The baskets are woven with veta vera (elephant) grass which is grown in the south of Ghana. Different sizes of straw are purchased – some for the inside verticals (warps), some for the cross woven horizontals (wefts), some for coil that travels the circumference of the basket and some straw is purchased for the handles. The weaver then splits a piece of straw into two pieces. These two pieces of straw are dampened with water and are then rolled together over a thigh using the palm of their hand – or over an old rubber sandal tied to the thigh (or a rubber sandal tied to a piece of wood) and this action creates one piece of straw. This is done so that the straw becomes soft and malleable. This takes a day to accomplish.
Before dyeing, these two pieces of straw that have been rolled together to create one piece of straw – are then unrolled – once again creating two pieces of straw so that the dye can penetrate the straw easily. The dyes are heated in big pots and the straw immersed for a couple of hours and then dried.
The weavers will complete the base of the basket and weave about three inches up the sides. Most weavers will then turn the basket over and attach a piece of string to the center of the base and attach the string overhead so that the baskets hang in front of them. In this position, the weaver continues to weave the sides of the baskets up to the point where the coil joins the main body of the piece. The coil runs the circumference of the basket where the handles are looped through. During weaving, the weaver constantly flicks water onto the basket or has the straw soaking in water for a short time. This is to keep the straw malleable for making a tighter weave. Once a weaver has completed a neat and strong coil, they take a razor blade and trim all the superfluous straw from the basket – or they will do this a few times during the course of the job.
The loops that you see jutting from the handles on the round baskets were originally designed to hold open wine bottles upright in the basket. The handles for the round basket were introduced by Europeans. Nowadays, none of the weavers know what the loops are for and very few baskets have loops in the exact dimensions needed to support an open wine bottle upright!
To weave a high quality round Bolga basket takes about 3 to 4 days – which includes straw preparation.
Once the basket and its handles are completely dry the baskets are given to the leather team who will then strength test the handles before applying leather to the them. Only the best quality goat leather is used. The baskets are then soaked and squashed flat to dry before shipping.
We’ve include instructions on how to reshape the baskets - it is really worth doing as if you try to reshape them when dry you can damage the straw and they never return to their natural round shape.
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