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Muscoot Hosts Basketmaking Workshop

SOMERS, N.Y. - “It’s not as easy as it looks,” said Mary Parker, Somers resident and president of the Westchester Area Basketmakers Guild. “People think it’s nothing but the possibilities are endless. 

“Basket-weaving is 35,000 years old. Yes, 35,000. It has something to do with humanity. Mankind has been doing this for so long -- we’ll never stop.

“People were once buried in basket coffins. Every Native American culture has baskets. Look at the opening scene of My Fair Lady -- baskets everywhere.”

The Basketmakers Guild offers several workshops a year. This year’s series started on Saturday at Muscoot where three teachers and more than a dozen students gathered around tables and created bracelets, baskets and refrigerator magnets.

“The possibilities are endless,” Parker said. “You can weave birch, oak and ash barks, plastic, paper. The most common reeds these days are from Southeast Asia. The shapes are endless -- totes, creels, handbags -- round, square, oval.  It’s the ultimate recycled object.”

The materials for Saturday’s projects were created by running watercolor paper through a pasta machine at the fettuccine (meaning, little ribbons) setting.

Joann Fairbanks, an experienced weaver, said, “It helps me keep my sanity. When my kids grew up, I got involved in crafts again. I took an adult ed course and got hooked on basket-weaving. I do it while I’m watching TV. You get into your basket and you lose the whole day.”

Judy Flanders, ex-president of the Guild, said, “It’s very addictive. It’s satisfying and useful. You simply cannot make a basket in a factory. There’s always something on it that has to be done by hand.”

Flanders displayed her exquisitely crafted Nantucket handbag. “It took about 100 hours to make,” she said. It would cost about $450.

This was the Guild’s seventh annual “Make & Take” event at Muscoot Farm. “We try to attract people new to baskets and weaving in general and encourage them to give it a shot,” said Parker.

Since it was also the Guild’s 25th anniversary, the workshop concluded with the “chocolate-iest cake from William Nicholas.”

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