Paper Weaving Q&A with Artist Donna Crispin from Paper Art

We chatted with professional basket weaver and artist Donna Crispin, who appeared in Paper Art 2014 with her amazing paper cord baskets, to talk about the new Paper Weaving kit available for pre-order (that includes her article), basket weaving, and the art of spinning paper: shifu.


Q: What makes paper weaving fun for a beginner?

A: Paper weaving involves minimal monetary investment. Just paper yarn/cording and some hemp cord. Also, the materials are soft, so your hands don’t suffer as much as they might if you were weaving with other materials. 


Q: What do you want everyone to know about weaving?

A: You can start weaving baskets at any age. There are basketry guilds all over the U.S. that offer workshops, or who can direct you to instructors in your area. Basket making can be a very social activity, with workshops, gatherings, retreats, and conventions. Yet, if you pursue basket weaving on your own, it can be a calming and centering practice. There are times when it becomes almost meditative, and several hours can quickly pass by.


Q: Since many of us have never done weaving before, what does weft and warp mean?

A: The warp threads are vertical, and the weft threads are horizontal.


Q: Do you think it would have been easier to learn weaving if you had found a kit and step-by-step article like yours in Paper Art?

A: Having a kit would is a great introduction for your readers. But, every one learns differently. I like to learn some types of basketry with a teacher, and get the hands-on, personal interaction. Some one else may like the convenience of the kit, and doing it in the privacy of their own home. However, don’t be discouraged if you need help, reach out to a local basketry guild.


Q: How did you start weaving?

A: I made my first basket 37 years ago. I was working as a summer park aide at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. A co-worker knew how to make coiled baskets, so we gathered pine needles in the nearby national forest, and she showed me how to make a pine needle basket.


Q: How did you come to weave paper?

A: I’ve always been very interested in a variety of traditional Japanese crafts, since my grandparents are from Japan. I’ve dabbled in Japanese stencil dyeing, shibori dyeing, origami, fish printing, etc. I was first introduced to weaving with paper threads and cords by a friend who had taken a workshop many years ago on the Japanese art of shifu, where washi paper is cut into a continuous length, twisted, and spun.

When I first started shifu, there wasn’t very much information in English, but I found some magazine articles through the weaving community. Since then, I’ve done a great deal of research and have become so involved with shifu that I have been teaching it around the Northwest for several years now. When teaching, I introduce my students to the traditional Japanese way, and then I teach the techniques I have developed. That way my students can avoid all of the problems I went through while trying to make presentable paper yarn.


Here is an intro to shifu video that I put together.


Q: Are there any other materials that you weave with?

A: I weave with many different natural materials that I have gathered or grown. We have an abundance of basketry fibers in Oregon: Northwest sedge, Midwest sweet grass, yellow flag iris, day lily leaves, willow twigs and bark, red osier dogwood twigs, and more.


One of my favorites is western red cedar bark. It is gathered in the spring, when the sap is running. We only take one strip of cedar, about 6-8″ wide, which runs up the length of the tree. This way, the tree keeps growing. If you are out hiking in some of the Northwest forests, you can sometimes see where a basket weaver collected a strip of cedar years ago.

Q: What is your favorite thing about weaving?

A: I enjoy passing on my basketry knowledge and experience. When you learn to make a basket, it opens up your eyes to the natural world. Plants and trees are seen in new ways, and you develop a greater appreciation of traditional basketry. I get great enjoyment out of meeting new students who are making their first basket, and become so excited about it that they want to continue. The next time they see a basket in a museum, they know how much time and work went into that piece. Hours of gathering and preparation are required before you can even start to make a basket.


Q: What projects are you currently working on?

A: I am weaving with dyed lauhala leaves, waxed linen and cedar bark to make a basket that fits around a large abalone shell.


Donna Crispin receives inspiration and weaving materials from Nature, and has been creating baskets since 1986. She collects and prepares leaves, bark, twig, grasses, and other plant fibers for basketry, although hand-spun paper yarn has become one of her favorite materials.



paper-cord-baskets-project kit



Pre-order your paper weaving today with the comprehensive kit available at! Donna Crispin’s instructions on weaving with paper cord included, along with Maya Road paper twine and Beadsmith Hemp cord. Order yours before they are gone!


Basketry Resources

Shifu books:

A Song of Praise for Shifu by Susan Byrd

Kigami and Kami-ito by Hiroko Karuno


Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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