A selection of craft information for artisans of the HFS.

    Coiling Techniques


    Posts : 81
    Join date : 2011-05-30

    Coiling Techniques Empty Coiling Techniques

    Post  Admin on Tue May 31, 2011 6:36 pm

    There are a variety of techniques, called a 'stitch', used to wrap around and fasten together coils in a basket. There are a number of stitching techniques and materials used in Native American coil baskets that give the baskets of each region their own unique style. After European contact, Colored embroidery thread often supplanted natural fibers that had been used in coil basketry. When coils are joined tightly together with simple stitches, leaving no horizontal space, it is referred to as 'close-coiling'. When coils are separated by an intricate stitch, leaving an open space between subsequent coils, it is referred to as 'open-coiling'. The open space between coils is determined by the size and complexity of the basket-makers stitch. Sometimes close- and open-coiling are combined in the same basket to create a pattern.

    Coiling with Artificial Sinew

    The technique used to stitch together or wrap coils will determine any surface texture and visible pattern. A variety of 'simple' stitches are usually used by Native Americans along the eastern seaboard of North America. Combinations of 'simple', 'intricate' and 'wrapping' stitches are often used by Native Americans in other areas.

    Simple stitches go around the bundle being added and then penetrate the former coil, only to be brought around the bundle being added again, repeated over and over. Simple stitches may be 'separate', 'interlocking', and 'split' in a variety of ways. Intricate stitches involve various knots made between the bundle or rod being added and the bundle below it, creating open spaces between coils. Wrapping stitches only go around the coil being added. Wrapping stitches do not penetrate previous coils and are often used in certain combination with intricate stitches to create a varied texture.
    Using different dyed colors, tightly spaced simple stitches or wrapping stitches often hide the bundle or rod foundation, and create designs on a basket surface. Bundles of pine needles and sweet grass in Native American coil baskets were always left visible, using widely spaced simple stitches.

    Native American techniques to splice in new stitching string vary not only from region to region, but also from one basketmaker to another. Unique splicing techniques are often the fingerprint of particular basketmakers. Some finely made baskets have well over one hundred thousand individual stitches!

    Pine Needle Baskets
    Pine needles, or any other plant material, should be gathered and dried thoroughly in the sun (for bleached colors) or in the shade (to retain green color). Before the basket can begin dried vegetal material should be soaked in warm water for at least a half an hour to regain its flexibility. Over-soaking for hours may damage some basket materials.

    Embroidery thread or waxed nylon string is very suitable for coil basket stitching, and can be easily threaded onto a needle. Natural materials, such as split roots, birch paper, basswood inner bark strips, or raffia may also be used, but you will probably have to splice in new strands quite often. The instructions provided here apply to right handers for which the direction of work usually spirals counter-clockwise, (clockwise for left handers). The 'best side' of a basket can be depend upon which side is stitched into; from the outside - in, or from the inside - out. Generally the side of the basket which the needle and string enters into is the 'best side', although careful attention to where the needle enters and exits can result in a neat, orderly appearance on both sides of a basket.

    Instructions for Round-bottom Pine Needle Coil Baskets

    1. Cut a piece of stitching string about five feet long to start the basket. Thread one end of the stitching string through a needle, (Do NOT double thread, instead use a single thickness of string in wrapping and stitching). 2. Use 4 to 6 individual pine needles (stripped of the sheath that joins needles together) to produce the foundation at the bottom center of the basket. Lay a couple of inches of the loose end of the string alongside the end of the pine needles (and extending in the opposite direction.) 3. With one hand hold the short end of the string in place, and with the other hand wrap the long stitching string around both the string's end and the pine needle bundle (wrap about 10 - 15 times), producing a coil about 3/4 of an in. long. (Be sure to leave an initial 1/4 in. of pine needle unwrapped at the start.)
    4. Bend the wrapped 3/4 inch bundle of needles (with extreme gentleness) into a 'U' shape and bind both the long and short ends of the pine needles together (wrap 6 or 8 times). This will forming an elliptical circle or ring foundation. (Try to make the hole in the center of the ring as small as possible). This piece forms the center of your spiraling basket. 5. Start the coiling process. Bend the loose end of the wrapped pine needle bundle around. The bundle of loose needles should lay snugly along side the ring foundation. Stitch around the bundled needles and through the hole at the center of the ring. Use a standard whip stitch. Keep stitches close and adjacent to each other in this first round. Continue wrapping around the pine needle bundle and through the center of the ring one full time around (this should be about 10 to 20 stitches). The first round of the basket bottom is now joined to the central ring.
    6. For the second round of stitches, do NOT stitch through the hole at the center of the ring any more. Now stitch around the bundle being added, and then through middle of the bundle making up the ring. Keep in mind the 'best side' of the basket.
    7. In the second round, make small even spaces between the stitches so you can see the bundled needles in between. Uneven stitches at the bottom of a basket get amplified as the coiling progresses, and are hard to correct farther along. The second round should also have 10 to 15 stitches, depending upon the thickness of the string. The initial stitches secure the start of the coiling process, try to maintain a nice circular disk for the bottom of the basket. Also try not to let the bundled pine needles twist as they are coiled around. 8. In the second round of the basket bottom start adding pine needles to the bundle. Hold the bundle of needles with the thumb and fingers of the left hand, while the coil is stitched around with the right hand. Three or four individual needles may have to be added every other stitch, have patience, the finished product is worth it. 9. Continue adding needles to gradually increase the diameter of the bundle to that of a pencil (about 16 individual pine needles) for a medium sized basket. Add foundation material as needed while coiling the basket, maintain a consistent bundle width. 10. Select a type of stitching to use from those provided here for the third and subsequent rounds of the basket. Experiment with coming several rows of different types of stitching.

    Splicing in new string to stitch with

    The simplest way to splice is to weave the short end back down through the coils, following the path of previous stitches, and cutting of the excess flush with the 'worst side' of the basket. Thread a new string on the needle, starting 2 or 3 coils below the one being added, weave the new string up along the path of previous stitches to the bundle being attached.
    Increase the number of stitches when stitches become too widely spaced to hold the bundle together securely (3/4 in.). This can be accomplished by making two separate stitches where there would normally be one, or increase the number of stitches with a round of 'V'stitches.

    Coil Basket Forms
    Basket form is determined by the specific placement of the coil being added. The basket flat basket bottom is achieved by joining each coil directly to the side of the last coil added, spiraling in an outward direction. When the desired diameter of basket bottom is reached (3-4 in. for a medium sized basket) then the added coil is joined, at almost a 45 degree angle, on top of the last coil added. This 'turns the corner' (a hard angle) from the basket bottom to building up the wall of the basket.

    If a cylinder shaped basket is desired, then each coil is added exactly on top of the last coil. If you wish the basket wall to expand gradually into a bowl shape, then the new coils should be placed the tiniest bit to the outside of the previous coils. If a vase or constricted form is desired then the coils added should be placed the tiniest bit to the inside of previous coils.

    Coil basket rims are finished using the same stitch the basket walls used. When the desired size of the basket is reached, taper the coil of pine needles, with each element in the bundle a different length, and continue stitching until the bundle runs out and tapers to nothing. You may stitch back through the same holes in the reverse direction around the rim, resulting in a 'double-wrapped' rim. This not only adds strength to the basket rim, but also creates a pleasing 'X' design on the basket rim.

    Variations of Simple Closed-coiling Stitches
    Separate:Whip stitch around the coil being added, and insert the needle through the bundle of needles below it midway between the stitches in that last round. Be careful not to pierce the stitch from a previous coil. The stitches should appear separate, often as if placed on top of one another, on the basket wall.
    Interlocking:A stitch where the needle is inserted diagonally through the top of the stitch just below it in the previous coil. The stitches spiral up the basket wall and appear interlocked resembling a chain.

    Split:Sew around the coil being added and through the center of the stitch in the previous round. This creates a split or bifurcate design where the needle and string goes through the stitch below it in the previous coil.

    V-stitches:After producing a single simple stitch, sew through the same spot a second time, creating v-shaped forms. V-Stitches can be continued for additional coils by passing the needle through middle of a previous round of V-stitches.
    Split stitches can also be used in combination with V-stitches, the slant of the spiraling pattern depending upon whether the left or right side of a 'V' is split.

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