Selecting and Using Pine Needles for Basket Making

Pine Needle Basket in the Making--This Second Basket is Much Sturdier!

Photo: Large Pine Needle Basket
Photo: Large Pine Needle Basket | Source

What type of pine needles should be used in basket making? When should the needles be picked? How can pine needles be softened prior to use?

Pine trees are abundant in North America and perhaps it's not surprising that the sturdy needles from these trees have been used for centuries to craft items. Pine trees shed their needles each year providing crafters with an unlimited plentiful supply of raw material for making baskets and containers.

If you have ever considered trying your hand at pine needle basket making, you may have had the following questions:

  • What type of pine needles should be used in basket making?
  • When is the best time to gather needles?
  • How should the needles be stored?
  • How are pine needles softened prior to use?

What Type of Needles Work Best for Basket Making?

Selecting Your Pine Needles

Trees considered ideal for pine-needle crafting are Ponderosa Pine, Southern Pine and Long Needle Pine, among others.

Some trees produce pine needles that grow to an impressive 12" or longer! Longer pine needles are generally preferred.

Ideally, pine needles should be about 5-8" long.

Smaller needles from other pine tree varieties may still be used, however. This might apply if you only have access to shorter needles but still want to make baskets from what is available locally.

Best Time to Gather Needles

Pine needles should be gathered in the fall, when the trees have shed their needles. The best needles are found in undisturbed areas or under trees.

If gathering pine needles in a public park, ensure that needles are not on or near walkways. Needles from these areas may have been stepped on and broken.

Needles can be gathered while still green, or brown needles can be removed from stems and branches. It is preferable to collect a generous supply of needles to allow for discards (needles that are broken, are too small, are missing one needle or are simply too fragile).

Cleaning, Drying and Storing Pine Needles

Pine needles should be placed in warm water and the water gently swirled to remove any dirt and debris. Rinse needles a couple of times until water runs clear.

Some basket makers soak their pine needles in warm soapy water to further clean them or add bleach to counter black spots. (If bleach has been used, make sure that needles are rinsed well, prior to handling them).

Needles can be laid out on a towel to air-dry. Sun-dry needles for a bleached look; shade-dry needles to retain greenish color.

Dried needles can be stored flat a rectangular container or placed in ice cream buckets. Alternatively, needles can be tied in bundles.

Some crafters sort their needles before storing; others sort as they go.

Softening Pine Needles

Pine needles should be softened prior to use to avoid needle breakage when coiling them in basket making. This can be done by soaking the needles in warm water in an ice cream bucket for 20-30 minutes. (Pine needles may be left in water for a day or two but avoid leaving needles in water for long spells to guard against breakdown of needles.)

Once a supply of pine needles has been gathered, cleaned and stored, they are suitable for use in pine needle basketry. Beautiful containers can be created using natural materials.

The Start of My Large Basket

Source

Beads

As can be seen, I added beads to this basket, just as I did with the first one. The neat thing is that you can add your own decorative elements to make your baskets truly unique.

Ideas for Baskets

Deciding on a Stitch Style

While the pine needles themselves are part of the allure of these unique-looking baskets, some crafters incorporate wonderful-looking stitches, which, as they work their way up basket sides, form their own interesting looking patterns.

For my first two baskets, I didn't get too fancy with stitches because I wanted to master working with pine needles and gaining confidence with using them before moving on to specific stitch patterns.

To achieve the best results, it is well worth it to invest in an instructional booklet, so as to fill any gaps in your knowledge and refine your craft. Learning the different stitches opens a world of opportunity and can help you to take your basket making to the next level. Rather than guessing at it, and perhaps wasting much time before getting it to your satisfaction, it is good to learn as much as you can right out of the starting gate.

Ready to Get Started?

  1. Go out and collect your needles.
  2. Pick up a book on pine needle basket making and decide on a stitch pattern.
  3. Consider if you want to add extras to your basket.
  4. Decide whether you will line your basket.
  5. Make sure you read my first hub (link below) to avoid a mistake that I made, that will ruin your first basket.

I hope you've enjoyed these pages. I will post more pictures of my second basket, when I've completed more rounds.

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Comments 4 comments

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I had no idea that there was so much to learn about this subject. Thanks for the comprehensive resource!


Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green 3 years ago from West Kootenays Author

I'm still working on it, as it is a larger basket.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Brilliant work of art here a unique and well advised. The basket is so lovely.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

This is amazing and so creative! I have seen these baskets in the handicrafts market. Can not imagine making this at home.

Wonderful hub! Thanks for sharing.

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