of the same. For example, we find one of the common forms like a, Fig. 13, woven at the bottom in the two over two under pattern, but when the turn for the sides is reached the vertical strands’ no longer run in twos but are separated, each simply alternating in crossing over two weft strands; the weft in its turn crossing four of the warp strands. This mixture of technique seems to be a favorite thing with the Yuchi weavers. Such purposeless variations in weave may be attributable to the rhythmic play motive which Dr. Boas has recently shown1 to be prominent in the technique of many primitive tribes. An example is shown in PI. IV, 2, 3, where a matting bottom (Fig. 13, a) is turned up into a woven side b with an over four under four weft. The relationship between ordinary mats and baskets consequently appears to be a very dose one. At almost any stage in the process of mat weaving it appears that the operator can turn the strands up, fill in with a weft, and change the product into a basket.

Some examples of the varieties of twill which enter into the construction of mats and baskets are given in Fig. 13. The common diaper pattern may appear woven with double strands producing the variety shown in a. Baskets with this weave in the bottom and an over four under four on the sides are most characteristic, as will be seen. The basket sieves outlined before are woven in open mesh on the bottom, leaving open squares about one third of an inch square, c. Here the twill is the same, over two and under two as in Fig. 13, a, but doue with narrower splints. The sides, however, of the basket sieve are filled in with weft strands going over two and under two, thus closing up the open spaces, as shown in d. The other cuts show some different varieties in which the number of warps crossed by the weft strands vary. Fig. 13, b is from the side of the work baskets in which the bottom appears as shown in a. The others, e and f, show the mat twill, the style that is oftenest found in the basket trays. The sides of the tray are changed to an over four under four twill as in b. The latter are held in the lap to catch the sifted corn meal that is shaken through the sieve. The use of the basket sieve, however, and this tray will be described in more detail later.

Fig. 14. Basket, Border Finishing

Fig. 14. Basket, Border Finishing

The basket border is commonly formed of a few warp lengths bent down and wrapped by a runner of cane. A row of twined weaving underneath this holds in place the warp strands that have to be cut off. The figure’ illustrates this border finishing very well (Fig. 14).

Intentional decorative designs seem to be almost entirely lacking in the baskets of today, and it is impossible to say whether or not they ever developed such designs. About the only decorative effect attempted seems to be the employment of cane splints of different shades of red and yellow in the weaving. Rather pretty diagonal patterns are in this way brought out, but they seem to have no assigned meaning or names. These patterns are quite evidently accidental in many instances, for the mere presence of one or two different colored splints in the warp and woof would work out into some geometrical pattern without any previous knowledge as to what this would be.


  1. Decorative Designs of Alaskan Needlecases, Proceedings of United States National Museum, Vol. xxxiv, p. 339-40. 

MLA Source Citation:

Add after new site opens. Web. 31 May 2016.
- Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2014

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