Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sweetgrass Baskets and Sweet Music

We have had company for a few days, friends from Connecticut, and we took them around to see some local history.  One day we went to Charleston, traveling "the sweetgrass basketmakers' highway" through the Hamlin Community of families who were slaves from the area plantations.


Sweetgrass basket makers brought their skills with them 300 years ago on the slave ships from Sierra Leone, Africa.  

The baskets today are almost identical to the shukublay baskets of Sierra Leone where some are woven so tightly they are able to hold water.

Men used native materials such as grass, palmetto fronds, and long-leaf pine needles to make large baskets to winnow rice, hold shellfish, vegetables, and later cotton.  
Women made the baskets for use in their cabins.

Basket-making was often a job given to slaves who were too old to work long days in the hot sun.

Sweetgrass baskets have the loveliest smell, kind of like a faint whiff of warm green hay.  I can never pass a basket without sniffing it.


The baskets on the right were about $180 each at Lucinda's stand and the same baskets in Charleston? Add $100! 

In the evenings we were treated to some homemade music with a professional musician, Sarah.

The Writer always loves having someone to make music with, and I am very good at humming along and providing forgotten words!



  1. Those baskets are amazing..
    A woman in my small Massachusetts town took up basket weaving as a hobby and sells them. Hers are really works of art but are comparatively low in price. I should probably snap one up.

  2. Yes, beautiful baskets, and considering how much work goes into each one the price is probably realistic. People are just used to buying cheap Asian imports where people are not paid a fair wage.

  3. I love those baskets, but I'm too cheap to buy them.

  4. Sounds like you had a fun time with your friends. I doubt those baskets would sell for that price in Sierra Leone.

  5. Great looking baskets.......better than the ones that the Papuan New Guinean ones which
    I collected as presents for the ones down South ie: Australia.
    I reckon the ones in Sierra Leone would be far cheaper, except perhaps in the
    Touristy areas.
    I thought that Bruce may have hot-footed it to Augusta this weekend????
    I will have square eyes by Monday next with Augusta starting at 4.30 am tomorrow,
    then at noon the Davis Cup from Brisbane (Australia v's USA) and to top
    that off on Saturday the second day of the Autumn racing Championships
    at Randwich, Sydney.
    The joys of being a sports fanatic, eh?
    Cheers from.........wait for it........SUNNY and Quite WARM (at last)

  6. For me it's always a pleasure to have guests.
    Those baskets are wonderful - a tourist thing if you have to add $100.00, but it's good to see the art is still very strong.

  7. The baskets are really interesting

  8. What a sweet baskets, but rather expensive to buy. I have the same feeling to smell them. To make music together is fun for everyone.

  9. Cynthia, I just love your posts. I have lived in both North and South Carolina almost my entire life, but have learned so much from your posts. Interesting things I did not know. I would love to take a history class under you. What a great teacher you are! I love the hand made baskets, but goodness, could never afford one.

  10. Basketmaking in America - it brings such sweet memories for me of summers dangling my feet in the docks in Vermont teaching basketmaking to the campers. Not something I was that familiar with, having been brought in for my ceramics and horse riding skills, but at 20 yrs old you have all the confidence in the world "sure I can teach basketmaking!" Anyway that's just a long winded explanation of my appreciation of those amazing baskets! I loved learning the background to how those skills from Sierra Leone ended up in your neck of the woods! I can hear you humming along Cynthia as you're reading this!!
    Have a lovely weekend ahead.
    Wren x

  11. The baskets are so, so beautiful.. Lucinda is an amazing artist..

  12. My mother in law purchased some of these baskets years ago. I'm sure they would go for a heftier price now. I saw some for sale at the new Smithsonian Museum for African American Culture and the price was amazing. Did you buy one on your outing?

  13. Last fall I took a class in sweet grass basket making at the Folk School in North Carolina... My teacher was from the Charleston area. She learned from her family. The class went well... my classmates were from as far away as California and New Hampshire!!

  14. The baskets are beautiful and what an interesting history they have. Its fun to make music with friends.