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Basket making is an ancient handicraft in almost all parts of Punjab. Basketry used to be a source of employment for the rural womenfolk of Punjab villages in good olden times. Basically, baskets were largely used by families for different reasons. Albeit with the changing time, Basketry finally became a work of art and craft which is now used as decorative/showpieces in homes.

Man has always been interested to develop the woven articles from the nearby available materials to ease the life since time immemorial. Basketry is made from shredded thin grass straws. Such types of straws are also used to weave carpets, hand fans, mats, curtains and rugs etc. The hand fans known as Peshawari pankhe are still admired. Kunda ladar pakki, minor size fans, are easily reached. Chaj, tiffin baskets, oval shaped boxes with lids, waste paper container and tokris are other straws products.

The raw-materials like grasses, bamboo, palm leaf, cornhusk, reeds, date leaf, cane are easily available locally thus increasing the popularity of this domestic craft. ‘Sarkanda’ is the local name of straws extensively used in basketry. All the major cities/tourist spots of Punjab have ample range of collections of basketry stuff.

Use of Basketry

‘Chaj’ is very useful household device made out of ‘Sarkanda’. It is used to separate unwanted stuff from the edible grains. Screens, for example, used to separate wheat and hay are also woven with ‘Sarkanda’. Numerous household items like buttons, cotton, threads, pins, needles etc are kept in baskets of different colors and shapes made out of shredded sarkanda which are also the integral part of dowry for young girls and known as katnees in Punjab. The colored threads of cotton and shaved ‘sarkanda’ pieces are also used to interlace Bohey, chiks, Moorras (a form of chair) and Pitarian (helpful household item).

Materials Used in Basketry

The rattan core (water plant with firm stand) available in abundance is widely used for making the cane and basketry products. This material is flexible and if woven properly, the article becomes strong. Reed, easily available and in plenty, can be adjusted and cut to suit any shape and size according to the demand of the product/pattern where as conventional materials like willow, hickory and oak do not have such characteristics. Reed can also be colored smoothly to appear like hickory or oak. Different forms of reed such as flat reed are used for square baskets, round reed is utilized to make cord and oval reed is used for making different round baskets. The basketry made out of the reed material is popularly called “wicker” baskets. “Twining” is another popular technique which is used in the majority of wicker baskets. These types of wicker baskets are generally used to store grains, beer and to cover the heads of sacrifice in some human sacrificing tribes.

The other plants which can be used in basketry makings are Honeysuckle, Dog rose, Blackberry briars after scraping off their thorns and lots of other tree creepers. Willow tree is known for its elasticity and can easily be harvested and grown near water. The basketry made out of Willow is generally termed as wickerwork in Britain.

Basket Weaving Process

The different essential parts of any basket are the rim, the side walls and the base with other usable and beautifying attachments like lid, handle etc.

Almost every basket making starts with base which can be either of wood or reed woven. A wooden base can be used in different shapes to add varieties in shapes of baskets. First the ‘static’ portion of the basket is prepared. They are called ‘spokes’ in case of round baskets and referred as ‘staves’ or ‘stakes’ in other shapes. The weaver then starts to fill in the empty basket sides between the stakes/spokes.

With changing the color, size, height and different designs of weavings can result in making a wide range of basketry. The native artists first dye the twine and then interlace these twines to complicated patterns in order to achieve multi colored effects.

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