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ARTISANS: Spotlighting Makers of Hand-Crafted Goods : Prime Time for Weavers of Baskets Draws Near : With Christmas approaching, containers of all varieties will emerge from hidden corners to take places of honor.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

People interested in making and decorating baskets have been gathering for years at Piecemakers, a country-style store and crafts center.

“There’s something very special about working with your hands,” said Joanna Nelson, one of the store’s basket decorators. “We’re all so busy today that taking a moment to sit down and create something with your hands is very peaceful.

“People enjoy taking raw materials--whether it’s scraps of fabric or pine needles or different reeds or grasses--and making something of beauty . . . seemingly out of nothing.”

Classes on creating and decorating baskets are offered at the store.

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During the ‘70s and early ‘80s, decorating walls with baskets was popular; today baskets are more often seen filled with dried flowers and positioned on pot shelves or hung from ceilings or clustered into groups to serve some practical purpose.

“I have baskets for everything,” said Kathy Emil, an instructor at Piecemakers. “One holds my sewing projects, others hold mail or correspondence. People tend to accumulate lots of different items that are necessary but can get in the way--like scissors or thumbtacks. I tend to put them in baskets so they’re hidden from view but easily accessible.”

For people interested in braided and rag rugs, Nelson recommends decorating with crocheted baskets, where scraps of fabric are interwoven to form a soft yet sturdy basket.

“They are nice if you have fabric left over from another project and are looking for a good use for it,” Nelson said. “These baskets are often used in the same rooms as a complementary quilt or braided rug.”

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Other popular baskets are those made from pine needles that have been woven and wrapped together, creating surprisingly strong and attractive containers.

“I like the idea of taking something like pine needles that you would ordinarily ignore or throw away and creating something beautiful out of it,” said Emil.

“Because baskets are universal, you can find something that someone will like, whether it’s incorporating Indian beadwork into the pattern or stenciling the sides of a bushel basket or making a crocheted basket or decorating one to match a country French decor,” she said.

Many of the other baskets that people favor, Nelson said, have been decorated with dried or silk flowers and wide ribbons that have been stiffened with fabric starch to retain their shape.

Padded baskets are commonly used in bedrooms and bathrooms, holding potpourri, sachets, soap or other toiletries. Larger baskets are often used in living rooms and kitchens to hold anything from magazines to fruit. Some of the baskets offered at Piecemakers are created in the shapes of apples or eggplant.

“It’s rare to go into any home and not find a basket of some sort or another,” Nelson said.

Holidays are a time when baskets emerge from hidden corners to take places of honor. At Christmas, baskets filled with pine cones and sparkling white lights can be placed around the fireplace.

“Baskets are very popular for gift giving, whether it’s for a bottle of wine or to display soaps for the bathroom,” Nelson said. “Lined baskets for sewing, jewelry or other uses have always been good sellers.”

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Baskets are also emerging as handy carryalls.

“You see them being used as lunch boxes by children and adults,” Nelson said. “I often use them to carry the supplies I need. When I’m teaching my classes, they’re a convenient and attractive way for me to move items from one area to another.

“Everything in the basket can be in a jumble,” she said, “but to my students it looks very organized and attractive simply because it’s all contained in a pretty basket.

“There’s no end to what baskets can be used for.”


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