Date palm fronds are the most readily available natural weaving material in Israel. The Amri strain is especially suitable for weaving because its fronds are the longest.
Dates are harvested around October, following which weaving enthusiasts come to the Jordan Valley and Sea of Galilee Region to collect the fronds and prepare them for basket weaving, including a six-month drying period.
Date stems are very easy to gather because dates are cultivated as a market crop. By contrast, all other materials listed below grow naturally, with no commercial interests behind them. Those who use these materials for weaving have to know where they grow. The quality and quantity of yields depends on the weather and the amount of winter rainfall. Each year, according to the weather and the amount of winter rainfall, the branches grow differently. Some years, the branches may be too short and unsuitable for weaving.
It takes about 150 branches to weave a simple basket. Collection takes much time because the material is dispersed over a broad area and requires extensive treatment to remove leaves, twigs and other detritus.
I have had some experience weaving with these materials, but I do not use them today. If I have an opportunity to use such branches, I blend them into date stem items as ornamental material.
Branches can be used even when fresh, although it is advisable to wait 2-3 days after gathering. If they dry out completely, they can be remoistened for use by soaking in water.
A common shrub in Israel, growing naturally and cultivated in private and public gardens. It has a dark brown color and a pleasant aroma and blends well with date stems for decorative purposes.
Olive trees are very common in Israel. For weaving purposes, we use the long, light gray branches that grow around the trunk. As there are many olive groves in the country, it is relatively easy to find olive branches.
This basket combines date stems with mastic tree and olive branches:
A very common component of Israel’s brushland, the Mediterranean buckthorn bears small, edible fruit and yields relatively slender brown branches.
This is a buckthorn basket:
The light brown pomegranate branches that grow around the trunk are called shoots. The better a tree has been watered, the more shoots it has and the longer they are.
Of course, there are many more materials that can be used for weaving. Some weavers prefer coiled pine needles, some use grain sheaves ornamentally and some opt for soft materials, such as banana leaves and green palm branches.
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