Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pine Needle Basket

Yesterday I finally finished the pine needle basket that I had been working on for over a year.
I have some projects that have taken longer due to lack of time or loss of interest. However this one was due to lack of materials.

My home town in Florida is just filled with the most wonderful long, thick, and dark brown pine needles.
I can gather enough to complete a good sized basket in a matter of minutes.

Here in Virginia everyone tells me that they have plenty of pine needles. I have a forest of them myself. Sorry to complain, but these pine needles are a pain in the butt to work with. They are skinny,brittle,and half the size of my Florida pine needles.

If any of my Virginia friends know what Florida pines are like and thinks they have the right kind of tree please let me know, or if any of my generous readers back home have a tree and a box,I would be deeply indebted to you for sending me some. In the mean time, I plan to experiment with sage grass.

 Pine needle basketry is my absolute favorite craft and so simple. It is more appropriately called coiled basketry; any pliable material can be used including tall grasses,straw,cattails, and rushes. I just happen to think that the most aesthetic medium is pine needles.

I will will be starting a new coiled basket in a few days(or weeks) and demonstrate step by step on how to sew a coiled basket. For today, I will do things backwards and show you finish a coiled basket. Often times thrift shops and garage sales are laden with baskets that could use a little refinishing.

There are a few different ways to add waterproof and shine to  a basket. My favorite is using beeswax and paraffin.
First, I put on leather gloves and run my hand around the basket to remove any sharp ends or loose needles.
After the basket is smooth I shred equal amounts of paraffin and beeswax and melt them in a double boiler or makeshift double boiler.

The next step is to thoroughly coat the basket with the melted wax. I use a cheap short bristled paint brush.
It will look really ugly. Don't worry, it'll melt.
To melt the wax set your oven on the absolute lowest setting and place the basket on a newspaper or brown paper lined baking sheet. Put the basket in the oven and check every 5 minutes to see if all the wax is melted into the needles.

When the wax is melted remove your basket from the oven and rub it real well with a rag.
Allow it to cool and polish it with the rag once again. It should be shiny and firm.
Alternatively, you can melt the wax in a hot car or greenhouse. Be creative!