Monday, July 13, 2009

The Market Baskets are Here

We just got a new shipment of African Market Baskets. We never know what we'll get exactly, so its a bit like Christmas when we open them up

They are shipped to us flat and need to be re hydrated and reshaped before we can put them in the shop. They are shipped to us inside one another, so getting them apart is the first adventure.

Miss Johnson is a great help with the baskets. First she removes the customs tags from each. Then she fills up the 'basket bathtub' . Each basket is then dipped in tepid water for about 15 seconds to give the grass a chance to soften. She's very careful not to wet the leather and carefully counts out the time for each & every basket. Then mom reshapes each and sets them out to dry. They will be re tagged before they are brought to the Farmers Market and placed in the shop.

Our baskets are a Fair Trade Federation purchase from the Bolgatanga Region of Ghana, West Africa. Basket weaving is mostly done by the women of this region to supplement their income from farming activities. The mission was to assist poor rural women in earning a fair income from the fruit of their labor in order to care for their children. If the women can create an income, it provides for the children as well as promoting self-esteem for the weaver, the children, and the village.

How are these baskets made?

Elephant grass straw is collected from the tops of the stalk, and each piece is split in half vertically by biting through it.

Each half of the split straw is twisted tightly by rolling against the weavers leg to give it strength.

The straw is put in bunches and dyed. For bright colors, the straw is first dyed yellow, then the color.

The weaver selects appropriate straw for the base, sides, and handle. The selection of the proper straw for the various parts is critical to good weaving.

Weaving starts at the base and works up to the rim. Rims are generally wrapped with straw to form a tube like edge.

The handles are wrapped around a grass core and leather handles applied by local leather workers.

Remaining bits of straw are carefully trimmed off. The trimming determines how the basket feels to the touch.

A medium basket takes three days to weave.

Each basket is made entirely by hand, and varies slightly in size & pattern. The individuality of each weaver shows clearly in these baskets. No two are identical and each is one of a kind. Such is the beauty of handmade!

These beautiful handmade baskets are available at The Pine Bush Farmers Market every Saturday and Wed-Sun at 1846 House Soaps & Hand Made Gallery.


  1. Love those baskets!!! Are they in your shop? Nope - just checked. Good thing I can't make it to the farmer's market. I'd go broke buying the baskets! LOL
    We have a "fair trade" shop in town, will have to check it out.
    Now - what do I do with the basket once I have it? I'll think of something I'm sure.

  2. Wonderful baskets! And was especially delighted to see that they are Fair Trade - in fact, that's what spurred my need to comment! :)

  3. Thanks for your comment. I really feel good about selling these. Besides offering something beautiful & functional, the fact that the weavers are paid a decent wage for their talents, makes this a win-win situation. I sell many of these in my retail shop & at the Farmers Market.

  4. I love these baskets so much LynnAnne. I will be up in the Binghampton area this weekend, are you nearby?

  5. Not nearly so UPSTATE, but probably on your way up or back. Google or mapquest :3697 Rt 52, Pine Bush NY (home & shop) or Quimby & Smith Rt 52, Pine Bush NY.( FM is across the street in municipal parking lot) Market is Saturday from 9-1:30. Shop is open on Sunday from 11a-6p. Would love to meet you!