How to Use Dried Cattail to Make Indian Baskets

Basket-weaving is an ancient art form practiced by Native Americans for thousands of years. Using natural reeds and materials, weavers created their own distinct patterns and styles for their baskets, elevating a simple craft into art. Indian baskets are made of natural materials and woven by hand in any shape, size or pattern. Using dried cattails, you can create your own unique Indian-style baskets.

Prepare the Cattails

Step 1

Harvest the cattails. Cattail leaves and stalks are ripe for harvest in late summer or fall. Cut the leaves and/or stalks near the base of the plant, where leaves and stalk meet to form a juncture. Wear gloves to protect your hands, and use sharp garden shears to cut the cattails.

Step 2

Place the cattails in a long, shallow box or crate. Keep the cut ends together, placing each plant so the tops are all pointing in the same direction.

Step 3

Tie the cattails in bunches with twine or string, then hang them by the ends to let them air-dry for one to two days.

Step 4

Soak the cattails in warm water when you are ready to make a basket. Fill a large bowl with warm water and allow the cattails to soak for approximately five minutes. The cattails will become pliable and much easier with which to work.

Weave the Basket

Step 1

Line up five cattails in evenly spaced, parallel lines to create the base. Choose five more cattails of equal length and lay them to the side.

Step 2

Take one of the cattails you set aside and weave it through the line of cattails, interlacing the cattail horizontally through the cattails in a repeating over-and-under pattern. Weave each of the five cattails into the design this way, equally spaced. You will end up with a flat, square base of crisscrossing cattails, with the unwoven ends hanging off all four sides.

Step 3

Fold each end upward at the edge of the square base to create the beginning of a basket.

Step 4

Weave the rest of the cattails horizontally into the vertical cattail ends with the same over-and-under pattern until you have formed a basket.