ALUTIIQ MUSEUM  215 Mission Road, Kodiak, Alaska 99615   |  844-425-8844  |  view calendar > | search >

Weaving

If you entered a typical Alutiiq household of the seventeenth century, fine weaving would surround you. Grass mats would line sleeping benches, cover the walls, and hang in doorways. Woven containers for collecting, storing, and cooking food would surround a central fireplace. People would wear woven socks, mitts, and caps. A mother would hold her baby in a woven carrier. And the rafters would hold woven tools, nets for fishing and birding, and braided lines for harpoons and boats.

BasketStart
A grass basket start courtesy June Pardue.


Weaving was both a functional and aesthetic art. Woven objects served many purposes, yet were made with great care. Alutiiqs once made basketry from a variety of natural fibers. Weavers worked spruce root, grasses, birch bark, baleen, and animal sinew. Today, Kodiak weavers continue to work with spruce root and grass (weg’et). Grass basketry is particularly prized for its extraordinarily fine weave and warm natural color. The most commonly harvested wild grass is beach rye (Latin: Elymus sp.), which weavers cut in coastal meadows between June and September.

Once cut, beach rye must be dried to create material suitable for weaving. First, the weaver wraps the grass in a towel or burlap bag to let it change color and sweat. Over the following two weeks, she must turn and air the grass daily to prevent molding. Next, she separates the grass leaves from their stems, sorts the pieces into piles of similar length, color, and texture, and hangs them to finish drying. Sunshine or a saltwater bath helps to bleach the grass to a pale brown. With drying complete, the weaver removes the spine from each leaf and splits the remaining tissue into thin strands.

Grass baskets are traditionally woven upside down, beginning at the base. Grass strands should be soaked in cold water and wrapped in a damp towel. Weavers wet their fingers to keep the grass soft and pliable. However, it is important not to over wet the strands, as they may rot or darken. Weaving is a time consuming process. It takes great skill to produce the tiny, even stitches for which Alutiiq weavers are known.

Learn More:  Inartalicirpet - Our Weaving Ways Exhibit

Weaving Journeys

My Basket

My Little Basket (5:15)

Elizabeth Peterson is learning Alutiiq weaving as an adult, a process that connects her to her ancestors.

Coral's Basket

Coral's Basket Feat: Russian Inspired (5:25)

A visit to St. Petersburg Russia and a collection of ancestral baskets inspired Coral Chernoff to weave a large carrying basket.

Coral's Cabinet

Coral's Cabinet (5:39)

Tour Coral Chernoff's workshop and see the materials she uses to create her artwork.

Grass Socks

Where are my grass socks? (7:27)

Weaving is a tradition in June Pardue's family.  She and her daughter Sofia explain the art and the connection it provides.

K1 Baskets

Karluk One Baskets (4:54)

Alutiiq Museum registrar Marnie Leist shares ancient Alutiiq basketry from the Karluk One site.

Collecting

Collecting and Curing Grass (4:05)

Arlene Skinner, Melissa Berns, and others discuss the how wild rye grass becomes weaving material.

Teaching

Teaching and Learning the Art of Grass Basket Weaving (7:17)

Weavers discuss how they learn and share their art.