Photo: Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

Weaving Technique

Diné (Navajo) weavers practice an ancient basket-making technique called “coiling.” Using thin strips of sumac, they stitch together a growing coil of sumac branches. They begin at the center and build the basket outward, adding new branches, or rods, which they gently bend in a circular shape and bind in place with an increasing number of stitches. Most modern Diné basket weavers coil their stiches around a bundle of three rods, but a few create single-rod baskets. This approach allows weavers to include more detail in their designs, but it is very time intensive. The herringbone stitch on the rim of most Diné baskets was a gift from Haashchʼééłtiʼí (Talking God). Sacred stories tell that when Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé (Changing Woman) wove the first basket, she wasn’t sure how to finish it. Talking God appeared and gave her a sprig of juniper. The overlapping pattern of the juniper leaves gave Changing Woman the inspiration she was seeking for her basket finish.