How to Weave Baskets from Pine Needles

Updated on March 27, 2014

Traditional Interior Salish Baskets

Copyright © 2012-2014 Janis Goad. All Rights Reserved.

For thousands of years, the Secwepemc, one of the Salish First Nations people of interior British Columbia, have been weaving beautiful baskets and plates from pine needles.These woven baskets were prized for household use, for storage, and for trade. Traditionally the clumps of needles were sewn together with thread from the inside of cedar bark or from animal sinew, but today you can make these craft baskets with long needles from pine trees and with raffia or sturdy thread.

Thompson Rivers University, like all of the City of Kamloops, is built on Secwepemc territory. At a recent workshop there, participants had the opportunity to learn one of the traditional skills of weaving a basket from the local long pine needles that are common in the area.

Would you like to learn how to do it yourself?

These interior Salish baskets are woven from pine needles, in front, and split cedar root decorated with darker cherry bark, rear.  The collection is displayed in the House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops.
These interior Salish baskets are woven from pine needles, in front, and split cedar root decorated with darker cherry bark, rear. The collection is displayed in the House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops. | Source
Interior Salish basket woven from split cedar root and cherry bark.
Interior Salish basket woven from split cedar root and cherry bark. | Source
Interior Salish pine needle basket, left, and birch bark basket, right.  Birch bark for baskets is harvested in the spring once the sap is up in the tree.  The bark-harvesting season lasts approximately ten days, so the tree has time to heal.
Interior Salish pine needle basket, left, and birch bark basket, right. Birch bark for baskets is harvested in the spring once the sap is up in the tree. The bark-harvesting season lasts approximately ten days, so the tree has time to heal. | Source

What types of weaving do you enjoy?

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What You Need to Weave Baskets from Pine Needles

You will need:

  • a supply of long pine needles, such as Ponderosa or red pine. These needles are about as long as a hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger. Long needles mean the basket will be more stable, with fewer loose ends. If the needles are fresh and green, they are more flexible to work with; they will dry and brown as the basket ages. If the needles are gathered from the ground, they will be brown and dry already, and will be brittle to work with; in that case, soak the dry needles overnight in water, then wrap them with a damp towel and keep them in a plastic bag while you are working with them. If you leave your work for a few days, take the needles out of the damp cloth and let them dry again so they don't mold.
  • a sewing needle with a large eye to make threading easier
  • thread. Traditionally, Salish basket makers used sinew or cedar root for sewing, but today we used sinew-like thread from Michael's craft supplies store. Other basket makers use raffia, or dental floss. If you are using raffia, keep it moist by wrapping it in moist towels like the pine needles, so it is flexible for sewing.

Long needles from Ponderosa, Red, California Redwood or Pinon Pines are the best for weaving pine needle baskets.
Long needles from Ponderosa, Red, California Redwood or Pinon Pines are the best for weaving pine needle baskets. | Source
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Coil the first group of pine needles into a circle, and wrap it with thread to start the pine needle basket.
Coil the first group of pine needles into a circle, and wrap it with thread to start the pine needle basket.
Coil the first group of pine needles into a circle, and wrap it with thread to start the pine needle basket. | Source

Shaping the Coil for Your Pine Needle Basket

Start the basket by taking a group of about seven needles. The Ponderosa pine have needles in groups of three, so the coil has about 21 individual needles in it. Remove the dark end of bark that holds the cluster of needles together, to make the finished basket smoother. The needles will still hold together with the pale membrane that lies under the bark.

Coil the membrane end of the needles into a small circle, and wrap the coil with thread by putting the needle into the centre of the circle and around the outside. Make about 16 stitches evenly spaced around the starting circle. Hold the coil so the tail of unwoven needles points away from your sewing hand, since you will be wrapping in new needles as you turn and wrap the coil. With practice, the stitches at the start of the basket will be spread evenly around the coil, but even if at first your stitches are uneven, as the rows of your basket progress, you will be able to even them out.

Some basket makers work with a single overhand stitch and a thread of sinew. Each row of stitches is placed in line with the rows before, so the lines of stitches spiral out from the centre as the basket develops. Other basket makers work with a double stitch and a thread of raffia. Each stitch is made in pairs, with the first of the pair threading into the leading stitch of the pair in the coil below. This will create a pattern of v-stitches that curve in one direction from the centre of the basket radiating out. As each thread becomes too short to work with, sew it in through several rows of coil to hold it firmly, then cut off the end with sharp, pointed embroidery scissors. Rethread the needle, and continue, going back later to sew the end of the new thread in through previous layers of coil in the same way. This will give the finished basket a neat surface both inside and outside.

If working with raffia, pull a few threads off the hank, then wrap them around your fist to prevent them from tangling.  Keep the raffia moist and supple as you work.
If working with raffia, pull a few threads off the hank, then wrap them around your fist to prevent them from tangling. Keep the raffia moist and supple as you work. | Source
As the coil gets short, add new clusters of two or three pine needles under the last stitch, then sew them in as you turn the coil.  Keep the coin even thickness as you weave the basket.
As the coil gets short, add new clusters of two or three pine needles under the last stitch, then sew them in as you turn the coil. Keep the coin even thickness as you weave the basket. | Source
Once the base of the pine needle  basket is the right size, start to turn the coil up to form the basket sides.
Once the base of the pine needle basket is the right size, start to turn the coil up to form the basket sides. | Source

Weaving the Sides and Lid on a Pine Needle Basket

Continue working your basket until the base is as large as you want it. Traditional shapes include flat, shallow baskets like plates for serving food or drying seeds, and taller cylindrical baskets with lids for storage.

When you are ready to weave the sides, press the coil on top of the coil below, instead of outside it. Continue with the same pattern of stitches you have been using, so the pattern is visible across the bottom of the basket and up the sides. Once the basket is as high as you want it, sew the last part of the coil inside the lip of the basket so it is out of sight. Sew the end of your thread into the first few rows of coil so it is held firmly and won't unsew, then cut the end.

Lids for the baskets are woven the same way, by starting a new coil and making a flatter basket that matches the diameter of the bottom basket. Some lids have lips on the inside to hold the lid securely on the basket. To do this, weave your lid wider than the base, so there is an overhang. Then sew another coil of needles inside the lid. To measure the placement for the lip so the lid fits the basket snugly, place the lid on the basket, and press a ring of dress maker's pins through the lid in line with the inside of the basket rim. Then when you sew the coil of needles to the lid around the outside of the marker pins, the lip will sit at the inside edge of the basket bottom rim.

Traditional Interior Salish basket woven from pine needles, on display at the House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops.
Traditional Interior Salish basket woven from pine needles, on display at the House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops. | Source

Adding Lid Grips and Decorations to the Pine Needle Basket

Handles for lids can be folded coils of needles sewn to the outside, or small pine cones, stones or carved wood or bone. Experiment with decorating the basket with designs of coloured thread or grass, or sewing beads or small shells in designs that satisfy you.

Basketry is an art form, with each piece a unique expression of the spirit of the weaver. Using materials from the natural environment, these traditional Salish baskets woven from pine needles are not only practical and long-lasting, but beautiful.


This decorative plate by J. Simpson has a slice of black walnut shell sewn into the starting coil.
This decorative plate by J. Simpson has a slice of black walnut shell sewn into the starting coil. | Source
This decorative plate by J. Simpson has a wooden star surrounded by slices of walnut shell in the centre.
This decorative plate by J. Simpson has a wooden star surrounded by slices of walnut shell in the centre. | Source

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    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 2 years ago from Dartmoor

      So much work has gone into these beautiful baskets! Love your hub, it's very informative. There are loads of pine needles where I live. Starting collecting TODAY!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      What a wonderful hub to read this morning!

    • firstday profile image

      R Beggs 3 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Beautiful! What a wonder job you did on this and the art is gorgeous. Sweetgrass smells so wonderful. I love this hub!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I love those beautiful pine needle baskets. And the plate with the sliced walnut shells is awesome! Don't have the time or patience to try this one. Got enough projects to deal with now, but one of these days....(voted up and shared)

    • LindaSmith1 profile image

      LindaSmith1 3 years ago from USA

      I have to share this in one of my crafting hubs. I forgot all about these baskets made from pine needles until I saw this.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 3 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      The instructions here are awesome. I actually feel like I could use them to pull this off. For years, I've been interested in weaving but never really had an idea how to start with natural materials. Being surrounded by trees, many of them pine, I'm seeing new project for winter. I can't wait to try this!

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Are you serious!! That's amazing! What an incredible creation! :) Thank you for your article.

    • profile image

      bestentryDSLR 4 years ago

      This is a very insightful hub. Thanks for the really amazing information. I will have to make one for my wife. Voted up!

    • Janis Goad profile image
      Author

      Janis Goad 4 years ago

      Benjamin, I am so glad you enjoyed the hub. You can use almost anything to decorate the baskets. Traditionally items were natural found things, like stone, shell, root or wood. Today people use beads or whatever they like.

      Thelma, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you get a chance to try making your own basket.

      Rebecca, I am so happy to meet you here. Thanks for your comment. Do you enjoy crafts and weaving? I think you would enjoy trying this style of basketry.

      Jordan, aren't the baskets beautiful? People still use this method today, and use the baskets in their homes or sell them.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 4 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Awesome! What an excellent instructive hub about an art form you won't find easily in online tutorials. Congrats on being Hub Of The Day! ~Living across the Salish Sea,

      Cynthia

    • Better Yourself profile image

      Better Yourself 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Beautiful! I have a family friend who works with pine needles, gourds and creates some of the most beautiful, interesting pieces. Great hub, thanks for sharing and congrats on HOTD!

    • profile image

      Deb Welch 4 years ago

      A nice project for a class in winter. Beautiful work.

      Useful and awesome article about weaving baskets from long pine needles. Amazing. Congratulations.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 4 years ago from Canada

      Congratulations on HOTD Janis Goad! This accolade is so deserving! Regards, snakeslane

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 4 years ago from Tucson, Az

      excellent hub!! congratulations on hub of the day it is well deserved!

      I have done pine needle weaving on the tops of my gourd bowls/it was fun/this makes me itch to try a real plate/that last one with the walnut shells is exceptional!

    • profile image

      jhendor 4 years ago

      Very natural composition. Fully explicit.

      Weldone and congratulations on your pick as the hub of the day.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

      Beautiful and informative. However, I don't believe I have either sufficient manual dexterity or patience.

      Voted up and across!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Very interesting Hub. Voted up.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Janis, this is a wonderful hub of information and beauty. The baskets are gorgeous, your instructions are detailed and easy to follow, and you have brought it all together very well.

      I was born in the Pacific Northwest and grew up there. I have always been fascinated with the baskets of the Salish and other tribes. I have seen pine needle baskets before and they are very sturdy as well as beautiful. Now that you have taught me how to make them, I will have some of my own. Thank you for writing this article.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Having seen pine needle baskets in the past, this caught my eye. Congrats on your Hub of the Day award and thanks for reintroducing me to this craft. Your examples here are really nice and I hope to explore doing the actual craft one day.

    • Misfit Chick profile image

      Catherine Mostly 4 years ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      Oh my gosh, what a great article! I couldn't imagine how the heck you could make a basket out of something as tiny as Pine Needles. I'm going to try this, they're beautiful. Thanks!

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Awesome! I love these traditional hand-made baskets. Great hub!

    • miss_jkim profile image

      miss_jkim 4 years ago

      You have written a very interesting hub. Educational, multicultural, and fun. Voted up and interesting.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Beautiful! I saw someone making line needle baskets once on a field trip, but I've never made one, myself. Congrats on hub of the day!

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      Amazing! The baskets look gorgeous.

      I have seen bamboo baskets of different designs. I learnt about Pine needle baskets for the first time.

      Voted up and shared

    • cheeluarv profile image

      cheeluarv 4 years ago from INDIA

      The box and the small container with lid are very beautiful if they are done by you,five stars for your talent.In our country people used to weave similar baskets with bamboo shoots and now this art is diminishing as there is more availability of cheap,'all purpose' plastic baskets sold in every street of the place.Nowadays We are able to see them only in some handicraft exhibitions and in rural places.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      This is so beautiful. I always wondered how these are made. In Charleston, SC there are artisans who do something similar and sell the baskets for very high prices. Lovely to look at.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      Wow, these are fantastic. I may have to give this a try as we have giant pines on our property. really beautiful.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      These are gorgeous. My Momma used to make exquisite hot mats and baskets from pine needles and give them as gifts.

      Voted up and awesome.

      Congrats on HOTD. Angels are on the way ps Pinned

    • Jordan Hake profile image

      Jordan Hake 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

      Incredible! I'd never imagined you could weave pine needles together!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      This looks amazing. I'd love to get time to try it. Congratulations!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      Congrats on the HOTD! This is a very useful and interesting hub. Very well done. I love to learn this craft. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Benjamin Chege 4 years ago

      Awesome hub and great content. Thumbs up. Now I know how to weave baskets from scratch. I am also interested by the decorations. I never knew you could use a wall-nut shells and wood to decorate baskets.

    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 4 years ago from The Study

      What a beautiful art form...and all these pine needles just laying around. Be back later...gotta go buy thread. Thanks for writing!

    • profile image

      Alise- Evon 4 years ago

      I have taken basket-making classes in the past, and I have always wanted to learn how to do it with pine needles since they are easy to find where I live. This really helps; I look forward to actually being able to try it now. Thanks!.

      Voted interesting and useful.

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 5 years ago from Southern Spain

      A very interesting hub and I loved the photos ! There are some very clever people around ! Found you while hopping hubs .Voting you up.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What beautiful baskets! This would make a great project to try over the winter.

    • carriethomson profile image

      carriethomson 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      That is amazing way to make a basket, even you have a shown the easiest way to prepare that traditional basket. Pictures also make the work easy.

      Thanks for sharing such an interesting information.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 5 years ago from Canada

      Janis, what a beautiful page on traditional Secwepemc basket making. The photographs are fabulous, and the method you've outlined is so easy to follow. Thank you for sharing this. Voted up and all the buttons except funny. Regards, snakeslane