Project: Handmade Pine Needle Baskets

In the summer of 2018, I enrolled in a basket making class to learn of techniques that might apply to my ultimate goal: creating cane-wrapped rocks. We were introduced to three types of baskets, including woven, twined, and coiled. I miserably failed the coiling chapter—and felt I just didn’t “get” what, exactly, we were supposed to be doing! Sadly, it was the last class, the teacher moved away shortly thereafter and I was now on my own. Stung by the failure, I was determined to figure it out anyway, and so, I sought books and videos and searched online for any hints I could find. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a few websites featuring extremely experienced folks and their creations over many years. Here was a whole new world!

Besides learning the stitches, I’ve learned a lot about the variety of pine needles that are available and how they must be treated to be useful, some Native American and African basket-making history, as well as the hand-eye coordination it takes to coil a bundle of pine needles while working a needle and thread, shaping a basket, and maintaining a chosen pattern all at the same time. Luckily, each aspect became more second-nature the more I practiced.

Included here is a selection of the baskets I have made on my own, since that fateful class. One of these slides shows the progress from Basket #1 to #6, which might be interesting for other beginners to see how fast one is able to improve with practice, determination, and a good bit of dedication!

As a somewhat impatient albeit detail-oriented person who could never sit still to do things like knitting, crochet, or embroidering, I have strangely found this craft to be both calming and meditative. The combination of creative “making” and a result that can actually be useful (which, I’m told, excludes it from being considered “art”), is irresistible. The baskets seem to speak for themselves as they are being formed.. often deciding to go in a completely different direction from any carefully thought-out plan. I’ve learned that all you can do is go with the flow, and with practice, things do start to go your way sometimes, despite the ongoing surprises.

No, I still haven’t learned to do wrapped rocks. Learning from all that pine needle basket making can teach is plenty for now!