Basket Primer - Pigtail Swing Handle

Thompson Basket
Thompson Basket,
originally uploaded by Picofbas99.
Jan Henry has posted a photo of a Tom Thompson basket that she bought at the Yellow Daisy Festival in Stone Mountain, Georgia. It is made of white oak with a bark decoration and has a pig-tail swing handle.

Tom is an active basketmaker and he has made this basket of White oak woodsplint. Other makers in the Appalachian and Ozarks area use this handle style. Historically, this style of pig-tail handle can also be found on Black ash swing handled baskets from the Great Lakes area. The bail portion of the handle is carved in one piece that has both ends whittled into a full round tail. The tail bends into a loop that inserts through the staples, then inserts back into the main portion of the handle on the diagonal, then bends again and is inserted back through the handle at a right angle to lock the loop in place. It is critical to carve this handle on the true grain of the wood in order to accomplish the bending. The holes through the handle are typically burned through the wood with a heated nail rather than being drilled so that a clean hole is created. Be sure to visit the large size image to see the full detail of this pig-tail basket handle.

For tips on how to split out the timber and carve your own basket handle visit this article on BasketMakers.com. If you wish to purchase a basket handle there are many resources to choose from here. Additional information about White Oak basketry is found here.

Check out Jan's flickr Photostream for many more interesting baskets.

Over time I will add a number of posts that describe basic basketry concepts and vocabulary. Look for them with the tag "primer".


1. an elementary book for teaching children to read.
2. any book of elementary principles: a primer of phonetics.

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