Thursday, July 5, 2012

Extraordinary World Pine Needle Basket

Extraordinary World Pine Needle Basket Feb.-Mar. 2012

Florida Pines
This basket was my second Pine Needle Basket adventure. I had made my first basket, Quan Yin the year previously in winter 2011 but hadn't had the time to explore more Pine Needle basket making. My husband Charlie and I took our two dogs and drove to Florida in early 2012 to spend the winter there in a rented house. We wanted to see if we liked it there.

When we arrived, I started noticing the Pine Trees on the roadsides and in yards. At one point we were on a side road with many Pine Trees and I asked my husband to pull over. I picked up a few off the ground and realized I could use these to make a basket. I was excited because I had previously bought the Pine Needles online and it cost me $30 to make my first basket. We drove a little further and I saw a downed branch with a lot of brown dried pine needles. It was hung up on another branch so it wasn't touching the ground. My husband, Charlie and I gathered the needles off of that branch into a plastic bag we had in the car.

I took them home and washed them in the sink with hot water and Dawn dish washing liquid. Then I laid them out on cookie sheets covered in newspaper in the sun to dry. Those needles formed the very beginning of this basket.

washing needles
drying needles

I used a Chinese Turquoise Cabashon piece I had purchased on Ebay as the center which was glued to a piece of leather recycles from an old handbag. I used black Crawford Irish Linen Thread which was waxed with extra beeswax and started stitching in rows of pine needles. I then added some gorgeous Lapis Lazuli beads that I had recently acquired.  I next added a solid row of black.
Adding Solid Back Row

I built up the basket using Waxed Crawford Blue Irish Linen, Adventuring Beads, Tibetan Bone Beads from a recycled Buddhist Rosary, and more Lapis Lazuli. At one point about half way through the basket I ran out of needles so I looked for more under some roadside trees but the quality was very poor and they were old and dirty. I wondered what to do and then found a tree which grew in a spot where someone mowed underneath it and there was a paved walkway. I could find needles in this location which were freshly blown off the tree as they lightly rested on top of the grass or on the pavement. This was a huge leap for me and this is when I started looking for Pine Needles after wind storms in locations in Parks where there were bike paths and regular mowing being done. It was always an adventure looking for needles. 

When I look at the finished Exraordinary World Basket, I can see my journey to learning about how to get the freshest and best needles. In the end, the basket came out really well and I was very happy with it. At the time I was interested in an American man who became an initiated Naga Baba in Hardiwar, India by the name of Baba Rampuri. I had been reading his book, "Autobiography of a Sadhu: A Journey into Mystic India". In his book, Rampuri discusses the process of entering extraordinary worlds. It is a fascinating take on connecting to the natural order of the Universe and listening to the language of natural expression and articulation from a different perspective. For me, connecting to the natural environment and processes which are falling off trees all around me was in fact making sense of the Universe in a very primal and tactile way. The experience of finding the trees, picking up each Pine Needle, washing, sewing, waxing, touching, and tenderly loving it was truly a meditative and spiritual experience. All of this could be called artistic expression but truly speaking, it was a very primal, almost shamanistic experience of connecting to the natural language in the trees, wind, rain, ground, and pine needles around me in Florida. The cosmos speaks to you in ways you sometimes don't listen to or hear. The extraordinary world basket was a deeper connection to the universe at large. Even though this was only my second basket, it held a lot of beautiful energy because of this. The basket was purchased by a collector in South Carolina.

Adventurine Row
Finished Basket


  1. Sweet story, Melissa - reminds me of needle gathers when I lived in Florida (although I wasn't nearly as careful, and ended up with sap and 'bird decorated' needles in my collection ) - Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. oh yes, the bird decorated needles!! I picked up a few and at first didn't realize what that white stuff was!! Thanks for your comment and I would love post one of your baskets on this blog as well :)

  3. Mellisa I took up pineneedle basketry last summer. Of course I quickly turned to UTube to learn some tricks of the trade. You were and still are my#1 source of info. Thank you for the lessons - I'm so hocked on this art!

  4. Your basket is beautiful and I would like to use a stone for center to a basket to hold wedding cards for my son's wedding. Are there instructions on how to attach a stone to leather ( glue used, hole distance for stone, leather punch size) to use as a center. THANK YOU!!! Jane Holloway

  5. Might sound like an odd question, but are you right handed?

  6. Might sound odd, but are you right handed?