The making of a basket

Kenyan women holding a sign
Nzuri Baskets partners directly with a group of women weavers in a remote village in rural Kenya.  Originally starting with a small group, our cooperative now includes 56 women, and it continues to grow as many younger women are once again interested in learning this traditional art form.  Most families in the community are subsistence farmers; in good years, growing only enough for their families.  By partnering with the women in this community, we provide a guaranteed, year round income, not dependent on harvests.

 Sisal Plant                                 Harvested sisal leaves

The majority of our baskets are made from sisal, a fibrous plant from the agave family.  Originally native to Mexico, it is now grown around the world, commercially harvested and made into ropes and other woven products.  Leaves are sustainably harvested; by leaving enough remaining on each plant, the plants continues to grow and can be harvested again in the future.

Once the leaves are stripped from the plant, they are broken down into strips and processed by running them through a handmade stripping tool, often made out of two knife blades hammered into a wooden block or tree stump. 

 This process strips off the thick outer layer of the sisal leaves, leaving behind the fibrous interior. These fibers are then dried before being hand rolled into cord.  Balls of cords are dyed using natural, handmade dyes, as well as some synthetic colours, before being woven into the final products.

 Finally, the weaving can begin.  Depending on the size and complexity of the basket, it can take between 1 day to two weeks to complete.  Finished baskets are taken to a local tradesperson who attached the handmade, locally sourced leather handles.  The baskets then begin their journey to Canada, and ultimately, on to you!

Woman weaving a basket