Friday, February 28, 2014

My Inspiration for Learning Pine Needle Basketry and a Glycerin Bath Recipe to Preserve and Darken the Needles

Pine Needle Basket made by Melissa Abbott
with Glycerin Preserved Needles


This Pine Needle & Tennerife Mattapoisett Purse created in 1970’s by Helen Gastar became my inspiration to learn Pine Needle Basketry. Helen Gastar's daughter, Geri, was my friend and I visited their home and saw Helen making this basket many years ago. It always stayed with me and I am sure you can see why.
Helen Gastar's Mattapoisett Basket 

I have always loved Pine Trees especially the scent at Christmas Time when Evergreen Trees are brought into the home. There is a certain something, a mysterious wonder the scent conjures up. Several years ago, I went to visit an old friend on Cape Cod. She lives on the edge of a Pine Woods and we walked our dogs amongst the lovely Pine Trees there. We remembered her mother who had made Pine Needle Baskets and she even had inherited a beautiful basket her mother had made and showed it to me. I was mesmorized by it. In fact I had visited her many years before in Mattapoisett, MA when she was making it. The basket was as hard as wood but light as a feather. This is where the intrigue of the Pine Needle Basket started for me and I eventually learned techniques to make my own baskets.

 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. After my initial trials, I started collecting needles locally and in my travels. 

At first, I just picked up any old pine needle I found on the ground. 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. 
A Bundle of Needles
 picked up individually
off the ground
with discrimination.

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. I started looking for these type of needles exclusively and it made a different using this type of discrimination in my selections.
I dry my needles on Newspapers
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.
The color of the needles can range from a light tan to a deep walnut color.
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.
After you find your Pine Needles, there are a few things you can do to improve and preserve them. You can put them in the sink and pour boiling hot water over them and a squirt of Dawn Dishwashing liquid. This kills any bugs and washes off any dirt of residual grime from the ground or environment.
Wash in Plenty
of Hot Water and Dawn
when you get home
If you want to dye them, you can use RIT Dye at this point too and many interesting colors can be used. 
Another way to preserve them is to give them a Glycerin Bath which renders them very flexible and preserves them well. I know some people add the RITT Dye to the Glycerin Bath too.

Recipe for Glycerin Bake
Ingredients Needed:
1 16 oz. Pure Vegetable Glycerine
2+ cups of water
Roasting Pan 
(Disposable Aluminum Pans work great)
Pour 2 cups glycerin over pine needles then add 2 cups+ of water, enough to cover your bundle of pine needles with liquid. Swish things around by turning the pine needles over a few times with tongs. Place pan in preheated 225 degree oven
Roast pine needles in the oven making sure glycerin and water mixture doesn't deplete, turn and check often, add more water if necessary. Carefully turn needles with tongs after 1 hour and continue in this fashion for 2-3 hours (some people cook them for even longer, it depends on the color you want. Then turn off oven and let sit in oven overnight. After several hours rinse pine needles really well in the sink with plenty of hot freshwater. Do not throw away the glycerin and water mixture as this can be reused many times. The more you use it the darker and richer the color becomes. I just pour the remaining mix in mason jars and refrigerate until next use.
An Aluminum Pan, Tongs, Measuring Cup, Water,
and Glycerin are all you need

Needles Baked in Glycerin and then Washed in Hot water, Drying

Recently Completed Pine Needle Basket by Melissa Abbott without Glycerin Needles

Happy Basket Making,
Melissa Abbott
Merritt Island, FL
February 2014


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Supplies you need to make Pine Needle Baskets!

I gather all my supplies on a tray to make my work are "mobile". The reason I do this is because I often take this work outdoors to do it on the patio. Natural Light is the best for this kind of handwork. If you can't get bright natural light, make sure you have a nice bright lamp in the house at your work table. Let to right clockwise Bundle of Pine Needles, Basket I am working on with plastic straw on the bundle, sorted gemstone beads, flat jewelry pliers, crawfords linen thread, scissors, plastic bucket for refuse, collections of beads in plastic cases, small wallet with all my needles
Look for Pine Trees, underneath, you will find Pine Needles
Pine Needles collected and washed in Hot Water and Dawn, drying on newspapers on the patio. I put the knife across them so if a gust of wind comes up, they don't blow away.

List of Melissa Abbott's Pine Needle Basket Supplies
1. Crawfords Irish Linen 4 ply Thread
2. Darning Needles
3. Gemstone Beads and large hole Glass Beads
4. Block of Beeswax
5. E-6000 glue
6. Gemstone Cabashons
7. Long Leaf Pine Needles, washed and dried in sun and then dehulled
8. cookie sheets and newspapers to dry the Pine Needles on after washing
9. 1 Quart Glycerin (optional) if you wish to preserve and darken the Pine Nedles by Baking them in Glycerin and Water in the oven at 225 degrees for 3+hours, then rinsing and drying in sun
10. piece of plastic straw to use as a guide. I like the type from MacDonalds but you can use any size you wish. I have experimented with several types and the larger straws are good for a larger basket.
11. Sissors (don't use good ones they are going to get wax on them)
12. Flat Jewelry Pliers
13. Piece of Fabric to wrap your needles in while you work
14. Tray
14. plastic bobbins for wrapping work
Collection of Caboshons Glued to Leather swatches to Use for Pine Needle Basket Starts
left to right: Malachite, Labradorite, Green Turqoise, Amethyst, Jaspar, Lapis Lazuli, Pink and Gold Turquoise,  and Paua Shell
15. Container for refuse or trash. I use a blue plastic pail I bought at the $1 store 
A Typical Looking Tray
 it changes depending on what I am working on

I use Crawford's 4 ply Waxed Irish Linen Thread
Gemstone Beads
Collect Straws at Restaurants and
cut 1+ inch pieces a bundle guides
Adding Beads to a Basket
The Beginning of a Basket 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Avery's Beaded Nantucket Basket with Schooner and Lighthouse Scrimshaw and Dark Green Staves, Reed Rims and Cherry Bases and Handles

My daughter Avery with her Beaded
Nantucket Basket with  Scrimshaw. I made this for her during the Fall of 2013 and gave it to her as a Christmas Gift in December 2013.

The Beginning.
My daughter Avery is an artist so I took a risk and decided to do a completely creative basket for her and I really went outside the Nantucket Basket Box with this One!! I started off with a gorgeous Cherry Base and decided to use a dark green staves on the 8" purse mold.

I really liked how it looked so I kept going!!

I added Glass Mariposa Beads and Gemstone Malachite Beads between layers of Yarn and Cane
I even added layers of Lapis Lazuli and Malachite Beads
with yarn and cane for the Lid

Next I worked on the Scrimshaw. This was only my 2nd EVER Scrimshaw but I had worked on some drawings for it during the Gloucester Schooner Festival during the Summer of 2013. I had worked up a little design from some quick sketches I had done during the races, and I decided to go with it.

I even Scrimshawed her name on an
old Piano Key for inside the Lid
Close Up of the Scrimshaw. I used an antique piece of Ivory Blank and India Ink, scribing with a Scrimshaw tool I bought on Etsy. I was a little scared when I did this because I didn't want to make a mistake with it. I was reasonably happy with how it came out. I would do more scrimshaw in the future. I really like the look of it with the black and white next to the basket and it matches well with the bone findings I used.

This is the Basket, the day I gave it to her in December 2013

Close up of Lid

Avery's Basket next to Emily's Basket
while still on the Workbench

I realize this Basket is non-traditional and many might not consider it a Nantucket basket but I did it in the same style but added more decoration and beads. I had always had the idea in the back of my mind to add beads to the Nantucket Baskets similar to the Pine Needle Baskets I do and I am happy with the cross pollination. I would make another one someday!!

Happy Basket Making,
Melissa Abbott

Monday, February 17, 2014

Melissa Abbott's Making of the Amethyst Pine Needle Basket : "Soul Retrieval"

Soul Retrieval - Finished March 2014 
You are
the melody
that weaves
its way
my soul…

My Basket Making Tray

Washed Florida Long Leaf Pine Needles
drying in the sun after being washed.

I started this basket in January 2014 in Merritt Island FL. I had owned this Amethyst Cabashon for several years and it called to me to make it into a basket. I was imagining a larger basket so I started using a larger than usual bundle .

Added Mariposa Beads

Green Row of Waxed Linen Thread

Adding a row of Amethyst beads

Starting Solid Purple Row

Stating to come up the sides to create the bowl effect

Last Row!!!

Side View

Soul Retrieval was finished in February 2014 on Merritt Island, FL. and SOLD in late March 2014 on Etsy at 

Beautiful Large Pine Needle Basket made on Merritt Island, Florida in Jan-Feb 2014 by Melissa Smith Abbott. The Pine Needles were carefully hand sourced on Merritt Island after a Wind Storm, each needle carefully selected. The center cabochon is Amethyst and the weaving is done with Bees Waxed Irish alternating Green and Plum colored Linen Thread, Amethyst Gemstone Beads, Mariposa Glass Beads, and Apple Green Chrysoprase Beads. The Basket is a reintegration and healing meditation, bringing parts of a soul into focus and wholeness. The Basket while spiritual in nature would also be a beautiful addition to any decor as a table top piece but could also be displayed on the wall or table as Fiber Art!