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There's Treasure Everywhere #3

A decorative basket made of pine needles

In my post, About The Acorn Shop, I said something about it not being necessarily a physical place and finding myself some 5,500 miles away from home and living out of a suitcase, without access to a shop and without tools, should not stop me from "tinkering" and being creative.

I have used longleaf pine needles in the past for casting silver for some of my jewelry, (see this video). And since we're wintering in Florida, the home of Pinus Palustris, or the Longleaf Pine, with parks abounding in these beautiful trees that can grow 80 to 100 feet tall, and consequently an abundance of pine needles littering the ground, I thought I'd try to make use of some of them. The needle-like leaves come in clusters of 2 and 3 and can grow up to 18 inches long, although the ones I found were between 8 to 12 inches long and in varying tones of rusty-tan color.

I have seen tutorials on making pine needle baskets/containers on Youtube in a multitude of shapes and sizes and wanted to give it a try since it didn't seem to require any special tools and the ones I used were ordinary household items found in most any home, except for the making of the wood bottom, which I had to cut with a scroll saw and then use a drill for the holes.

The needles and three disks, ready to go

Since my sister works with yarn, mostly wool, I asked for some remnants and she sent me a nice array of colors. Incorporating some yarn with the pine needles will liven up the otherwise almost monochrome strands, something I learned from observing basket makers who insert a few strips of different color into the weave, thus creating more visual interest.

Some wool remnants to incorporate into the basket

To start my basket, I cut a disk out of 1/4 inch plywood with a diameter of about 2 1/4 inches, (60 mm). Next, I draw a line on the perimeter of the disk, 1/8 in. (3mm) from the edge. Using a 1/16 in. (1.5 mm) drill bit, I drill holes through the disk, spaced 1/4 in. (6 mm) apart. I want to make a note here, one can start a basket without this disk for the bottom, just like most regular baskets are made, but for a beginner, it is much easier to start with the disk, and the results warrant it.

For a neat-looking weave, I have to keep the thickness of the bundle of needles consistent, and for that I had to sacrifice a ballpoint pen and use a piece of it as a gauge. It turns out that my "gauge" will take 4 double-stranded pine needles at a time. I remove the stubby ends, (although for a more "rustic" look, one could leave them as part of the design), and start the stitching.

A ballpoint pen part for use as a gauge

To avoid a big lump at the start of the stitching, I stagger the first four needles as I start attaching them to the wooden disk. The spacing of the holes determines the spacing of the stitches, and using a contrasting thread (I used natural linen twine) makes a pattern that becomes a decorative element in the basket. The gage is moved ahead of the stitching, keeping the needles tightly squeezed together, and when it reaches the end of the first strand I add a new one.

From this point on, I think as a potter would, and model the shape of the basket as I go. If I want it to spread out and end up more like a dish, I keep adding the strands on the outside perimeter of the basket with just a slight climb. If instead I want a tall container, I add the strands on top of the previous row, moving upwards.

After establishing the weave and the pattern, I start adding some yarn, coiling it around the bundle of needles and adding new ones as needed. One could completely wrap the needles in yarn but that would defeat the purpose of using them in the first place, so I chose to do that sparingly, allowing the needles to show through.

At one point I ran out of the linen twine and continued the basket using some gray upholstery polyester thread, which broke the pattern, but all things considered, I think it came out well enough. It was my first basket and was a learning experience. As an afterthought, I attached some beads and a couple of Pionus parrot feathers I had lying around, as a decorative element, and now I think of this basket more as an "object d'art" than a utilitarian piece, as I wouldn't know what to use it for. Maybe I'll give it away as a prize to the ten thousandth subscriber to my blog, ha!

The finished basket!

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Jan 09, 2023

Very creative project! I like how you wove in the yarn and added the beads and feathers to add the artistic element.


Cathy Jones Vinson
Cathy Jones Vinson
Jan 04, 2023

Thanks for taking us step by step and sharing the intrigue of utilizing materials you have at hand,

Voicu. I have noticed the long pine needles. The finished product is delight ful

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