I’m just back from a week’s holiday in Spain, starting in Bilbao and working my way down to Madrid by train and bus. I had less than a day in Madrid, arriving by train in the morning and flying home in the evening, but I managed to visit two museums with interesting baskets in that time!

Museum of Folk Arts and Traditions

This museum in the Rastro area of the city is part of the Autonoma University of Madrid and occupies a series of rooms around a central courtyard. One of the highlights is the collection of larger than life festive figures – the one below includes ESP for scale! The veiled hole in the front of the costumes allows the wearer to see where they are going.

Last year I attended a workshop to learn the nansa basket technique with Monica Guilera, so it was good to see a selection of these baskets at the museum.

There were also a couple of delightfully untrimmed esparto shoulder bags, made with neolithic braiding.

Plus some nice straw and coiled work, and a small collection of basketry tools, including cleaves (used to split harder material, like willow or cane, into narrower strips).

National Anthropology Museum

Spread across three floors, the National Anthroplogy Museum includes a large section on the Philippines. This featured some great examples of plaiting and coiling.

Upstairs, the Americas section included this rather lovely strainer and twill plaited tray, both from the Amazon region.

The African section also had some fine trays that combined plaiting and twining.

And some great hats, one of them decorated with snake bones.

There was also an intriguing fibre costume, previously worn during initiation ceremonies for young boys by the Pende people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although it looks similar to knitting, I don’t think it is – let me know if you recognise the technique!

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