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How to Make a Pine Needle Basket

Here’s a DIY project that’s creative and relaxing!

By Susan Topham, Sprague River, Oregon

WEB EXCLUSIVE

To help keep my promise to Jane Bigelow, who bought my first basket then most generously gave it back to me, I'd like to share instructions on making a pine needle basket. 

Please don't let the number of steps intimidate you!  Be patient.  It may seem complicated at first, but once you get into the rhythm of the weave, it becomes easy to let your fingers work the materials while your mind drifts off to other matters. 

Occasionally I'll work on a basket in front of the TV, but more often it's a time to sit back and mull over a situation, or simply rejoice in a quiet moment.  I find basketry relaxing, especially after a hectic day.  Sometimes, the hardest part is stopping!

Note: There's a link to a downloadable PDF of these instructions below, along with a link to a video that demonstrates the actions described here.

Suppplies

Brown pine needles (at least 6 inches long) from dead trees or from the ground1 ½ inch piece of plastic soda straw
ScissorsPaper towels
Artificial sinewHalf-gallon plastic bag (for the pine needles and basket if you take more than a day to create)
Tapestry needleClear polyurethane spray paint
Pliers (to insert your tapestry needle through the pine needle coils when it is too hard to push the needle through by hand)Patience!

Instructions

1. Soak the pine needles in water overnight (8-12 hours).

2. Remove and cut the caps off the end of the pine needles.

3. Cut a six-foot-long piece of artificial sinew. Most sinew that you can buy is too wide so you’ll need to split the strand into 3 or 4 pieces. Set aside all but one.

4. Fill the soda straw with pine needles. Then cut the ends of the pine needles so that they stick out evenly 2 inches from one end of the straw.

5. To start the core of your basket tie the sinew around the pine needle bundle approximately 1/4 inch from the cut end of the pine needles. A square knot is an effective knot to use.

6. Cut the loose end of the sinew to about an inch long and lay it against the pine needles.

7. Starting at your knot and working towards the straw, wrap the pine needles and the loose end of the sinew tightly with sinew, completely covering the pine needles with sinew for one inch.

8. Thread your needle with the sinew.

9. Gently bend the pine needles back around against the sinew-wrapped pine needles.

10. Pull your thread tight. Bring the sinew from the front of your basket, over the bare pine needles that you are adding and then on the back side of your basket. Pierce the sinew-covered pine needles 1/8 inch from where you started wrapping the pine needles. Pull your needle all the way through and pull the thread tight.

11. Continue curling the pine needles around the sinew-wrapped coil, making stitches every 1/8 inch. Each stitch should be made by bringing the sinew from the front of your basket, over the pine needles that you are adding and then piercing the coil underneath the one that you are adding on the back side of your basket. Make sure that you pull your stitches as tight as you can because when the pine needles dry they will shrink.

Whenever the plastic straw is in your way to make a stitch, slide it farther down the pine needles that you are adding. Whenever there is room to add more pine needles into the end of the straw, do so. Keep the same amount of pine needles gathered together, so that the amount in each coil is consistent throughout your basket.

12. Once you have stitches all the way around your basket, the stitches that you add will pierce your stitches on the previous coil.

13. Once you only have a few inches of sinew left, tie a new strand of sinew to the end with a square knot. Make sure that your finished knot ends up where the next coil will cover it up. Take the loose ends of the sinew and hold them against the pine needles. When you make your next few stitches, it will hold the loose ends in place to be covered up by your next coil.