MAKING A BASKET OUT OF WHITE OAK SPLITS - Household Crafts and Tips: The Foxfire Americana Library - Foxfire Students

Household Crafts and Tips: The Foxfire Americana Library - Foxfire Students (2011)


“I’ve been a’hopin’ and a’hopin’ I’d have company today. That just shows you if you wish and want somethin’ bad enough, God’ll usually bless y’with it.” With a delighted look on her wrinkled face, Aunt Arie greeted us early one hot summer day.

I first met Aunt Arie in June. My immediate reaction was one of shock. How could such a tiny, delicate woman, eighty-five years old maintain her own garden, do all her cooking and cleaning, make quilts every winter for her family and friends, and still manage to survive without luxuries? I didn’t wonder long. During the day, as Aunt Arie patiently taught us how to make white oak split baskets, I realized why Mike and Paul spoke of her with such affection. She is, to put it simply, just plain good. She is full of vitality and determination, and she radiates a warmth that few people have. Aunt Arie is really hard to explain. She’s downright likable and fun.

While we were making the basket, Aunt Arie talked of her childhood. Her eyes sparkled as she told us how she used to carry corn and eggs for miles in baskets like the one we were making.

At noon, she cooked dinner for us. Mary and I tried to help, but with an old wooden stove, black iron kettles, water drawn from the well, and general inexperience, we could do little more than watch Aunt Arie hustle about laughing gently at our mistakes.

With people like Aunt Arie and Beulah Perry, this work has been very rewarding for me. I’ve learned not only the skills required to make baskets, but also the value of sincere friendliness, honesty, and hard work—and that may be the most important lesson of all.


ILLUSTRATION 22 Tommy Wilson and Butch Darnell begin by whittling ten ribs for the basket out of heavy, quarter-inch thick splits. The ribs should be about a half inch wide, pointed on both ends, and long enough to reach around half of the basket.

ILLUSTRATION 23 Next, construct two hoops of approximately equal circumference out of four- to seven-foot heavy splits, depending on the size of the basket you want. Place one inside the other and nail them together at their intersecting points.

ILLUSTRATION 24 The weaving is done with thin green splits. It is a simple repeating pattern, as shown here (left). Work from both hoop intersection points simultaneously so your weaving will meet in the middle of the basket (see ILLUSTRATION 28 and 29). The weaving begins where the loops interset. The following two plates illustrate the first two steps (right).


ILLUSTRATION 26 When one split runs out, tuck in its end, insert the point of another into the weave, and continue (left). When the weaving is progressing well at both hoop intersection points, insert the first two ribs. Simply force their sharpened ends into the weave (right).

ILLUSTRATION 27 The first rib in place (arrow) (left). Continue weaving as before (right) …

ILLUSTRATION 28 … inserting ribs until there are five on either side of and parallel to the main hoop (left). Here, the basket is well over half completed. All the ribs have been worked in (right).

ILLUSTRATION 29 The finished product.