Once Upon a Time I Learned to Weave a Market Basket

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

Our instructor Clyde F. Jenkins is showing us how to split strips from a piece of white oak. Each of us is holding a finished packet of white oak strips like the one he is splitting with a sharp knife.

A Course in Basket Weaving

We were at Big Meadow Lodge in the Shenandoah National Park celebrating my birthday in 2006.

The National Park Service and Big Meadow Lodge sponsor a variety of local crafts events throughout the season. 

One is in basket weaving which is taught by Clyde F. Jenkins, who lists himself as the "Basket Supplier for Colonial Williamsburg." 

This was a whole new experience for me.


Weaving the Frame

He started class with an ax, three wedges, a mallet, a pocket knife, and a white oak post about 10 feet long and maybe eight inches in diameter. Just before class began, he split the oak post into several pieces.  With those tools and materials alone, I made a finished basket.

The type of basket we were making starts with five strip laid out in one direction. Seven strips are then woven in the other way. This will be the basket frame.

Here Clyde is showing us how to lay out the basket frame.

The next step will be to bend each piece upright.

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

Clyde is a wonderfully amusing storyteller, which made taking this class a lot of fun. He has a repertoire of old, down home jokes, but he makes them funny. 

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

Elaine and I with our In-Progress Baskets

Checking on my Classmate

Elaine and her husband were celebrating their 30th anniversary. They are from Tampa and had spent a couple of days in D.C. where they promptly got ill, spent the whole time there in bed, missed the city entirely, and had come out the Big Meadow to recuperate..

Elaine was a bit more deft than I at basket weaving.

Basket Weaving was New to Me

Basket weaving was an entirely new type of activity to me. This was the first crafts course I'd ever taken.

Still, as you can see, I was making real progress and had nearly completed the basic basket.

The straps need to be trimmed, the top laced, and the handle added.

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

Getting Near the Top 

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

Clyde is trimming off the ends of the strips on my basket with a knife. 

Trimming the Straps

Clyde trimmed off the ends of the strips on my basket with a knife. 

We each had a similar knife but using it safely with the kind of pressure needed require a lot more practice and skill than I had.


Lacing the Top

The long strip of white oak with which I laced the top edge of my basket had been soaked briefly in a pail of water. It felt and worked like soft, stiff leather.

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

I was pretty serious

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

I wasn't the fastest weaver in town

I did have Fun

Clyde said a good basket weaver could do 15 or 20 a day. That would be about 14 or 19 more than I could do.

My Market Basket

I really was a little proud of my first basket weaving effort. While I probably will never again do anything like this, it was fun and I am glad I did it.

(Photo by Brian J. Larkin, June 8, 2006)

My Finished Market (aka Harvest) Basket