Sunday, July 1, 2012

Collecting Pine Needles and my First Pine Needle Basket "Quan Yin" made with Tory Pine purchased on Ebay 2011

Florida Long Leaf Pine Trees

Depending on where you live, Long Leaf Pine Needles may be growing near your home. This tree is available throughout the southern United States from Virginia to Gulf of Mexico. The botanical name is Pinus Palustris.

In other parts of North America there are other versions of a long leaf pine needle. Many people use Tory Pine, Canary Island, and Guatamalan varieties with success. If you are not able to find them locally you can buy them on the internet from basket suppliers, Etsy sellers, and Ebay.

When I first made a Pine Needle Basket, I bought a lb. of Tory Needles on Ebay and they worked wonderfully.

The start of my very first Pine Needle Basket
Winter  2011

My first basket was my Quan Yin Basket utilizing a soapstone relief of the Chinese Goddess Quan Yin. I used Tibetan Bone Beads from an antique Tibetan Rosary I had collected years ago. The needles I purchased on Ebay worked well but were expensive. I wasn't going to be able to make very many baskets this way.

After my initial trials, I went for a trip to Florida last winter and I noticed all the long leaf Pine Trees. I started collecting needles locally, on Merritt Island. At first, I just picked up any old pine needle I found on the ground by roadsides.

This is a few minutes of collecting done
after a Wind Storm - Merritt Island, FL 2012

 I would see a copse of trees by a roadside, pull over, and scoop up what I could under the trees. I soon discovered that a lot of these needles had been laying around for a long time, perhaps even years. Not only were they very dirty, they also had mildew, and even bugs. I decided that I only wanted the freshest needles and I started looking in parks and parking lots where the lawn was often mowed under the trees. I also discovered that needles fell off the trees after wind storms and if had been particularly windy, it was a good time to look for needles. I found a large park with many Long Leaf Pine Trees on the perimeter. I looked for Pine cones on the ground and where there are pine cones, there are usually pine needles. The freshest needles have a nice new look about them.

Look for the lighter fresher looking
Needles near Pine Cones in Parks
where the grass gets mowed.

I started looking for these type of needles exclusively and it made a different using this type of discrimination in my selections. The Best time to gather needles is in the Fall You can, though, gather them anytime of year green and allow them to cure outside in the sun for at least two weeks until they turn a golden brown. You can collect boughs and hang them from a line or fence so as not to touch the ground.
Florida Long Leaf Pine Needles collected
on Merritt Island, FL 2012

The color of the needles can range from a light tan to a deep walnut color.
My first Basket - Quan Yin, done with
Tory Pine Needles purchased on Ebay
If you live in the Northern Climates where the pine needles are shorter you can use them with success but you will have to use lots of them.
I recently collected some short pine needles in Massachusetts which are short and very fine. I plan on experimenting and making a basket with them soon.  I will keep you updated on the progress using the shorter needles but I do believe I will be able to use them, I will just be feeding my bundle more often.

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