French Weave Baskets – Perfect Shopping Companions

Don’t you just love French weave baskets? Who’d want to be seen carrying a nasty plastic bag when you can look good (and very French) carrying one of these beauties? I really can’t resist them.

You’ll find stacks of them at local markets in a myriad of bright, rainbow colours or the classic French style: natural. Most baskets are handmade and brought in from North Africa. Made of strips of woven palm leaves, sea grass or reeds sown together and built up in ’rounds’ they are truly eco-friendly.

The baskets come in all different sizes and shapes and no two are identical. They are as light as a feather yet extremely hard-wearing.  I have three and alternate between them depending on my shopping needs.

French Weave Baskets at Lorgues Market

I photographed these cheerful French weave baskets in Lorgues. Lorgues has an astounding outdoor market every Tuesday and is one of the largest in the Var. Arrive early for easy parking but also because most traders have set out their stall by 8am and by 12noon they’ll be packing up. The market runs along Boulevard de la Républic and Place d’Entrechaux and sprawls down the narrow side streets. It is sort of divided into three sections. The lower part has clothes, shoes, linen, jewellery, and house-hold items. The middle part has flowers, plants, art, baskets and pottery. The upper part has stalls laden with cheese, herbs, meat, fish, spit-roast chickens, olives, spices, bread and other foodie delicacies.

Vallabrègues – Capital of Basketwork

But if I have a weakness for weave baskets, then believe me when I say I have an absolute obsession with wicker baskets. I cannot pass them by. On my To Do list for next year (with money in my pocket and space in the car) I aim to visit Vallabrègues. Why? Well, every year, on the second weekend of August, it holds the largest basketwork festival in France. How could I possibly resist?

Vallabrègues sits on the banks of the Rhône between Avignon and Arles and used to be the biggest basket-producer in France. Its proximity to the Rhône River enabled villagers to grow willows for basket making. And the trade was vast. Butchers, florists, glass-makers, laundries, bakers, perfumeries, fruit and wine growers and a multitude of other trades all needed baskets to transport or present their products.

Then plastic came along and slowly put an end to the basket industry and by 1920 it had all but disappeared. When the last basket maker ceased work in 1980 Vallabrègues’s part in history looked like being forgotten.  But in 1990 Vallabrègues opened a museum and created la ‘Fête de la Vannerie. Today, this giant fair brings together basket-makers from all over France and Europe. Horse drawn carts, piled high with baskets, go through the village, houses are decorated with basketry articles and large numbers of stalls display and sell baskets.  Surely a weekend not to be missed!

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I hope you find this blog fun to read and of interest. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with me. I hope you enjoy Treasures of Provence and all that it offers …