Uses for Sweetgrass in Baskets & Crafts

All of the northeastern Native peoples use sweetgrass in their splint basketry and craft work. Abenaki, Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and the Iroquois nations all contribute to sweetgrass basketry traditions of the 1800s through today. By the height of the basket-making industry, these baskets were being made in innumerable shapes and for a myriad of uses, and continue to be woven by today's modern masters.

Larger Sewing Baskets of Braided Sweetgrass

Arm Basket, Smaller Hair & Trinket Baskets Not all baskets are made entirely of sweetgrass. Sometimes sweetgrass is used only as a decorative accent on the lids, rims or handles of baskets. In some regions, especially around the Great Lakes, strands of sweetgrass were made into coiled basketry using cotton embroidery thread, taking the form of round bowls and flat mats. Sometimes a birch bark disk formed the base of these baskets, with coils of sweetgrass sewn on spiraling up (in Densmore 1974). Porcupine quill decorated birch bark boxes also employ sweetgrass in their construction to bind their seams and rims.

Some baskets have quite practical uses, such as the flat wide arm baskets (so named because they fit comfortably under one's arm). Arm baskets, having a lid and bottom the same size and shape, are extremely sturdy and were originally constructed to travel in a person's trunk or suitcase.

Trim on a Birch Bark Lid

Sewing Accessories Whole sets of sweetgrass baskets were made for women's sewing accessories, including tight-fitting cases for thimbles, scissors, needle packs and velvet pin cushions. These tiny sewing trinkets, complete with lids and loops, were often strung together for the sewer's convenience.

Popular baskets included picnic accessories such as lidded baskets for shot-glasses or napkin rings accented with sweetgrass.

Shot Glass Basket

Suspended Bark Canoe, Pin There are small round sweetgrass baskets to hold rings and notions, wallet-shaped baskets for handkerchiefs, woven spheres for dispensing yarn or string, and other baskets with small holes in their lids to ladies to save their strands of hair. Many other kinds of sweetgrass baskets and crafts survive to this day, including those more for whimsy, miniature rocking cradles, bookmarks and even decorative pins to wear. Miniature Baskets, Pin

About Sweetgrass Sweetgrass Traditions