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A grandfather's gift

We are currently visiting my husband’s family in southern Alberta. I spied this basket on a shelf and captured the following heirloom story from my mother-in-law:


Her great-grandfather, Hans Christian Jensen (1827-1932) emigrated from Denmark to Aetna in southern Alberta. He had a large family and lived to 104 years of age. Hans had learned basket-weaving in his home country, and skillfully used this talent in his old age. After every wheat harvest he collected the straw and in the spring he gathered the green willow shoots that grew alongside the irrigation canals. He painstakingly wove intricate baskets from these simple materials, and people travelled long distances to buy them.


While Hans did not speak English, he clearly spoke through his baskets. When his grandchildren married, he gifted each one of them a baby basket, a clothes basket, and a sewing basket.


My mother-in-law’s parents, Harold and Ruth Jensen, were given such baskets upon their marriage in 1927. Ruth used the washing basket to bring the wet, washed clothes to dry outside on the line, then filled it with the dried clothes to bring them back in the house. She used the sewing baskets to store spools of thread and small mending projects.


Ruth passed this sewing basket on to her daughter (my mother-in-law), who then passed it down to my sister-in-law. Hans’ basket is still used today, a century after its creation.



An elderly man surrounded by based he had woven.
Hans Christian Jensen (1827-1932), aged 100.


This photo of Hans and his baskets was taken when he was 100 years old.

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