What are pine needle baskets?
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 the 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 bases 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
Since their sizes and designs are so varied, pine needle baskets are great multi-taskers for evolving your home design:
- 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.
Learning basket coiling
The pine needle class at ELM offers hands-on instruction in the technique. There are also books and videos that give step-by step tutorials.
Designing your baskets
Every new basket is a process of discovery; each one takes on a life of its own. You can begin by using someone else’s basket as inspiration and by the time you finish yours will be completely different.
Why try coiling baskets?
Coiling is oddly relaxing. I have pondered why.
It uses a simple, repetitive action, so it’s a great way to decompress and clear your mind. You can achieve a rhythm of serenity.
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!”
Linda Prater, Pine Needle Basket Class Instructor