Field Trip to a Pine Tree Farm and a Second Basket

Discovering a new craft is always fun. And, learning more about the craft is even better. So, after making my first pine needle basket, I spent some time learning more about the craft. I was also curious to see if needles that were handled gently and harvested specifically for weaving were different than those harvested for landscape mulch. A quick on-line search yielded no results for places to purchase pine needles near Hilton Head Island. Etsy, however, proved more useful. Looking over the listing of shops that sold pine needles, I discovered a seller that lived in Lyons, GA (a two hour drive away). I sent the seller a message asking if I could visit their farm to purchase needles directly rather than ordering them. I was happy when I received a reply saying yes I could visit.

My visit turned out better than I could have imagined. I met the most delightful couple. Tash and Darrien kindly welcomed me to their home and showed me around their property. They then took me for a tour of their farm (over 300 acres of long needle pine trees grown for pine mulch) and allowed me to harvest pine needles for myself. I went to their farm intending to purchase needles, and instead I was able to take three garbage bags full of needles for free! Tash’s Etsy shop is called pineneedlesbyramsey.

After returning to my villa, I set about the task of preparing the needles for use. First, I sorted them, discarding broken or short needles. Then, I washed the needles and soaked them in hot water for 30 minutes.

Having read that glycerin helps to make the needles flexible and more durable, I decided to try that. The on-line videos I had watched described using an electric roasting pan or a foil roasting pan for the glycerin treatment. Being away from home (and not wanting to too much), I originally planned to purchase a couple foil pans. However, when shopping I discovered some metal roasting pans that were the right size and only a dollar more than the foil pans. Being metal, they would last longer than foil pans and I could use them for other crafting activities.

The needles were layered into these pans, covered with a dilute solution of glycerin (1:4 with water), placed in the oven at 250 degrees for three hours, rinsed well with warm water and placed on a towel to air dry.

After drying, I wrapped the needles into 4 ounce bundles to be able to take them back to Minnesota. I plan to try dyeing some needles with my Procion fabric dyes when I return home.

With my glycerin treated needles, I then made another basket. The glycerin really does make the needles more pliable. And, these weaving was quicker because the needles from the farm were about 15 inches long rather than 8 inches that I had used on my previous basket. When finished, this basket feels much stronger than my sample basket did. Because of this, I treated my little basket in a glycerin bath and it too feels stronger.

For my second basket, I used the traditional slanted stitch for the bottom of the basket. After doing a wrapped row, I transitioned to the Ti stitch. I really like this stitch much better – its more decorative and stronger. And, instead of having to split the waxed thread with each stitch, the thread is carried over two rows and the needle is inserted between the rows rather than in the stitching. This was much more “finger friendly” and require less force to do the stitching.

A row with beads, three rows of traditional stitch and my new basket was completed. I am really enjoying this new craft and look forward to making more baskets in the coming months.

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