Have you ever had the pleasure of strolling through a forest covered with fragrant pine needles? Can you imagine those pine needles being crafted into a basket, tray, or sculpture? In this article, you will discover the brief history of pine needle baskets and how to use these beautiful and fragrant works of art in your home decor.
Pine needle basketry has most likely existed for as long as pine trees and people have shared the earth. Historical references do not indicate when pine needles were first used in baskets. However, due to the availability of pine needles in their area, Seminole Indians of South Florida are noted to be the first pine needle basket makers. The Seminole Indians used a bone or shell needle to sew bundles of pine needles together with fern roots, sisal, or swamp grass. Some of the baskets were used for feed baskets, to carry water, and for winnowing seeds.
Modern pine needle basketry is noted to have begun during the Civil War times (1861-1865) when Mrs. M.J. McAfee of Southern Georgia used pine needles that she bound together with cotton thread to replace a worn hat for her father. She claimed to be the originator of pine needle basketry as we know it today.
In the present day, pine needle baskets are most often created using the coiling technique, which is one of the oldest and most universal methods of basket making. The basket is created by coiling and stitching one continuous bundle of pine needles around and on top of the row below. The foundation of the basket is formed with a bundle of pine needles bound together with various fibers such as raffia, split roots, birch paper, yucca, sinew, embroidery thread, yarn or waxed linen thread. Decorative stitches and wrapping techniques are often used to make the basket strong as well as add an attractive element. The most common stitches used are the straight wheat stitch, spiral wheat stitch, fern stitch, popcorn stitch, diamond stitch, the Indian wrap, and numerous knot stitches.
The pine needles come from a variety of different pine trees, such as Jeffrey Pine, Long Needle Pine, Monterey Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Bill Pine, and Gray Pine. The pine needles are gathered from the newly fallen top layer on the forest floor or picked from a fallen tree or limb and chosen based on their flexibility and length. Once the pine needles have been collected, they are carefully washed, cured, and then stored until use.
The natural colors of the pine needles can be used or the needles themselves can be dyed. Embellishments such as colored threads, buttons, beads, nut slices, and cones are often used to enhance the pine needle basket or project.
Pine needle baskets make attractive statements in home decor. The following is a small list of ideas on how to use pine needle baskets to decorate your home:
o Display one or a grouping on a bookshelf to create an eye catching display.
o Use them like you would any basket to create an appealing arrangement of silk greenery to accent a special little table or chest.
o Mount a grouping of two or more baskets on a wall for interesting wall decor.
o Place dried flowers in an urn shaped pine needle basket and place it on a nightstand for a charming look next to your bed.
o Use a rounded taller version as desk organizers for your pens and pencils and a shorter version for holding your clips, rubber bands, etc.
o Place faux fruit in a pine needle basket tray for an attractive center piece on your dining room or kitchen table.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless on how to use pine needle baskets in your home decor. Today, professional basket makers and hobbyists all over the world are creating these beautiful pine needle baskets. Many pine needle baskets can be found in art galleries, art and craft fairs, home decorating shops, and on the internet.
Pine needle basketry is considered to be a lost art that is being revived by today’s crafters and artists. With an interesting background and an exciting future, pine needle basketry and projects are sure to be around for many years to come.