ARTS & CRAFTS
to the frond.
“When I am at a campground
I’ll sit and work at
a picnic table,” Hills says.
“People always come up
and watch what I’m doing
and ask me how to do it.”
After a while, Hills
started holding workshops
recreation rooms, always
crowds. At Heathcote
Botanical Gardens in Fort
Pierce, registration for one
of her workshops filled
up in three days, after 43
people had signed up.
She was weaving baskets at Sebastian Inlet Park one day
when a man walked over to watch. A few minutes later he
was asking if she could make some for his wedding. “The
wedding was outdoors and he wanted something natural.
We talked it over and he asked me to make him 75 baskets.”
Some would hold bridesmaids’ bouquets. Others were to
be filled with flowers and placed on the ground to mark the
edges of the aisle. She left a fan of palm blades at the bottoms
of some baskets for a decorative effect.
Weaving baskets at McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach
in mid-February, Hills set up the satellite dish support on
which she hangs her demonstration baskets. Before she had
the last basket on the tripod, two people quietly walked up
to see what she was doing, and a parade of four or five more
McKee visitors headed in her direction.
Within seconds someone was asking how she made the
baskets. More people joined the impromptu gathering as
Hills explained. “I like them,” said McKee visitor Dottie
Stose from Daytona Beach as she picked one up and looked it
over carefully. “They’re natural and they’re unique.”
The palm frond baskets are simple and fast. A blade from
each side of the main stalk is pulled forward and crossed.
The pair above them is pulled forward and the over-andunder
Ruth Hills lifts the bottom of the blades
upward before starting on the sides.
Within minutes the base of the basket is complete. Hills
pushes it upward to bring it closer to the next set of blades,
then begins weaving the sides – all while the leaves remain
attached to the frond’s main stem. It takes Hills less than an
hour to complete a basket.
“I’m a nature person,” she says. “I love anything natural, I
love a challenge, and I love these baskets.”
She also paints and makes baskets from long pine needles.
“Pine needle baskets – now those are hard to do,” she says.
But Hills hasn’t met a craft challenge she didn’t like. Pulling
a book on palm frond weaving out of a canvas bag, she
points to what may be her next challenge — some complicated
“I found this book at a garage sale,” she says, eying the
designs on a page. “I’m not quite ready to change what I’m
doing, but I may be soon.”