Some years ago, I worked at the Canadian Canoe Museum; it was my best job ever, (Largely because I had amazing coworkers and it was a pretty idyllic setting.) until it fairly abruptly wasn’t (Which had to do with a lot of factors: a changing workplace setting, upheavals in my personal life, and some interpersonal stuff which kind-of created the conditions to make my perfect job awful, quite suddenly). But during the time that it was awesome, it was really awesome, and occasionally I’d have the opportunity to do something really neat. Like weave my very own pack basket.
The Canoe Museum actually has loads of really good courses which I completely recommend – you can check out their full listing here. They’ve been carefully designed so that you can complete the project you’re working on by the end of the allotted time. As someone with more than my fair share of half-completed projects from ill-designed workshops stuffed away to be finished ‘someday,’ I have a keen appreciation for getting to finish a project with an experienced teacher and the appropriate tools.
I’d always wanted to try my hand at basketry; though it’s one of the more derided skills, it’s kind-of fascinating. It’s relatively easy, especially when someone has pre-cut everything for you, but meditative, especially if you’re trying to work fast. You get into a place mentally where you just focus on weaving, and on the shape that you’re creating, and you don’t think about much else except whether or not your bamboo is wet enough.
When it was finished, I wore it home on my back, still slightly damp, and so the part of the basket that rests against my back is fairly well-moulded into a shape that is comfortable for me to wear.
I know a lot of people might make this and never use it, or just have it as a decorative object around the house, but I’ve often worn it when biking down to the farmer’s market with my sisters, or to music festivals when I’ve needed to carry unwieldy things. I’ve worn it when wildcrafting – it’s a great container for wild apples, grapes, or dye plants, as it doesn’t crush its contents.
I prefer it to a knapsack – because it holds its shape, it’s easier to find things in it; the small holes in the sides let light in, so you can see what’s in the basket. Additionally, it breathes really well – fabric knapsacks tend to press agains the small of my back, which is where I generate a lot of heat. I find that super-annoying.
However, when you do wear it, you get a lot of attention – sometimes people stop you to compliment you or ask where you got it, and others just give you that look that people give other people who are doing something noticeably different. Most days, that’s not something that stops me, but as beautiful and useful a thing as a pack basket is, lots of people are going to give you the squint-eye if you go around using yours for its intended purpose.