Basket types

There are many types of baskets traditionally used in Scotland and associated with traditional ways of life. In this section we have featured some that were commonly used at one time in different parts of Scotland at.

A note on basket names

We have found during our research that some baskets were referred to by different names in different museums and archives, or depending on who we were were talking to. At the same time a particular name could sometimes be used to refer to a range of completely different baskets. This is probably partly due regional variation in names, and partly due to the confusion caused by different languages like Gaelic, Old Scots and English used in Scotland. The titles of images will be connected with how the basket is labelled in museums or archives and these have not been changed. Creel or cliabh, for example is a general Gaelic term covering several forms of Scottish (and Irish) baskets. Scull similarly seems to be used for several different baskets of the frame style construction. In this section we have tried to mention all names by which a particular basket may be known but inevitably there may be omissions.


Angling Baskets

These baskets were used by anglers carry the fish that they caught. The fish would be dropped through the gap in the lid of the basket. And a leather shoulder strap was attached through gaps in the sides for carrying it.

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Back and Pony Creels of the Highlands and Islands

The creel Creel(Gaelic cliabh) is a general term covering several forms of Scottish (and Irish) baskets. In this section we are talking about back creels and pony creels, which are sometimes just referred to as 'creels'. The design of back creels varied but can be divided into two main types, the east coast fish wife's…

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Back Creel of the East Coast Fishwife

These back creels were used by fishwives to carry fish for sale. They were loaded with fish that the men had caught while line fishing, and the fishwives took them to sell inland and to places like Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, and other towns. They were similar in construction to the back creel used on crofts…

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Bannock baskets

Go to many museums on mainland Scotland, and there are always one or two examples of these ubiquitous baskets, often, but not always, made in the Madeira style described by Liz Balfour in our blog.

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Bee Skeps

Bee skeps have been used across Scotland. They are made from coiled straw bound with what appears to be bramble.

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Calf Muzzles

On the west coast of Scotland muzzles woven from willow were put on calves to prevent them from suckling for a while.

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The ciosan is a small, closely woven basket, formerly made on the Western Isles and along the west coast. It is a coiled basket made from sea-bent (marram grass), or sometimes straw. The coils are stitched together using twine made from rush, marram, even split willow or bramble, or bought twine.

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Coracle at Portsoy Boat Festival

These were small boats used on rivers and sometimes around the coast with a woven framework of willow and often hazel, covered in animal hide.

View the “Coracles/Currachs” collection

Cots and other homely things

This section contains basketry items found around the home

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Cuddy or cubbie

A small basket called a cuddy in Shetland or a cubbie in Orkney used for holding bait. Made of heather, straw or dockens and sometimes with floss (soft rush), in a similar way to a kishie.

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Curling Baskets

The sport of curling originated in Scotland and special baskets made in two halves and hinged were made to keep the curling stones in.

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Egg baskets

Used for collecting eggs these baskets are generally round and have sides that curve outwards from the base before coming straight up.

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Fishwives Murlins/Top Creels/Bow Creels/Arm Creels

These are baskets used by fishwives of the east coast along with their back creels or rips. They were used to display a sample of fish to customers and usually to store a board and knife for gutting the fish. In the areas around Arbroath and Montrose where rips were used, the basket used had…

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Fruit baskets

Fruit baskets fit into more than one category of basketry. There were large stake and strand baskets used on fruit farms for measuring and transporting large quantities of fruit. There were also factory made lath fruit baskets, called 'chip' baskets or punnets. These were made using machine split wood that was woven and stapled together…

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Grain Baskets and other sacks

More like sacks than baskets these grain baskets were used to carry grain to and from mills in the Western Isles. They were made from marram grass that was woven so tightly that it was almost waterproof.

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Large rectangular baskets or hampers were used for a variety of purposes often for storage and in transportation. The post office used large baskets on wheels for parcels in their sorting office, other hampers with lids were used to transport linen from hotels to the laundry

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Hen/Ose/ Skye basket

This basket was a form of frame basket made by weaving around several main hoops and added ribs. By Dawn Susan.

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Horse Harnesses

At one time horse harnesses were woven from willow or grass

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Kishie or Caisie

This basket called a Kishie in Shetland or a Caisie in Orkney is used in a similar way that the back creel is used by crofters in the Highlands and Islands off the west coast of Scotland. Rather than woody material like willow however, in Shetland, these baskets were made of oat straw, or sometimes…

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Knitting Needle Baskets

Knitting Needle baskets were used to store needles and wool

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Laundry, linen and peg baskets

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Line Baskets

Line baskets were used by fishermen to keep lines, sometimes miles in length, with hooks attached to them which were baited ready for fishing. There was two types of line fishing, small line and great line and different styles of baskets were used for each. The baskets used also varied depending on the region in…

View the “Line Baskets” collectionSee also Great Line Basket and Line Sculls


A Muirlag, or mudag, is a basket used to keep wool in before carding. These baskets are often rugby ball shaped willow baskets with a rectangular gap through which the wool is taken out for carding. Mudags for keeping wool in are found in other shapes and sizes, and made from other materials, however.

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Orkney Chairs and other Seats

As well as the famous Orkney chairs a variety of other seats use basketry techniques

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Panniers were used to transport game such as grouse

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Quarter cran

Quarter Cran baskets of were widely used throughout Britain in the herring fishing industry. One cran is the official unit of measurement for herring, and quarter cran baskets were made to exact regulation measurements and had an official brand to certify it they were the correct size. They were used to unload fish from the…

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This type of basket seems to be unique to an area around Arbroath and Montrose. A large frame basket with a strap for carrying it across the shoulders, it was used by Fishwives in a few villages in this area in the same way that back creels were used by women in other east coast…

View the “Rip” collection

Salt Baskets

 These baskets were used in the salt production process in parts of Scotland. Containers of seawater were heated and the water boiled away leaving just a salt paste which was then put in the baskets for further purification and to dry out completely.

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Shopping Baskets

Shopping baskets came in a variety of shapes and sizes

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Tattie Scull

Tattie Sculls were baskets used for collecting potatoes (tatties) on lowland farms. These were often spale baskets made from split wood, but could also be baskets made with a frame of oak or hazel and woven with willow or cane. In more recent times tattie sculls made from natural materials were replaced by wire baskets…

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View the “Toig” collection

Woven mats, flakkies and plads

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