How to Weave a Unique Pine Needle Basket
How I Wove My First Pine Needle Basket
My mother lived in a small home out in the woods, and she started gathering long pine needles near her cabin She soon learned the craft of basket weaving with them and created a number of striking pieces. She lined some with fabric, added lids to others, and used acorns as lid knobs.
As soon as I saw her unique baskets, I was captivated by the method and knew that I would try my hand at it one day. I've chronicled my efforts here so that others who are interested in making their own baskets can see the process and avoid a problem I encountered. Making my first pine needle basket was easier in some ways than I expected, but it also presented challenges I didn't anticipate. Follow along with me as I make my first pine needle basket and read on for basket-making tips and tricks.
What You'll Need
- Thread. You will have to decide what type of thread to use when sewing your basket. Many basket makers use artificial sinew thread, which comes in a wonderful variety of colors. Raffia or any sturdy thread can also be used. I decided to use light-green mercerized crochet cotton because it is stiff and the color matched the pine needles.
- Needle. Your needle should have a good-sized eye for easy threading.
- Scissors. Keep a pair of scissors handy for this project.
- Pine Needles. These should be gathered prior to starting your basket. I used needles that were about 5-7" in length. They weren't as long as I hoped they'd be, but they still did the trick.
Before You Begin
- Coiling Methods. You can use different methods to form your basket bottom and sides. I've included a video below because it's easier to see how it's 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. It's not just pine needles that contribute to the look of a basket! The type of stitch you choose also plays a role in how your finished basket looks. A stitch is not just a stitch. As your basket grows, something interesting happens.
- Books. It's a good idea to pick up at least one instructional reference book. Books offer step-by-step instructions, which make the whole learning process much easier. Once you've tried your hand at fashioning a basket of pine needles, you'll likely want to create another. You may want to experiment with different stitches because these form such interesting-looking patterns on the outside of your basket. Look for a book that includes a number of different stitches to choose from.
Trial Basket Tips
- Your first pine needle basket should really be a hands-on trial run that helps you develop a feel for basket making. 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 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 the basket was going to look as the rows grew.
- Experiment with different stitches and different widths of gathered needles, and try using different materials to stitch 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.
Start With the Bottom of the Basket
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 of the bottom and then started up my sides.
• You will make a coil and sew it as you go.
• You will also have to decide the thickness of the needle bundle you'll work with.
Form the Sides of the Basket
When I wanted to form my basket side, I simply moved my pine needles inwards. This made it 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.
To Knot or Not to Knot
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.
Tip About Needle "Tips"
I removed the pine needle knobs 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" pine needles made sewing easier because I could sew around them, and they actually helped to secure the thread.
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 well.
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. As I was congratulating myself and feeling somewhat smug (I mean, how lovely are beads?), I noticed my basket looking wobbly and starting to become misshapen.
I was "in for a penny, in for a pound," however, so I 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?
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 feeling highly frustrated at this point. I felt my beadwork had gone to waste on an eyesore. Ugh!
How to Stabilize the Basket
As you can see from the pictures above, my basket did indeed look like a real pine needle basket. However, this first basket reminded me that if I wanted to get into this seriously, I needed more skills at my disposal.
I looked online for free stitch tutorials and went from there, but you get what you pay for. Having invested nothing before I started resulted in a misshapen basket that really wasn't what I was hoping for. Lesson learned.
Tip: To address this issue, sew into the row underneath your current row and not just under your thread. After my basket fiasco, I did this for the lid and it looked much better and was far sturdier. The difference is visually obvious.
How to Add Beads
Beads can be easily added when making pine needle baskets. Work until you reach the part of 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.
While I added beads to the basket as I went along, I decided to add beads to my finished lid by sewing them on afterward. 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.
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 that potpourri prevented me from pitching the basket into the trash. My transformed basket now lives happily on my sideboard. When guests see it, they have no idea that it's "shored up from the inside." So all's well that ends well.
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.
How to Make a Pine Needle Basket
How to Use the Baskets
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, 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 basket making and that you are inspired to try your hand at it. If you are ready to begin your first "learning" pine needle basket, please learn how to choose and use the best pine needles for basket making. Enjoy!
© 2008 Athlyn Green