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Have you ever wanted to create something wonderful by using natural materials gathered from nature? Do you enjoy crafts and expressing yourself artistically? Pine needle basket making provides such opportunities as these. Read on to discover how easy it is to make something beautiful with your own hands.
Gathering Your Materials
Put on your hiking boots, grab a backpack, and let’s head into the woods to wild harvest our materials.
For your basket, it doesn’t matter what species of pine you harvest from, but your needles should be at least 5 inches long. Where I live, we have Eastern White Pine, so that is what I chose to work with. If you have Ponderosa Pine or Long Leaf Pine, even better! The needles are thicker, longer, and easier to work with.
When collecting your materials, select needles that have already fallen to the forest floor. In this way, we are not harming any of the trees we harvest from. Skip over older and more brittle needles and try to collect the freshly fallen needles that form the top layer of natural mulch. When harvesting
Avoid needles that have mold spots, as this would be unsightly and diminish the life of your pine needle basket. Additionally, when harvesting from mother nature, we always want to be respectful and only take what we think we will need. Take a moment to simply express your gratitude and thanks for what nature has provided you.
Preparing Your Pine Needles
After you have harvested your pine needles, be sure to let them completely dry out in the sun, especially if they are green. This is because green pine needles can deform the shape of your basket as they dry out. Also, arrange your pine needle clusters so that they are all facing the same direction.
Now your pine needles are ready to soak in a hot water bath. Place your pine needles in a durable container and pour scalding water over them to clean them and make them more pliable for basketry.
Let them soak for at least 30 minutes. After soaking, the needles can be removed and are ready to be worked with. Keep the needles in a damp cloth as you work with them. The needles should be elastic and easily bent without snapping.
Lastly, process your pine needles so that the thick end caps are removed (Eastern White Pine caps are so small that they do not need to be removed). You may cut off these end caps or strip them, whichever method you prefer. However, hand-stripped needles will be easier to work with as they are still joined together.
Creating Your Basket
Pine needle basket making is such a relaxing and enjoyable activity. You can do it virtually anywhere, and it is a great project to share with loved ones. Follow the steps below to get started. The video tutorial above is the best video I’ve found for explaining the process of making a pine needle basket, start to finish. My process is a bit different, as I used Eastern White Pine, which is much more difficult to work with because the needles are shorter and finer in texture.
MATERIALS YOU’LL NEED
For this basketry project, we are using the following materials:
- Waxed polyester thread.
- Small needle-nosed pliers
- Pine needle coiling tool, straw tubing (or a similar gauge) cut to about 1.5 inches long
- Strong needle appropriate to the size of your string. I used a tapestry needle with a large eye and pointy, not blunt end.
BUILDING THE COILED BASE
1. To begin, cut a piece of thread to a length of about 6.5 feet (around 2 meters).
2. Take your straw piece, pipe gauge, or in my case coiled wire (I wound floral wire around a skinny screwdriver to get the thickness I wanted). Stuff your guage with needles. The needles should be snug, yet loose enough for the gauge to slide. Be sure that all the needles are facing the same direction.
3. Next, move your gauge to a distance of about 3 inches (8cm) from the ends of your needles and tie a knot there, near the gauge (on the short side).
4. From the knot, begin wrapping your string down the length of your clustered needles to form a cord. Your gauge should move down as you go. Wrap your thread like a coil around the needles and work your way toward the needle ends. The coiled wrapping should be tight and compact. At this stage you should have a little over 2 inches (6cm) of tightly coiled and compact string wrapping.
5. Now bend this string-wrapped portion in half to form an arch. Join the two end pieces together in your fingers.
6. You can now thread your needle. Pierce in through one side of the loop to the other, joining the bases permanently together. This is where you will benefit from using your thimble and pliers. Use the thimble to protect your fingers as you push the needle through. The pliers will help you pull the needle through to the other side. Stitch along the entire portion to firmly join the two sides of the loop together.
7. Next, cut off the unused end of the unwrapped pine needles. Slide your gauge down and begin to wrap the remaining needles again with thread. Stuff your gauge as needed with new needles to maintain a consistent cord thickness. Always add new needle clusters, stripped end first, into the center of the cord.
8. Once you have enough string-wrapped cord, turn the loop inward against itself and stitch as you go. The cord turned in on itself should begin to form a spiral. This will be the base of your small pine needle basket. Continue wrapping, stitching, and stuffing your gauge as needed.
9. When your spiral gets to be about the size of a quarter you can begin spacing your coiled thread. Thread spacing should start around 1/8th of an inch (3mm) apart. With each revolution of string, stitch the cord to the existing center spiral. The needle should pierce through, near the center of the previous cord, when stitching two cords together.
10. Around this stage, you may need to attach more string. When adding new string, pass it through one of the pine needle cords and tie it to the existing string on the other side. The knot and thread tails can easily be hidden between the cords of the spiral.
11. As you stitch your cords together to form an ever-expanding spiral, your threading should continue from the same stitch spot as the previous row. This is called a “split-stitch”. In this way, the pattern of your thread will create gently curving lines that radiate out from the center.
12. As your stitches become farther apart (1.5cm), you may need to add an additional stitch between your normal stitches. This will ensure the structural integrity of your pine needle basket.
13. Continue spiraling your pine needle cords until your base reaches a diameter of 3.5 inches (9 cm) or the desired width for your basket. I chose to keep mine small for this project, since I was working with Eastern White Pine needles, which are shorter and finer in texture than other types of pine needles.
Please Note: If, at any time, you need to pause and resume constructing your basket at another time, your needles and basket can be wrapped in a damp cloth and stored in a plastic bag. You can keep your materials in the fridge for up to a week.
FORMING THE WALLS
- To form the walls, position the pine needle cord vertically above and on top of the outer ring of the base.
- Stitch as you did before, but making sure each layer or cord is positioned on top of the previous cord instead of on the side of it like when making the base.
- Continue this process until you have reached the full desired height of the walls.
CREATING A RIM TO SECURE YOUR LID
The rim is the finishing touch on your basket wall. By adding a flange to your rim, you will create a space for your basket lid to nestle in.
1. To create a raised flange, arrange and stitch your last cord row so that it cantilevers out slightly over the wall below it. Continue using stitching as before.
2. After you have made a flange around the top of your basket, it’s time to remove your gauge and stitch any remaining loose ends. Trim excess or protruding needles.
BUILDING THE LID AND ITS HANDLE
1. The lid is formed much in the same way as the base. Form the lid to nestle either snugly within the rim of your pine needle basket, or to fit directly on top. This is a matter of preference. I made mine to fit directly on top to open with “hinges” (made of braided thread). You can make your lid flat or slightly domed, so long as its width matches the basket opening.
2. Start with an arched coil like you did in creating the basket base. Continue to stitch the spiraling form until your lid reaches the desired width. Then finish your creation by stitching and trimming the remaining pine needles.
Note: Watch the Youtube video to learn how to create a lid with a handle to nestle inside your basket.
Mother nature is such an amazing resource when harvested from responsibly, and she can be a good ally when we are endeavoring to make natural things for our home. Here are a few other pine projects that might interest you:
- Wild Foraged Pine Resin Salve: A Healing Earth Medicine
- Easy Pine Needle Cough Syrup: Only 3 Ingredients
- DIY All Natural Pine Cleaning Spray
- Delicious Pine Needle Tea for Health and Simple Pleasure
Thanks for stopping by. Check back often and join me for more gardening and wildcrafting adventures.
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