Besides the better known coir mats woven in Bangladesh a variety of natural materials are used to weave and craft baskets and mats. A large range of baskets for holding grain, dehydrated foods, spices and vegetables are made out of palm (taal) and date (khejur) tree leaves. The unique aspect of these baskets and containers is the use of lengths of rushes and riverside straw as the inner fibres or filling, that are wrapped over with the palm and date leaves.
Different varieties of leaves are used to create products of everyday use in Bangladesh. Leaf mats are mainly crafted in the deltaic region in the southern part of Bangladesh. These are mainly utilitarian, everyday consumables used for sitting, or for sleeping, as packaging material and for other every day uses.
In the Panchnagar region of Bangladesh coiled and plaited baskets are crafted out of sun-grass.
Chatai mats are also woven from the fan shaped leaves of the Palmyra palm without the use of any cotton thread, while the kusana are made of kusa grass (Eragrostis cynosyroides)
TECHNIQUE AND PROCESS
Palm or date leaf baskets are crafted by first drying, then slicing – with a blade and clipping with scissors – the leaves to the required size. They are then soaked in water for about fifteen minutes to make them more plastic and pliable.
The artisan selects a bunch of long rushes, grass or straw and holding the sheaf (about as thick as a small finger) deftly starts winding the sliced palm/date leaf strips over the straw, binding it in the process.
The basket centre begins to take a circular shape from the central core and is worked from the inside to the outer rim by increasing the ring into wider and wider circles, and raising the walls by pilling coil upon coil and fastening it at regular intervals.
The basket may have a tightly covered palm leaf covering around each coil or more widely spaced out strips of palm/ date leaves allowing the inner sheaf of rushes or straw to be visible. The spiral weave of the basket is held in place by interlacing the palm leaf strips between each layer, thus eliminating any extra binding or sewing together. Varnish is applied as the final step to finish the product.