While working bilums is work for the ladies, not every woman knows how to make them. It is something a mother passes on to her daughter. A man does not make bilums. Most don’t know how, but even if they did, they would normally not admit to it.
There are different ways to wear a bilum. Some wear it on their shoulder. like a purse. Some, especially in the city, wear it around their necks to prevent pick-pocketing. But it is most commonly worn on their heads with the strap across their forehead and the bag itself resting on their back.
While I was in the village, my village mothers taught me how to make a Madang style bilum. Mine is very basic and took me much longer to make then theirs did, but making bilums with the ladies was one of my favorite things to do in the village. My village family was also very generous. On my last night in the village, we had a big party at which point women from the village presented my roommate and me with bilums they had made. They told us to take them back to America and make all of our family and friends jealous J. But now when I use one of my bilums, I think of my village family.