Every Thursday, three friends get together at Carol Haskett’s home near Eckert. They visit about the goings-on in the community as they pull out pattern books, coils of reed and half-completed baskets.
Between sips of coffee and talk about what’s been happening in their lives, they work steadily, carefully measuring out lengths of reed, weaving the pieces in and out, and creating an amazing array of baskets. Knitting baskets, market baskets, hearth baskets, egg baskets — each has a different size and shape perfectly suited for its specific use. Perhaps it’s that variety that intrigues basket makers like Carol, Barb Rogers and Jayne McFarland. Each is engaged in a different project, but they work companionably, sharing tips and techniques.
“We’re just friends getting together, gossiping and working,” Barb said. “Most of us have other interests as well.” Barb belongs to three quilt clubs, and all three are members of the Tuesday Needlers, a group of crafty ladies who gather at the rec center every week to work on their projects. Jayne has been knitting since she was 8 (she learned from her father). The completed cross-stitch projects hanging on the walls of Carol’s home attest to one of her skills, but she also does some quilting.
Barb is the most experienced basket weaver, having taken lessons for years — mostly for the social aspect of it. Her baskets adorn her home and are given as gifts; few are sold. “I have a philosophy,” she said. “If I do it for monetary gain, it’s a job. It’s no longer fun. I do sell my baskets occasionally when people are desperate for a little gift, but I don’t make them to sell.”
As she talks, she pulls lengths of reed out of the kitchen sink where they’ve been soaking. “If you don’t get them wet you’re going to break your reed and that’s really irritating,” Barb said. “Carol and I bought some of this stuff years ago, and it’s dried out.”
All the reed is rattan, but it comes in different thicknesses and a variety of configurations — flat, oval and round. There’s a right side and a wrong side to the reed, Barb pointed out. The right side is smoother; on the “wrong side,” short fibers can be seen sticking out.
The initial layout is the most difficult step, she said; without anchoring points, the reeds slip and slide in every direction. Specially designed weights help hold the lengths in place as she works.
Incorporating color into any project is as simple as soaking the reed in Rit dye. “There are all kinds of dye out there, but Rit dye is easy to come by,” Barb said. She studies each step of the pattern closely before proceeding, where Carol feels comfortable creating a basket on her own, employing the techniques she’s learned over the years.
Both are adept at changing the size of a basket by simply changing the width of the reed they’re using.
Jayne joined the group more recently, after Carol issued an invitation to the Needlers. She successfully completed several baskets, but she’s been struggling with her latest project, a gift for a friend. “Supposedly it was for her birthday, but that was in May,” she said.
Barb has a similar basket at home, she said. After trying unsuccessfully to complete the project, she had to set it aside to await inspiration. Judging from the assortment of baskets she gathered for the photo above, she’s not stymied very often.
Each one of them could finish a basket a week, but they’re not in a race. They’re content to pause for a cookie, or to watch what’s happening on daytime TV.
“Does this group have a name?” they’re asked.
“I guess you could call us the Crazy Lady Basket Makers,” they respond, “but that’s definitely unofficial.”
blog comments powered by Disqus