It was difficult to choose just one article for August’s edition of Patty’s Pick, but we finally came to a decision and I’m sharing this excellent article by author Phyllis Staton Campbell.
Baskets Then And Now
by Phyllis Staton Campbell
They’re decorative, they’re useful, and they’re a part of any culture you can think of. Remember that little Jewish baby left sleeping safely in the bullrushes? Bet he was snuggled in a basket, woven by his mother. Okay, my imagination has taken flight, but, hey, I’m a writer.
Seriously, beyond a doubt, early man, long before such Scripture accounts must have used some form of basket. Many, like those of the Native American tribes, were decorative as well as useful. And here goes my imagination again, I wonder if those women may have practised a bit of rivalry in the decoration department. As this issue’s column will demonstrate, baskets can be things of beauty, often reflecting the personality of the maker.
When I was a pupil at the Virginia School for the Blind, we actually had basketry classes. Do I hear “How terrible! What a dreadful image of the blind!” Not so. We learned to use our hands in a creative way while creating something attractive and useful, something in which we could take pride. Nobody suggested that we make basket making our career, but it was an important part of our lives.
And just to prove me right, enter Lynn Kelleher, OS reader from California.
She wrote to tell me about her hobby, and I was fascinated. Why? After all, I had my own experience with making baskets and the like, was I fascinated? True, but Lynn’s baskets are something different and wonderful. Her baskets aren’t woven, but coiled. This is an ancient form of basket making practised by many cultures. Among them various Native American tribes used this method, and the resulting baskets were/are lovely.
For fear that I might get something wrong, I’m going to quote directly from Lynn’s letter.
“I am a basket maker. The baskets I make are not woven, but are coiled. They are made from long pine-needles. I enjoy this because I am able to recycle nature’s trash, to form a useful and decorative basket. I gather the pine-needles wherever I can find them. I wash them, and dry them. Lastly, I wrap the dried needles in heavy paper or in bundles, so they don’t get broken. When dried they are quite brittle. I put a few pine-needles through a piece of a drinking straw to form the coil. The straw acts as the gauge for the thickness of the coil. Whenever the straw becomes lose I add more pine-needles to it. Using an overhand stitch, I sew the coils together to form a container or basket.” (note This is done with waxed linen thread.)
Lynn goes on to say that she feels this is a perfect craft for those who are totally blind. It is relatively simple and very tactile.
She points out further, that for those of us who don’t drive, and thus can’t shop at will for gifts, it’s good to have these unique baskets on hand when the need arises.
She finds it especially gratifying to be able to gather pine-needles from the property of the person who is to receive the gift. This makes the gift particularly unique for
I asked Lynn if she sells her baskets. She said that she has a few at a local consignment shop, but doesn’t take orders.
“The one problem with it,” she said, “is that it is slow to complete. By slow, I mean that you can’t complete the usual basket in two hours or so.”
She has a tray that holds the materials so that she can stop at will, and continue at another time.
This is a relatively inexpensive hobby, the most expensive part being the waxed linen thread. She separates her different colors of thread, so that she knows which she is going to use, just as the knitter or crocheter does when doing color work. She says that different colored thread, beads or natural products makes this hobby more interesting.
I was fascinated that all kinds of things can be used to form the coil, thus changing the size of the project. She says that because most workshops and items in catalogs rely on sight, this is a craft that requires one’s own sense of creativity. Although certainly, this is true of many crafts, I can see where it is especially true here. She is required to decide on the project itself, what it will be, how large etc, as well as on the material and colors to be used. In a cookie-cutter world, I find this especially refreshing. I like to imagine Lynn sitting there in front of her tray, a sort of alchemist of beauty, choosing her materials, project and decoration.
She tells me that the basket maker using this unique method isn’t limited to small projects, but by using something as large as a hose, may carry their creativity to almost any height.
Lynn urges her fellow blind crafters and would-be crafters to seek projects that are attractive in a tactile way. She urges simplicity, at least at first. She stands ready to answer any questions that readers may have.
Contact her at Ki6qzv@aol.com
About The Author:
Phyllis Staton Campbell, born blind, writes about the world she knows best.
She says that she lives the lives of her characters: lives of sorrow and joy; triumph and failure; hope and despair. That she and her characters sometimes see the world in a different way, adds depth to the story. She sees color in the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of rain, the call of a cardinal, and God, in a rainbow of love and grace.
Though born in Amherst County, Virginia, she has lived most of her life in Staunton, Virginia, where she now lives not far from the home she shared with her husband, Chuck, who waits beyond that door called death.