Monday, 23 November 2020

Pine Needle Basket-Weaving

When I was in university, I majored in a liberal arts type major.  When I was with my science or engineering friends they would introduce me and say my major was basket weaving.  Little did they know that I would grow to love basket weaving, and looking back, I would have majored in it if I could have.

ANYWAYS, a few years ago, I learned that my grandfather was bi-racial like I am- he was Black and Indigenous- which is really cool.  I started researching about that part of my history, and talking to members and elders from my grandad's tribe in NC.  I learned a lot in those conversations.  While researching the arts that this group does, I came across pine needle basket weaving.  I thought it was really interesting- that the throw away part of the tree could be harvested and used to make baskets is really neat.  I looked up some tutorials, and started weaving.  It takes a bit to get the hang of it, but by the time I finished my first basket, I was feeling pretty good about it.  

I spent some time this late summer and fall collecting pine needles.  I live in Canada now, on the Eastern part of the country where the types of pines that we would have in NC are not available here.  Where Southern Indigenous groups would use Ponderosa or Longleaf Pines, which don't grow in Ontario.  So I used needles from the Red Pine with are considerably shorter (by like half) which means weaving them is a little tougher, but still doable.  Because the needles I use are shorter, I make smaller baskets.  

It is pretty fascinating to make something truly from scratch.  I had to forage for the needles, sort them, remove the fascicle sheaths (the part that attaches them to the tree), wash them, boil them and then I could use them to weave.   My house smelled like pine for a while... Luckily Don likes the smell.  

I also may have made Don come and get needles with me.  He actually liked it.  That was actually a fun day.  

Depending on what I want the basket to look like, I start with a wooden piece for the centre or not.  This one, I used a laser cut out flower for something different.  I weave with wax covered thread, and I use a plastic straw as my gauge to keep my coils even.  I did love sitting outside and weaving in the sun.  

And this is the basket all finished!  I love how it turned out.  Its cute, and I painted the wooden centre to match the thread.

And I made a little basket with black thread and no centre, that I really loved.  I love the bowl shape, so a lot of my baskets are that shape.  These baskets are very sturdy, but little.  And useful.  I couldn't believe how useful these little baskets are.

I've made about 6 of these so far.  They are relaxing, if a little time-consuming, and I think cute.  Once they dry out, they turn this really pretty reddish color.  This is one of my more rewarding crafts.  I feel more connected to the artisans that would have made these in the past and currently. Which is super cool.