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Friendship weaver

Mary Jane Smith shares her love of Nantucket baskets with her neighbors

Created date

January 8th, 2018
Mary Jane Smith makes Nantucket baskets, a distinctive-looking type of basket that originated in the nineteenth century.

Mary Jane Smith makes Nantucket baskets, a distinctive-looking type of basket that originated in the nineteenth century.


In 2014, Mary Jane Smith moved from Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod to Linden Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Hingham. She enjoyed life on the Cape and has family there, but when sciatic problems prevented her from golfing as much as she used to, she started to find herself alone more often than she liked.

At Linden Ponds, Mary Jane lives among more than 1,000 active and like-minded retirees. With dozens of resident-run clubs and committees and a full calendar of social events, being alone is no longer a problem.

“I have friends on the Cape and friends in Northampton, so this is a third set of friends for me,” Mary Jane says. “I still go to the Cape at least once a month.”

Up for a challenge

In addition to visiting friends, Mary Jane also likes going back to the Cape to gather supplies for Nantucket baskets, which she’s been making for about ten years. 

Nantucket lightship baskets date back to the nineteenth century, when crews on lightships started weaving them to pass the time. The distinctive-looking baskets are made from rattan and various types of wood, including oak, pine, ash, cherry, and ebony. 

“It’s physically hard to do,” Mary Jane says of her unique hobby. “Almost everything is sanded on professional sanders before we put it together, and Nantucket baskets have to be made on a mold.”

Mary Jane first became interested in basket-weaving when she and her late husband were living in Northampton. Looking for a creative outlet while caring for her young children, Mary Jane and a friend decided to enroll in a night class to learn how to make baskets. Later, when she moved to Cape Cod, her husband’s cousin invited her to join her in taking Nantucket basket-weaving lessons. 

Mary Jane uses some of her Nantucket baskets as décor in her apartment home at Linden Ponds. She has also given several to family members and has saved a few for future gifts. 

“I’ve given away most of my baskets,” Mary Jane says. “They make wonderful gifts for people who are at a place in their lives where they really don’t need anything. For some reason, people can always find something to put in a basket.”

Crafting with friends

Since moving to Linden Ponds, Mary Jane has had the opportunity to share her craft with her neighbors. Some of her baskets have been on display in the community’s on-site art gallery. 

Mary Jane also organized a day trip to Cape Cod, where she showed some of her Linden Ponds neighbors the facility where she used to make Nantucket baskets. The group got to meet her basket-weaving teacher and see the many molds used to make the unique baskets. 

Mary Jane has found some new pastimes at Linden Ponds too. She’s a member of a committee that focuses on environmental issues. 

She plays bingo and raises money for the Scholarship Fund, which helps the high school students who work at Linden Ponds’ restaurants pay for college. 

And she volunteers at Linden Ponds’ weekly farmers market, where residents and staff members can buy fresh produce, flowers, and other items during the summer and fall. 

“There are many very nice people here,” Mary Jane says.