Sew Clever

Native American basket weaving brings together the best of both worlds when it comes to human creativity and innovation: superb craftsmanship and functionality. Gorgeous to look at, intricately constructed, and generally intended to carry, contain, or show off something, the baskets–whether created in the distant past or by contemporary artisans–are cultural treasures.

We are lucky to have a number of particularly stunning and unique examples on Maine Memory Network. Some of these come from places like the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor and the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine in Orono. The Hudson owns the item shown above, which we used for today’s What-in-the-WORLD?-Wednesday artifact.

Without question, this particular basket is charming to look at and the ash splints used to construct it are woven so tightly and symmetrically that one is tempted to ask, How did they do that? The obvious next question is, And what is/was it used for?

We received some eminently practical answers to that question including:

  • May Day basket
  • Funnel
  • Wine Bottle holder
  • Tussy Mussy (miniature Victorian-era flower arrangement container, often pinned on as a brooch)

But the only right answer was the one that seemed far less obvious: a holder for sewing scissors. (Congratulations, Celeste Hyer!)

This basket was created by Penobscot Indian Theresa Camilla Lyon Sockalexis of Indian Island, circa 1934, and it is pretty clever. Who, after all, wants to reach blindly into the chock-full sewing basket and grab the wrong end of a pair of extra-sharp scissors?

Sockalexis also made an accompanying thimble basket, pin cushion, and button basket. For more on contemporary Native American basket weaving in Maine check out Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance.



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