Instructions for Navajo Baskets

Navajo baskets portray the rich culture and tradition of Navajo life.
monument valley navajo tribal park image by Gary from

Things You'll Need

  • Stitching string
  • Tapestry needle
  • Scissors
  • Sumac, willow or yucca leaves

Navajo baskets are woven using the coil method. They are typically made from the three leaf sumac, but willow or yucca can be used as well. Navajo baskets are woven using the "bundle technique" where leaves or plants are bundled together, making the coils flexible. These baskets are used in ceremonies and celebrations, dyed in colors that reflect the Navajo tradition. Each basket is woven starting with a center knot, and the baskets can be bowl-shaped, jug-shaped, or flat like a tray.

Thread your tapestry needle with a piece of stitching string, cut to be five-feet long.

Bundle your leaves (sumac, willow or yucca) together with the loose end of your string.

Wrap the threaded end of your string around the bundle about 10 to 15 times, leaving a quarter of your bundle exposed, until you have a coil 3/4 inch long.

Gently bend the wrapped leaves into a "U" shape, and secure the ends together by wrapping them together six to eight times. This ring makes the center of your basket and will leave a small keyhole opening.

Begin coiling your basket by stitching around the exposed leaves and threading your needle through the keyhole left by the "U" shape in the center of your basket.

Using a whip stitch, keep the loose bundle close to the center ring and continue stitching around the exposed leaves and through the keyhole. This completes your first coil and should take about 10 to 20 stitches.

The second coil is made by stitching around the bundle and stitching through the first coil about 10 to 15 times. Do not stitch through the keyhole for your second coil.Leave small spaces between stitches in your second coil.

Add leaves to your bundle for the next coil, by holding the leaves with your left hand and stitching them into the bundle with your right hand.

Continue to add leaves to your bundle as needed as you stitch coil together. Keep your coils the same size throughout your basket.

When you need a new piece of string, weave the loose end down through completed coils. Start a new thread by weaving it up through two completed coils to secure it.

Add coils directly above the last coil to form a cylindrical basket, or, for a flatter basket, add the coils to the side of the coil previously completed.

To finish the basket, finish wrapping the bundle of leaves until the entire bundle is secured, finishing off a coil.

Reinforce your basket by stitching all the way around your last coil with your string.


  • Form your baskets in different ways by changing the placements of your coils in relation to the one previously finished. Make your stitches close enough together to keep your bundles intact.