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Practical Baskets - The Making Of

The sisal fibre

The raw material for the practical baskets is the fibre of the Agave Sisalensis, the sisal plant.

A handful of weavers do plant their own sisal (just like the traditional weavers do), but most ladies prefer to use the sisal supplied by Hadithi Crafts.

When asked about it, the weavers say sisal grows too slow and it attracts elephants, so they prefer not to grow it. There can be many elephants around in the harvest season in the Kasigau region, possibly eating and trampling the peoples maize harvest. 

So Hadithi team buys 250kg bales of sisal fibre from the nearby sisal estate, and transport it to Hadithi HQ where it is split into half kg bundles. From there it is distributed to the various women groups who weave practical baskets.


The preparing and twining

First the basket weaver will boil her sisal with dyestuff, then she lays it out in the sun to dry again. Now she can start combing all the knots out of the fibre with her fingers.

The weaver will roll all her sisal fibre into twine. Twining might be the most time-consuming part of the whole basket weaving process! The dried fibres are firmly rolled into threads, which works best on a bare thigh (ouch!). A consistent amount of fibers has to be selected each time, to keep the same thickness overall. Several hours, even days will pass before they are able to obtain enough twine to weave a full basket. The inside part is twined fatter and with less precision, as it should be invisible once the basket is woven.




The weaving

Weaving starts in the middle at the bottom of the basket. How long it takes to weave one basket depends on the size, but also varies a lot from weaver to weaver, depending on her experience, skills and the time she has available in her daily life as a farmer. And finally, the thinner her twine and the more intricate her patterns, the longer it will take...

The actual weaving is the fun part, where the creativity can flow freely and pieces of art are created! Unique patterns and decorative weaves allow to demonstrate real artistry. Styles range from very intricate and subtle to crazy, edgy and full of character.


Practical weave & Tribal patterns

The ladies in the villages around Kasigau are specialized in twining their sisal twine thicker. The chunkier twine combined with the very tight weave, make the baskets stand up strong and come in handy in many uses. Hence the name Practical basket!


Taita and Kamba ladies have been weaving sisal baskets for generations. You might notice the difference in the traditional patterns. The Taita weavers finely mix horizontal, vertical and diagonal stripes, while the Kamba weavers have more geometric patterns in their basket designs, like triangle, trapeze and diamond shapes.

Hadithi CBO buys practical baskets of around 160 Kamba ladies and 860 Taita ladies. 

The finishing

Finishing off the basket is the last step in the making of, when the weaver adds a firm upper rim and then trims off the last sticky-outy bits of sisal with scissors… now the basket is completed. The weaver writes her name on a piece of cardboard and ties it to the basket. Her work is done.


Mercy of the Hadithi team goes to the different villages around mount Kasigau to meet the weavers and buy their practical baskets. Mercy is the daughter of a basket weaver herself. When she goes basket buying she also gives feedback on past orders, supply more materials and gives trainings in basket weaving. She carries the new baskets to the Hadithi HQ.


At the HQ the baskets get selected for various clients, stacked and boxed, and the picture is printed cut and added to the right basket of the lady who weaved that basket. This is where the weaver’s chapter of the story has been written and the next chapter unfolds… maybe in your home?

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