Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 4 - Making a MicMac Basket

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1973/1/1 (1433 reads)

For the best work, the splits are not smooth enough. The step of smoothing is known as Nultaguan. There are two ways of smoothing and both are used. One way is to trap between the knee and the blade of the Crooked Knife (5), the knife in the right hand • and with the left hand slowly pull the split back. (6) The other way, the left hand again pulls the split • but this time it is done in the air with the split tight between the Crooked Knife and the thumb of the hand holding the knife. (7) The splits end up smooth as ivory. ??#''/ "'"'' ?? "" (4) (5) (6) One inch splits are good enough for Bottom Splits but they are too wide for weaving. Narrow splits are made with a tool called Labasagan, Squaw Knife. The Squaw Knife is made out of a handle of any knind of hardwood, carved to fit nicely in the hand. Into one end are fitted the points spaced as wide apart as the desired width of the finished splits. These splits are called Weaving Splits. The Indians today make the points out of watch springs, cut to length and sharpened and held in slots in the head of the Squaw Knife by a strip of tin. The knife is held in one hand, points upward. The end of the split is placed over the points and pressed down to push the points through. (8) The thumb of the hand holding the knife comes down on the split, pressing into the trough back of the points. Then the free hand pulls the split, dividing it the entire length. (9) At this point you can choose to use the natural color of the wood or to dye the splits. Commercial dyes are used but Mrs. Googoo has used various native dyes, such as boiling the bark of alder to get brov''n, cherry to get yellow, and hemlock for a red. She sometimes boils both the bark and roots of the tree. The dye is brought to a hard boil, then a bit of split is used to test the color. If it is too dark she adds water, too light she adds more bark and root. She does this right in the kit? chen with plenty of cardboard and newspaper on the floor. In summer she often boils her dyes out of doors. In making baskets, Micmac women seem to like certain combi? nations, such as brown and yellow, or green and white. M'..' iK (7) (8) (9) Once you have your Bottom Splits and Weaving Splits you have done the most difficult thing in basketraaking. The actual weaving is quite simple and allows the basketmaker many choices as to what sort of basket to make. Anyone who actually undertakes a basket will realize very quickly how much latitude there is, and will experiment. The following directions are according to the basket Mrs. Googoo made. Take 6 Bottom Splits and put them on the table, first placing 2, then slipping 1 in from each side, then slipping in 2 more • fitting them into an over-under pattern. (10) This is your weave. Keep equal distances in all directions so the squares thus formed by the weaving will all be the same size. (11) Mrs. Googoo used 14 Bottom Splits giving a square bottom and 7 splits sticking out from each side' The splits should be kept just damp enough so as not to break when you bend the unwoven por? tions upright. Stand them upright by placing the finger of one hand at the edge of the woven bottom (12), the other hand reaching under the Bottom Splits and raising them. (13) All around, the sides are eased up. Now the narrower Weaving Splits are used' You work from the bottom up. Each row is Cape Breton's Ma,ga2ine/4
Cape Breton's Magazine
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