A serendipitous moment
I had no idea there was such a thing as a pine needle basket, but a chance discovery led me to find this interesting craft.
The moment I saw the display of pine needle baskets, I knew I wanted to learn how to make them.
So, what exactly are pine needle baskets, anyway?
In the southeastern US, there are pine trees whose needles grow from 8-18 inches long. These trees grow in sandy soil along the coastal plains from Texas to Virginia. The leaves, which grow in bundles of three, can be used to coil baskets. There are “caps” on the leaf bundles that you can remove or, if you want a more rustic look, you can leave them attached and expose the ends as you weave.
Pine needle baskets are usually stitched together with threads made of artificial sinew or waxed linen. The sinew is easy to use because you can easily pull it tight to form a very solid basket. Linen thread comes in a wider range of colors and can give your basket a bright and contemporary look.
A wide variety of styles and shapes can be achieved by varying the basket’s base. A key element in a basket’s design, the base can be made from a piece of wood, acrylic, an agate slice, or any number of different materials. For a simpler feel, the base is made by creating a coiled base from the needles themselves.
A basket for all occasions
- They can be functional: a small basket holds your keys by the entryway, a larger one could hold mail or sunglasses.
- You can use a long narrow basket to make serving crackers or bread a festive occasion.
- A sculptural basket could hold an arrangement of silk or dried flowers or branches.
- Colorful baskets can be hung as wall art.
Gracing a special spot in your home, a basket can be a unique objet d’art.
When I discovered pine needle baskets, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a class and get hands-on instruction in the technique. If you want to try coiling but can’t find a class, there are books and videos that give step-by step tutorials.
One great book is Pine
Needle Basketry: From Forest Floor to Finished Project by Judy Mofield Mallow. This book shows the materials, stitches, and pictures of many baskets to use as inspiration. You can order all the supplies you need from Amazon or directly from Judy’s website at www.primpines.com.
A DVD that I recommend is Basket
Weaving Essentials with Nadine Spier. She takes you through the steps in an easy-to-follow manner.
Designing your baskets
My first attempt at pine needle coiling produced a sad, misshapen pencil holder basket. But, I was proud of it anyway. I resolved to practice and keep learning new techniques. I have finished several more projects since then and they are definitely improving.
Some coilers are very precise and are perfectionists. I find that the quirks and bumps make the basket unique, and help you develop your own distinct style. My signature is weaving various colored and textured beads into my baskets. Inserting the beads into the coil, combined with a solid wrap row, gives each basket its own special character.
Why do I like coiling baskets?
Coiling is oddly relaxing. I have pondered why.
Also, the projects go fairly quickly. I can envision a basket and end with a stunning creation in not too many sessions. It’s inherently satisfying to complete a project and see the fruits of your creativity.
Finally, I think it’s the tugging and pulling. Basket coiling is a great place to release my frustrations.
So I say, “Go forth and coil!”
And tell us all about it in the comments section.