“It’s a lost art, nobody wants to do it”: Independent living facility resident makes baskets from pine needles

Updated: Nov. 25, 2020 at 3:46 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - There are millions of people in this country, coping with COVID fatigue. Many have their own rituals getting them through the hours of mask wearing, social distancing, and in many cases, isolation that keeps them at a safer risk of catching coronavirus.

Margaret Raby lives in a Wilmington independent living facility. She spends hours each week, huddled over her dining room table, which is covered in baskets. They’re baskets she weaves, alone, out of pine needles.

“I gather most of them up in August as they come down, looking for the ones with really, really long needles,” said Raby. “Then I store them away to make the baskets in the winter.”

She spends a lot of time focused on that task so the isolation isn’t new but she knows there are people struggling out there with something she sees as a routine part of her day.

“A lot of people are afraid of that (isolation), I’ve noticed lately, yes,” said Raby. “But I guess I get into it, and get so deep into it, I forget the time, so I guess it doesn’t bother me that much.”

Raby spent many years in the mountains, many more a Marine’s wife, traveling. The pine needles have been a constant through all that. She’s been making baskets for the better part of a generation.

“It’s a lost art, nobody wants to do it,” said Raby. “That saddens me because I’m not going to live forever and I’d love to teach someone, or a class, about what I know.”

Margaret’s pricked her fingers more often than she can count. That sharp needle helps keep her mind sharp, as she weaves many of these baskets from memory with patterns she keeps in her head.

“I’ve done several shows, and they’ve been successful,” said Raby. “It’s a lot of fun and it puts a little money in my pocket.”

Margaret’s a widow, her husband succumbing to the ravages of Agent Orange. She’s been on her own a while.

The baskets give her a sense of purpose. She’s delighted they put a smile on people’s faces. In fact, there’s a display of her work in the lobby of Lake Shore Commons in Wilmington.

“If you think about all the work that goes into it, it can drive you a little crazy,” said Raby. “But I enjoy it so much.”

For people who sometimes complain about those aches and pains that come with getting older, she got some simple advice.

“Oh, just forget about,” said Raby. “Just go about living the best way you can.”

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