Sweetgrass Basket

Posted by Brette in Travel Shopping

Basket_Swoosh3So many of you liked my post about my lightship baskets that I thought I would share another basket in my collection. This is called a sweetgrass basket and it is from South Carolina. Charleston is considered the home for this particular type of craft. Sweetgrass baskets were a skill brought to this country by slaves from West Africa. It’s one of the oldest African art forms still created in the U.S.  Baskets were made on plantations for agricultural use by male slaves. One of the most common types of baskets was a rice winnowing basket, for separating out the rice. Baskets were also made for home use by women slaves who used sweetgrass for its pleasant smell.

Sweetgrass baskets are a specialized artform. It can take months to make just one basket. Sweetgrass itself is becoming scarce, making the materials expensive and harder to find. Antique sweetgrass baskets sell for hundreds of dollars. The skill is one that is passed down from generation to generation within a family.

If you visit Charleston, you’ll see stands selling these baskets on Highway 17. I bought mine in this area. The gentleman who sold me the basket explained that his wife makes them and it was a craft that was passed down in her family. He told me that once a year I should soak my basket in water then let it dry in the sun (I confess I have not done this – I’m afraid of ruining it, but it really isn’t dirty at this point).

I love this basket because the pattern is beautiful, but also because it has the very unique untied ends decorating it. It has a very solid and substantial feel to it even though it is incredibly lightweight.

Before we went to South Carolina, I researched the local handcrafts and knew I wanted to buy a sweetgrass basket as a special trip souvenir. Fortunately, we were on a road trip and could just put this in the car. It would have been hard to fit this into a suitcase without damaging the fragile ends.


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