Weave your own baskets for hearth and home

For more than 25 years, a pair of Woodstock women have been weaving their way into people’s hearts and hearths.

Virginia Stultz and Jean Whetzel, both former Shenandoah County Public School teachers, have been teaching basket weaving classes since 1991. There’s no telling now how many baskets made in their classes sit in homes around the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The women learned the art side by side.

“We learned about the same time from [an] art teacher in one of the schools where we taught,” Whetzel, who taught deaf and hard of hearing students, recalled. “Then some people just started asking us if we would teach them how to make baskets.”

Obviously, they’re quite talented, as both are juried artisans through the Artisans Center of Virginia. The center’s website notes the women also teach splint bottom chair weaving, and features several pictures of their handiwork.

She and Stultz, who taught grade school first and later computer technology, teach basket weaving from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the second, third and fourth Thursdays of the month for 10 months of the year in a studio right beside Stultz’s home at 944 Moose Road.

They also teach a monthly class for Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation, and have led classes for other groups, such as 4-H and the Boy Scouts, too.

There are three styles of weaving taught:  round basket twining, over and under for rectangular and square baskets, and ribbed, such as for an Easter basket, Whetzel said.

A wide variety of ages, including children as young as 6, are represented in classes, although most of the students are female.

“We have several men who don’t come but several times a year maybe,” Whetzel said.

They see both repeat students and newcomers.

“Somebody brings someone else along and they get hooked,” Whetzel said, then jokingly added, “It’s cheaper than mental therapy.

“The people who have been there for a while will help others beside them if they have a little bit of trouble, so they’ve got camaraderie. We try to make it not [be] stressful.”

The cost for a class is based on the type of basket being created, typically ranging from about $15 all the way up to $75. The more expensive ones take more than a single class to create.

“The beginning baskets, say, run 15, 18, 20 dollars,” Whetzel said.

She said students usually keep some baskets, while giving others they’ve made away.

“Quite a few people keep some, but then they start giving some to kids and grandkids, [or for] wedding gifts and baby showers,” Whetzel said.

She and Stultz are able to suggest different baskets for different occasions.

While the women do enter their baskets in the Shenandoah County Fair, they’re careful to not enter in any categories where their students have also entered, Whetzel said.

The pair’s lives have long been intertwined.

“We’ve enjoyed doing it,” Whetzel said. “She and I have been friends since we played softball [together] after we had our kids, in our 30s and 40s. We’ve been friends for a long time.”

Those interested in taking one of the basket weaving classes, can stop by the studio on Moose Road during a scheduled time, or call Stultz at 540-459-3550, according to Whetzel.