A couple of weeks ago I went on a one-day workshop with Anna Niedzielska, a visiting Polish basketmaker. The workshop was organised by Halina Ward, a current student on the two-year City Lit basketry course who is half Polish and also acted as (excellent) interpreter for the day.

Anna teaches both willow and straw basketry in her home town of Bytom in Silesia. At the workshop I attended she taught us how to make a coiled straw basket with loops. I’ve also seen the technique called looped coiling, but in my book that’s something else, so to avoid confusion I will call it coiling with loops.

There were plenty of samples on display. Some were made by Anna or Halina, others had been bought in second-hand shops. Most were in straw, but Halina had also been experimenting with other materials, including this pretty version made with day lily leaves.

This type of basket is most commonly found in eastern Poland, though there are examples in ethnographic museums in other parts of Poland. The technique may also have been used in neighbouring Ukraine and Belarus. Rye straw is the traditional material, but longer varieties wheat straw can also be used.

We started by wrapping the straw to form a ball, around which we created a few loops. Unlike traditional coiling, where the stitching is done with a continuous length of thread or fibre, in this technique a new element is added to create every loop and stitch, and is then incorporated into the main core. So the thickness of the core grows quite quickly at the beginning until the older elements start to run out. A very chunky curved needle is used to add the new material.

When the base is large enough the basket is shaped by working up the sides as usual. By paying attention to the spacing of the loops you can get them to form a spiral pattern around the sides.

The inside looks like a fairly standard coiled basket.

Most of us managed to more or less finish our baskets – thankfully, there is no complicated border to contend with.

After workshops like this I find it useful to repeat the technique as soon as possible to try to consolidate what I have learnt. Without any straw or special needle, I decided to use daffodil stalks, inspired by Halina’s day lily version.

When dampened and well mellowed, daffodil stalks are quite strong, thanks to the double layer. So I made the thickness of the coil less chunky by adding a single stalk at a time (rather than the three stalks of straw that we added in the workshop) and removing a couple of stalks from the existing core every time I added a new one.

The result was a tiny basket that I can hold in the palm of my hand – shown below with the straw version to give an idea of scale.

This is a really interesting technique, and I aim to continue experimenting with different materials when I get more time.

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3 Responses

  1. Looks like you had a great time at your workshop & you’ve mastered the technique which looks stunning.

  2. no material seems considered ‘out of bounds’ – which always makes such an interesting post/view. Who would have thought daffodil stalks would make such sweet and lovely little baskets.

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