Dominica is a paradise on Earth with beautiful seasides, volcanos, world-class scuba diving, and a diverse ecosystem. The country is focused on sustainability, using its nine active volcanos and the world’s second-largest hot spring (the Boiling Lake) to its advantage by creating a 7 MW geothermal plant. The capital of Dominica is Roseau, which means “reeds”, so it is no wonder that basket weaving is a craft known to every family on the island. The artisans of Dominica use its natural landscape to source raw materials for various crafts.

1. Straw Hats and Handbags

Chapo pay, or straw hats, are common on the island of Dominica, with the craftsmanship being handed down by previous generations. The hand-crafted hats are practically a national symbol of the country and provide relief from the relentless sun near the equator.

The straw is made from screw pine and includes creole touches, such as madras cloth or a flower. Screw-pine is an evergreen with over 750 species native to the tropics.

Crafts of Dominica

The younger shoots are chopped with a machete and chosen as they are easier to work with while making the hats. The leaves are bundled up with rope, carried home, and boiled with soap powder (to bleach it) in stacks of three or four, bent backward, and then wrapped. The screw-pine is left to boil for 10-15 minutes and left out to dry in the sun. The center grove of each leaf is then removed as it contains thorns. The remaining two pieces of the leaf are wrapped around the finger to create a curly pattern with the ends tied together and dried in the sun for further bleaching. Next, the leaf is cut into half-inch sizes to make it more manageable to be braided into various styles.

Coconut palm straw is sometimes used by the artisans of Dominica to add a differentiating accent color. Then the braids are sewn for the specific straw-work product such as hats, belts, handbags, fans, placemats, and costumes.

2. Leather Sandals

A more recent craft in Dominica is handmade leather sandals. The designs usually incorporate flowers and stars. Some of the sandals include festive colors such as red, yellow, and green but typically they are variations of brown. The sandals are known for being durable and very comfortable, making the wearer feel as if he/she is walking barefoot.

Leather Sandals made in Dominica

Straw-making is an integral part of Dominica’s life and culture, which can be used to make hats, handbags, and belts. The West Indies island also has a fashionable style with leather Greek-style sandals that are handmade by the local artisans of Dominica.