Fall of 2020, I took a much needed break from work and spent ten days in South Carolina. While on Hilton Head Island, I visited the Coastal Discovery Museum to learn more about the South Carolina Lowcountry. The museum was very interesting. However, even more interesting was watching some local craftsmen making baskets with sweetgrass. Their craftsmanship was amazing.
Now that I am retired, I made plans several months ago to escape the snow and cold of January in Minnesota. So, I am currently back on Hilton Head Island. When making plans for my travels, I looked into taking a class to learn how to weave baskets. Unfortunately, the only classes that I could find were extremely expensive. Not knowing if I would enjoy basket weaving, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and decided to look for on-line videos instead. In my search, I came across videos on weaving baskets using pine needles rather than sweet grass. Remembering the abundance of pine needles near where I was planning to stay, I thought that this was a better type of weaving to try. After all, the materials would be nearly free.
Planning for my trip, I watched a few videos and packed supplies that I would need (waxed sinew, needles and a small plyers). Upon arrival in South Carolina, I collected a couple handfuls of pine needles. After washing them, I started my first basket.
To weave pine needle baskets, long-leaf pine needles are needed. Unfortunately, the needles found in my home state of Minnesota would not work well because they are less than six inches in length. But, in South Carolina, the needles found in the landscaping mulch are about 10 inches long.
To begin weaving, the needles caps (dark end of bark that holds clusters of needles together) are removed and the individual needles (about 20) are held together in a bundle using a small piece of a plastic straw. There are metal coiling gauges available on-line. However, I like the clear straw pieces because I can see how the needle bundle looks inside the straw and verify that the ends are buried inside the bundle. So, I will stick with using straws for now.
Waxed sinew is wrapped around about two inches of pine needles. The wrapped bundle is then bent to create the center folds of the coil and a couple large stitches are taken through the fold to hold the two sections together. Needles are added to the bundle inside the straw continuously as you weave. More needles are wrapped and then tacked together with stitches. Once the beginning coil is made, the stitches are then spread out slightly so that some of the needles show through.
As the size of the weaving increases, the spacing of the stitches also increases.
To add some interest, I included a wrapped row in a dark green sinew.
A few more rows of basic stitch, and my basket was done. While small, this was not too bad for my first attempt.
I had a couple friends visit for a long weekend and they wanted to try pine needle basket weaving as well. So, I gave them some lessons. Their baskets turned our very nice as well.
While I really did not need a new craft, this was a very relaxing hobby to learn. I plan to make more baskets with some creative stitches and beading.