Swaziland, Southern Africa
Sisal Coil Woven Baskets
These highly collectible
baskets are handmade in
Swaziland from sisal fibers.
Weavers take an average of 30
hours to create an 8 inch
basket which makes these one
of the most labor intensive of
all African baskets.
Coil weaving is the most
difficult type. Sisal fibers are
wrapped and then stitched
over tiny bundles of grass.
Controlling the thickness and
evenness of the coils takes
years of practice.
As a bowl gets larger, it takes
exponentially more time to
expand in diameter. The coils
on each row become much
longer as the bowl flares upwards and outwards. So
adding an inch diameter at the top of the basket could
actually take longer than the first several inches at the
base of the basket. This is the reason baskets
approaching a foot in diameter are more unusual and can
take up to 120 hours to complete.
Only around two dozen iSwati masterweavers
are capable of weaving baskets larger than 8
inches in diameter. Each large basket is a
unique creation that is not repeated. The
complex and intricate patterns are done
without any planning or mathematical
calculations. A natural talent for weaving one-of-
a-kind patterns is a prerequisite for all
The sisal plant grows as a weed throughout
Swaziland. It is a close relative to the yucca
plants in the American Southwest that are used
by Native Americans to weave their baskets.
The sisal fibers are so known for strength that modern industry is
increasingly using them as
strengthening agents to
completely replace the
normally used harmful
The fibers are stripped
out of leaves by scraping a
used can or metal object
over the leaf and against a
piece of wood to remove
the leaf pulp. Very thin
fibers remain which are
spun together to make
long threads, perfect for
As with fine art, keep these baskets
dry and out of direct UV light.
These baskets are traditionally given
as gifts and symbolize long and happy
life. Create your own wall art by
selecting a collection to display
together in any space.