Baskets can be made in many different shapes and sizes, as well as of many different materials. But no matter what the shape or size of material is, there are certain special ways of making baskets. Woven baskets are made by crossing two or more strips of material over and under each other. The pattern is made by the way the strips cross each other. Primitive people do beautiful work in the decorating of their baskets. Sometimes strips of the material are dyed different colors, and the design is made by weaving in the different colors. Sometimes the color is not changed, but the weaving or coiling pattern is changed. Sometimes both the color and the pattern are changed.
Very often, the designs have special meanings for the maker or for his whole tribe. There may be certain religious or magical ideas attached to the designs. In some sections of India, the people make boats of basketwork covered with animal skins. Some South American Indians make baskets that are watertight and can hold liquids. Certain South Sea Island tribes make shields for their soldiers out of basketwork. In many North American Indian tribes, mothers carry their babies on their backs in cradleboards made of basketwork. Men used to make huts by weaving twigs together and covering them with clay. Some baskets dug out of the sand in Egypt were made four or five thousand years before Jesus was born.
That makes them between six and seven thousand years old! The Bible tells us that the infant Moses was hidden in the bullrushes in a basket. The Potawatomi Indians, who lived in Wisconsin, have a myth about baskets. The Potawatomi believe that there is an old woman up in the moon who spends all her time weaving a basket. When the old woman finishes that basket, the world will come to an end. But fortunately there is a little dog in the moon, too, and every so often he jumps up and spoils the old woman’s work, and she has to start her basket all over again. The Potawotami believe that they can tell when the little dog jumps out, because his jumping is what makes an eclipse of the moon. So the Potawotami are bappy every time they see an eclipse. Baskets are made in factories in many parts of the world, but most of the work is still done by hand. This is just a short list of baskets we use every day: laundry baskets, clothes hampers, shopping baskets, sewing baskets, berry baskets, bread baskets.