June 30, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

Sisters Doris Wilson and Pat McCracken set aside a week each year to be together and the last four or five years they’ve spent the week attending the Bluegrass Area Basketmakers Seminar at the Kentucky Leadership Center in Jabez. The seminar is sponsored by the Bluegrass Area Extension Homemakers. 

McCracken travels from Fairland, Ind., to her sister’s home in Stearns, Ky., and each day they commute back and forth nearly two hours each way to the seminar. 

“It’s our anniversary get together,” Wilson said. “Every year we spend a week here making baskets. It’s a wonderful hobby and I love to give them as gifts. I’ve probably made more than 100 baskets over the years.”

McCracken said she enjoys learning new skills, but to her the relationships she renews and starts mean the most.

“I love to make baskets and I love to spend time with my sister and make baskets with her,” she said. “We take the same classes so that we are together. The best part of it all is making new friends. Also, every year I learn something new from each teacher. The fellowship and the friends we’ve made are the most important, but I treasure the skills I learn and the baskets I go home with.”

Participants come from all over the United States to learn new skills and meet other basket makers. This year, the seminar was at capacity with participants having more than 100 classes to choose from in all skill levels. Some classes range from 2 to 8 hours in length.

Instructor Barbara Holt of Bristol, Tenn., has been teaching basket-weaving classes for about 5 years. She said the Jabez seminar is unique.

“You can go to several seminars that are offered across the United States,” Holt said. “I would say there is an average of at least two a month somewhere. But there is only one Jabez. There is just an attitude here of down-home, rural, country life that sort of slows us down. It reminds us that we are probably working too hard and going too fast. It’s just a way to accomplish something and do it in a relaxing manner.”

McCracken also mentioned the relaxing atmosphere of the seminar.

“You can come here all twisted up in knots and by the time you go home you’re all refreshed with a new outlook on life,” she said.

Bourbon County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences Betty Overly said there were just 30 participants at the first workshop 10 years ago and this year there were 231. She said they’ve always tried to promote leadership through the seminar. Many vendors set up shop at the seminar for the week to sell participants supplies. A basket exchange and silent auction are also held.

“The beauty about it is the growth we have seen in leaders,” she said. “We have had people come for almost all of the10 years and they started out being a very shy participant, almost questioning if they should make a basket. Now some are even teaching here, some have developed businesses back home, and are doing marvelous things.”

Overly said she’s seen the importance of relationship-building that goes on at the seminar.

“Programs such as this help build friendships, they help families to stay together,” she said. “We have mother and daughter combinations here; we have husbands and wives; we have families here with young teenage girls making baskets. As well as the economic aspect, they come in and they spend their money in this area.”


Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Betty Overly 859-987-1895