Basketry Technology

The Biderbost basketry was woven using two main techniques: open plain twining and checker plaiting. Twill plaiting and close plain twining also exist in the collection, but there are very few examples.

Raw Materials

The materials used to make the perishable artifacts from the Biderbost site include cedar withes, cherry bark and withes, and spruce root. There are only three fragments made of cedar bark, and look very distinctive when compared to other basketry fragments.

Materials influenced the weaving technique. For example, cedar splints would not be used for twining because the wood is not flexible enough. Roots and barks are more likely to be used in twining techniques due to their pliable nature. Only one basket, Cat. # 45SN100/2001, is made of spruce root. Its light coloring makes it stand out among other baskets in the collection.

Because these artifacts are fragments of baskets, it is not always easy to determine what part of the basket it is. Weaving techniques can give clues about the part of the basket the fragment came from. For instance, twill plaiting appears to have been used on the bottoms, or bases, of baskets from this collection. Two examples of 3/3 twill plaiting appear to be basket bottoms or mats. Checker plaiting represents the technique used most frequently for the bodies, or walls, of the Biderbost baskets. Many of the checker-plaited baskets also have handles attached below the rims. These fragments often feature decorative bands that are sometimes combined with a horizontal reinforcement rod that runs through the walls of the baskets.

Artistic Adornment

One of the most unusual pieces of basketry from the Biderbost collection features a decorative element unlike any of the other basketry fragments. Artifact # 45SN100/2013 was decorated using a horizontal band of braided twining. The chevron, or bird's foot effect was created by incorporating a strand of material that is a lighter color than the other elements above and below it.

Dr. Dawn Glinsmann, basketry expert, discusses Catalog # 45SN100/2013, as well as the spruce root basket, Catalog # 45SN100/2001
Video by Allison Deep

Cat # 45SN100-7b; Checker-plaited basketry fragment with two-ply cordage handle and evidence of reinforcement rod
Photograph by Burke Museum