Pine Needle Basket Weaving--Making Unique Containers From Natural Materials
My First Little Basket Makes a Great Potpourri Holder
Making my first pine needle basket was easier in some ways than I expected but it also presented challenges I hadn't anticipated. Follow along with me as I make my first pine needle basket and read on for basket making tips and tricks.
A Cabin in the Woods and Forest Bounty
My mother lived in a small home out in the woods and she started gathering the long pine needles that were plentiful near her cabin. She soon learned the craft of pine needle basket weaving and made a number of striking-looking baskets. She lined some with fabric and added lids to others, using acorns as lid knobs. She kept some around her cabin, gave others as gifts, and sold some.
As soon as I saw her unique baskets, I was captivated by them, and I knew that one day, I would try my hand at it.
Time passed and I attempted my first basket. I've chronicled my efforts here so that others who are interested in making their own pine needle baskets can follow along and see the process and avoid a problem I encountered. As well, I discuss how to get started so that would-be basket makers can get a feel for basket making.
Did You Know?
Pine needle basket weaving is a centuries-old craft. For those who like working with natural materials, the forest floor offers up a bounty of raw materials..
Thread: You will have to decide what type of thread you will use to sew your basket. Many basket makers use artificial sinew thread. Raffia can also be used or any type of sturdy thread. I decided to use light green mercerized crochet cotton because it is stiff and I thought the color was in tune with the color of the pine needles.
Needle: Your needle should have a good-sized eye for easy threading.
Scissors: Keep a pair of scissors handy. Since this craft involves sewing, you will need them.
Pine Needles: These should be gathered prior to starting your basket. I used needles that were available in my area and these were about 5-7" in length--not as long as I hoped for but they still did the trick.
A Word About Sinew
Artificial sinew comes in a wonderful variety of colors, so if you want to add a particular color element to your basket, this material is ideal. Both stitch style and color can add to the beauty of a basket.
How to Sew Pine Needle Baskets
- Coiling Methods: There are different methods you can use to form your basket bottom and sides. I've included a video below because it's easier to actually see how this is done.
- Stitch: You will also have to decide on a stitch, or, as I did with this basket, use a number of stitches to get a feel for things. It doesn't hurt to experiment so that you find a stitch to your liking.
- Books: It's a good idea to pick up at least one good instructional book to refer to and for future reference. Books offer step-by-step instructions, which make the whole learning process much easier. Once you've tried your hand at fashioning a basket from pine needles, you'll likely want to create another and you may want to experiment with different stitches because these form such interesting-looking patterns on the outside of your basket. A good book will include a number of different stitches to choose from. The stitch you use makes a huge difference to the look of your finished basket, so this is an important consideration.
A Word About Stitches
It's not just pine needles that contribute to the look of a basket, the type of stitch you choose will also play a role in how your finished basket looks. And a stitch is not just a stitch. As your basket grows something interesting happens.
Make an Trial Basket to Get a Feel for Pine Needle Basket Weaving
Your first pine needle basket should really be a hands-on trial run that helps you to develop a feel for basket making by actually doing it. So instead of feeling pressure to produce a usable basket, play with it and have fun.
Don't expect stellar results with your first basket. View it as your learning curve so that when you make your first real basket, you will avoid problems that are hard to foresee (as I discovered). We might try something, believing it to be workable or read about how to do something but hands-on experience teaches us what books can't always cover.
I thought it was easy to pick a stitch from free tutorials online. What I didn't anticipate was how that was going to look as my rows grew.
Experiment with different stitches and different widths of gathered needles and try different materials for stitching your basket together. This way when you move on to your second basket, you will have a better idea of what you like and what you don't.
Tips for Working With Pine Needles
Each time you plan on weaving in needles, soak them first so they are pliable.
Your needles won't go moldy if you leave them in water for a couple of days.
If you decide to remove the knobs, cut them to spare your hands. I learned a painful lesson by removing them manually.
Starting My Basket Bottom
I selected a pencil-sized bundle of needles, gently bent them and started sewing them together in a coil to form the bottom of my basket. As I went along, I added more pine needles and continued sewing. I decided on the size for the bottom, then started up my sides.
Forming the Basket Bottom
• You will make a coil and sew it as you go and will have to decide on the size of this. • You will also have to decide on the thickness of the bundle of needles you work with.
Forming My Basket Side
When I wanted to form my basket side, I simply moved my pine needles inwards, so that instead of adding to the row in the round (the coil), I worked them up gradually until they were on top of the previous row.
It All Started so Well
To Knot or Not
If you knot your thread (instead of carrying it along and weaving it in), make sure you tie your knots on the inside of the basket.
I Wanted to "Fancy it up," so I added Beads. So Far, so Good...
Tip About Needle "Tips"
I removed the pine needle knobs or tips, as she does in the video, for my first basket but found that doing this made my fingernails very sore.
When I started on my second basket, I opted to leave the tips on and simply made sure that they were placed on the inside of my basket.
I found that "tips-on" made sewing easier because I could sew around them and they actually helped to secure the thread.
This Was Easy!
At this stage, I was feeling very proud of my first attempt. I was thinking that this was actually a breeze and thought I was going along great-guns.
I Was a Rockin' Pine Needle Basket Making Mama...
Just as my basket started to grow, my impressive-looking "beginning of a basket" morphed into a "misshapen misfire."
My Basket Developed a "Wobble"
I was pleased with how my basket was progressing. It didn't look overly amateurish and my beading added a nice touch. And the sides were really growing. As I was congratulating myself and feeling somewhat smug (I mean, how kewl are beads?), and feeling I would end up with an authentic-looking basket I could display with price, I noticed that my basket seemed wobbly and it started to become misshapen.
I was "in for a penny, in for a pound," however, so unwisely decided to continue on. Mistake! I should have stopped because it only got worse.
When I finished, I stared at it in disbelief. What had gone wrong?
Oh Dear! It Reminded me of a Drunken Sailor and Looked Like it Was Caving in on One Side!
What Was Happening to the Sides?
Honestly, I felt that if I blew on it, my basket would fall over. "Fluid" sides were not what I'd had in mind when I started. My poor little basket looked somewhat inebriated.
I'll admit, at this point, I felt highly frustrated. I felt my bead-work had gone to waste on an eyesore. Ugh!
The Misshapen Side Wasn't as Noticeable When I Turned it Upside Down but That Wasn't the Solution I'd Hoped for
Takes a Wee Bit of Skill
As you can see from the pictures above, my basket did indeed look like a real pine needle basket but this first basket underscored to me that if I wanted to get into this seriously, I needed more skills at my disposal.
As I touched on above, I looked online for free stitch tutorials and went from there but you get what you pay for and investing zero before I started resulted in a misshapen basket that really wasn't what I was hoping for. Lesson learned.
What I Learned With This First Basket
Sew into the row underneath your current row, not just under your thread. After my basket side fiasco, I did this for the lid and it looked much better and was far sturdier. The difference is visually obvious.
Much Better! And I Experimented With Different Natural Knobs
How I Added Beads
Beads can be easily added when making pine needle baskets. Work until you reach the part on your basket where you want beads to appear. Simply slip a bead over your needle and work a stitch to secure it in place. Continue adding beads as desired.
Now, while I added beads to the basket as I went along, when I decided to add beads to my finished lid, I sewed them on afterwards. I found it difficult to get my beaded hearts even, so I plan on sewing on a darker thread to outline the hearts for better definition.
Finished Basket--Not Perfect but I Learned so Much.
How I Straightened My Little Basket
I couldn't bear to throw out my misshapen basket, so I stuffed it full of potpourri. I had to be firm with that naughty basket and cram in the potpourri to plump out the caved side but it truly saved the day and prevented me from pitching it into the trash. My transformed basket now lives happily on my sideboard and guests, when they see it, have no idea that it's "shored up from the inside." So all's well that ends well.
Potpourri Turned my Basket "Respectable."
How to Protect Your Finished Basket
Pine needle baskets can be sealed with beeswax, paraffin or shellac spray. This last step is optional but can protect the needles and extend their natural life.
I've included videos in this article to give readers a feel for this process. These are not my videos. For more information, visit YouTube.
How to Make a Pine Needle Basket
Smaller Baskets Make Great Little Soap Holders
What can you use your baskets for? These baskets make unique-looking scented soap containers and as such, are attractive items for the home bathroom.
Many crafters choose to line their baskets with fabric. A velvet-lined basket can look truly special.
Some choose to make much larger baskets and because of their size, these can be used to hold any number of items.
Do You Want to Try Pine Needle Basket Weaving?
I hope you've enjoyed this sojourn into the world of pine needle basket making and, if this is something that interests you, hopefully you will now be inspired to try your hand at it.
If you are ready to begin your first "learning" pine needle basket, please see my next article for trouble-shooting and answers to questions you may have: Selecting and Using Pine Needles for Basket Making
© 2008 Athlyn Green