Sunday, October 18, 2009

Contemporary Pine Needle Basket

6" dia. x 6" h.
long leaf pine needles and waxed linen

This is one of the latest pine needle baskets I have made. Well actually, I have only made about a half dozen over the years. I have never really taken a class in it, just someone showed me how to get started and I have been winging it ever since. I learned how to coil without the aid of a gauge, so I have never been able to get the hang of using one. I started this basket telling myself that I would make the whole thing using a gauge, but as you can tell I only got an inch or so before I became too frustrated and went back to my old way of adding my new needles in groups with the end caps showing.

It is hard to tell in this photo, but the opening is actually triangular in shape. I would like to say that I planned that, but it was in fact a happy accident. As I added the needles in three spirals the difference in bulk of the coil caused the opening to deform into a triangular shape. I used the red waxed linen around the lip to accent the contrasting shape.

The pine needles I used for this basket were collected in Oriental, North Carolina. I used to go there to visit my friend and fellow basket weaver Becky to take classes she hosted with nationally renown teachers, such as, Martha Wetherbee, JoAnn Kelly Catsos and Eric Taylor. I was so excited when I first discovered that they had the long leaf pine needles literally laying all over the ground there. Fortunately I discovered a great tree in an open field across from the marina where I would stay. I am sure the neighbors thought I was completely insane watching me carefully pick through pine needles, discarding ones that I deemed inferior. Since they really only used them as mulch I am sure they thought I must be extremely anal retentive if I was that choosy over what needles went around my flowers. Also, the classes were often in the summer and I would gather my needles in the evening after class was over. Oriental is on the coast of North Carolina and they tend to get a lot, I mean A LOT, of mosquitoes. As I would be out crawling around in the grass I would get swarmed and since both hands were occupied with precious long leaf pine needles I would end up using the bundles as a make-shift fly swatter. As I said, I am sure the neighbors already thought I was nuts and the image of me apparently beating myself with pine needles didn't help I am sure.

But in the end I got my pine needles, actually I have a whole Rubbermaid sweater box full of them, and a nice basket out of the adventure. I am working on another basket right now, but it is going very slowly. I need to get back to working on it, but as I am sure you are well aware, stuff just gets in the way of fun.


  1. That's a really beautiful basket, accident or not, gauge or no gauge! I've never tried coiling, but it fascinates me!
    I laughed out loud reading this...I can just picture you out there carefully picking up "mulch"!

  2. Juliana,

    Even the other local basket makers thought I was a little crazy for picking up the needles. I kept trying to tell them they had cash laying all over the ground, but none of them were coilers so didn't share in my excitement.

  3. That is a lovely basket, Tony! I am impressed.

    Oriental is just down the road from where I live, and it constantly amazes me here,in the heart of where the longleaf pine grow, how few people have seen a pine needle basket. They DO think of pine needles only as mulch. Amazing! That is how they react to the baskets, too....amazing!

    Your basket has grace and i love how the sharp spiral of the fascicles opposes the more gentle spiral of the stitching. I also love the contrasted oriface at the top...very expressive!

    Of course, I am not surprised at all, considering your other work. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

  4. Pam,

    Thanks for the nice complements. "Fascicles," so that is what they are called! I always just called them, "ends" ;-P Nice to know the real term.

    Oh, that is the only stitch I do. I am sure it has an official name, but I just call it a chain stitch. I like it because I can double the thread and the needle is capture.


  5. I love your blog and your baskets! Is there a recurring basket course in Oriental? I live due south 5 miles by water. There are few to no classes around the area and long travel is a no-go for me right now with three boys (13,15 and 55!).

  6. C,

    I don't think my friend Becky hosts classes anymore. It is a lot of work and unless you have a good base of students it can be hard to fill the more expensive specialty classes. If I have of any I will post them to my blog though.

    Thanks for the complements on my blog too.