For this week’s lab, we split our time between basket weaving and rope making. Both had their own learning curves, and although we started out rather slowly, we saw a rapid increase in our efficiency over the course of an hour and a half. The basket weaving was made easier because we had a solid base on which to start. This meant that the start of the process was not too complex, and the first few steps were neatly laid out for us. Unfortunately, this would not have been the case for traditional basket weaving, so this aspect of the experiential process was lost on us. The weaving process went fairly smoothly overall, once we figured out the muscle memory that made for efficient weaving. We discovered the importance of keeping the fibers wet so that they could bend and hold easily, and how to hold the basket to make the weaving easier. Our baskets took different shapes, some widening as the got taller, some not. We were not exactly sure why this happened, but it may have been due to how crooked the upright fibers were at the start, and how we bent them when weaving the first few stitches. We saw that others were able to change the direction of their baskets after starting, but this required a deliberate effort; otherwise, the basket continued on its trajectory uninterrupted. Still, our baskets turned out pretty well, especially for our first attempt. The stitch was simple, and thus the baskets came out looking nice and tightly knit.
The process of rope making had definite similarities to spinning wool, as well as some key differences. Our group only used the cattails to make rope, which created a rougher, larger material than some of the other plants. We found it fairly difficult to get started with the stitch, and even harder to start attaching new fibers to the rope we had already created. Eventually, we adopted the practice of “brute forcing” our way through the difficult stitches. This means that we would try to stitch as quickly as we could, and hope that weaving potentially unstable parts of the rope together would strengthen them. This had mixed results. On the one hand, we were all able to make a considerable amount of rope. On the other hand, there were definitely some weak spots in our ropes that were prone to breaking, and sometimes did. With enough skill, I’m sure we could have made rope both quickly and well, but in the moment, our instinct was simply to press forward with the limited skill we had. To be fair, this technique worked most of the time, it was only the particularly bad stitches that even had a chance of coming apart once they were made.