Straw Craft

by Allie O'hora

The tradition of Bahamian straw work, or plaiting, has been practiced in the islands for hundreds of years.  Straw weaving dates back to the earliest inhabitants of the islands, the Arawaks, who used the technique to create baskets used for carrying fruit and catching fish, as well as clothing and head coverings.


Nearly all straw workers are women, the traditions passed down from their mothers and grandmothers. Weavers begin by collecting and plaiting the straw, which is actually not straw at all but a type of palmetto frond, made of the young, unopened fronds at the top of the tree. The palmetto fronds are then dried, cured, and cut into strips. The strips are woven into rolls, which is the raw material that most straw workers use in their work. There are at least 25 different weaving patterns, with names like Jacob's Ladder, Bahama Mama, and Peas 'n' Rice.


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