By Rick Morwick
For nearly 10 years, Jo Ann Myers and Jan Haslar were next-door neighbors in Massillon, Ohio. They grew up together, graduated from high school together — and then a strange thing happened.
Life got in the way, and they wouldn’t see each other again for more than three decades — until they discovered they both happened to live in Hamilton County.
Now, they are reunited as friends and neighbors, only this time as residents of The Barrington of Carmel, where they share a passion — and talent — for basket weaving.
“After graduating high school, we went our separate ways and had no contact for over 30 years,” said Myers, 79, who reconnected with Haslar several years ago after moving to Carmel and discovering that her childhood friend lived in Westfield. “I called her to renew our friendship.”
Myers and Haslar, 81, moved into The Barrington a few months apart in 2018. The following year, they learned the art of basket weaving from a fellow resident, Sandy Godich, and have since made dozens of baskets that are given to patients who require skilled nursing care.
“Basket weaving is easy and something I can do and get lost in thought,” Myers said. “I lose track of time when I am weaving. It also is enjoyable to spend time with others while weaving and feel that I am doing something for others.”
Haslar enjoys the craft for most of the same reasons.
“For me, it’s very relaxing, and when I’m concentrating on what I’m doing, I can forget the world is out there,” she said. “It was really a blessing when we were in lockdown during COVID-19.”
Myers and Haslar each had craft-making hobbies prior to weaving baskets. Myers has worked in ceramics, crochet and cross stitch and has made hook rugs, Indian jewelry and hand-rolled silk flowers. She also has sewn clothes.
Haslar, meanwhile, has done sewing and needlework — such as cross stitch and tapestry — and has created paintings and pen and ink drawings. She also is a former flute player.
But prior craft experience notwithstanding, basket weaving required learning a new set of skills — something both women warmly embraced.
“I don’t feel there is anything difficult about basket weaving,” Myers said. “Basic weaving reminds me of making potholders when I was a kid. There are many ways to change the basic pattern by using different colors of reed and sizes of reed. Starting out as a beginner, we used patterns. After making a few baskets, I had the desire to make my own designs.
“It’s always a work in progress.”
“When I first started, the hardest parts to master were understanding all the different reeds, (such as) flat, flat oval, round, and what and when to use them, especially when following a specific pattern,” she said. “The time it takes to make a basket depends on the size, of course, (and) then it depends on what type of weave you’re doing.
“The smaller baskets that we’ve made take about four to six hours.”
When the baskets are finished, they are filled with toiletries and personal items such as pencils and puzzle books for patients in skilled nursing care.
“A comment my husband made when I was doing hook rugs was that my next project would be making baskets,” Myers said. “Little did I know that 50 years later that would come true. When I started basket weaving, I had no idea it would be my favorite hobby.”