Basket Making

Explore the Museum's traditional basket collection


Basketry is the oldest traditional handcraft.  Irish Country basket makers invented and adapted techniques to shape natural materials into baskets for practical use in daily life.  More than 30 different traditional baskets can be seen on display in the National Museum's galleries at Turlough Park, Co. Mayo.

The Museum’s extensive traditional basket collection, collected over many years, contains a wealth of information about craftsmanship. But the great variety and uses of these baskets also illuminate the stories of peoples' domestic, economic and social lives.

Baskets on display include creels and back baskets, potato and other household baskets as well as fishing and farm baskets such as calf muzzles,  turf baskets and fish-traps. There are examples of baskets from all parts of Ireland.  The majority of the baskets were made by basket makers for their own use. Willow and straw are the most common material used but other material including heather, dock leaves, brambles and rush are also used. 

Willow was traditionally sown in plots near the dwelling house, commonly known as the "sally garden". It was also grown around the boundary fences of tillage fields. Basketmaking was a winter and Spring time activity. The maker sat close to the floor resting their work on a lap-board when making smaller baskets.  Larger Irish baskets were made in the ‘stake and strand’ standing method, either stuck into the ground or into cut sod. Those who could not make their own baskets paid journey basket makers a small fee to make their baskets usually from their supply of willow.

Basketmakers to-day draw upon the rich store of knowledge of materials, techniques and forms that have evolved over many generations. Explore the basket collection further here and visit the Museum Galleries. . 

Farm Baskets

Farm Baskets

Explore a selection of baskets used on the farm

Fishing Baskets

Fishing Baskets

Explore a selection of baskets used for fresh water and sea fishing

Household Baskets

Household Baskets

Explore traditional baskets used around the house