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Pine Needle-Raffia Basket Making
by Marian Gee

Pine needles can be purchased in some craft stores but they are quite expensive. The ones I have seen for sale in my area are from the Long-Needle pine that grows in the Southern United States. In the Seattle area a mature Ponderosa produces good needles for basket weaving. They can be found in parking strips, around public buildings and in private yards. In Eastern Washington there are large forests of them.

The needles are between ten and twelve inches long. The best time of year in temperate climates to collect needles is in the fall when the trees have a large drop at the end of summer. If you are in an area where they don't get moldy and black, they can be collected all year 'round. Find them where they have not been stepped on.

A large mass of pine "straw" can be collected or the needles can be picked up individually. Lay them with the sheath ends in one direction. Wash them in warm water with laundry soap and a couple tablespoons of bleach. If the needles have a little mold on them, the bleach will remove it. Lay the needles in a flat shallow box and put them to dry in a warm room. When dry, bundle them together with rubber bands and keep them in an old mailing tube or a cardboard tube that comes inside paper towels.

Raffia can be purchased from craft stores. Some raffia has been fire-proofed. It is shiny and ravels easily and is hard to work with. The fire-proofed raffia is usually sold at gift or paper supply stores. Large craft supply stores, such as Michaels or Ben Franklin in the Seattle area, are excellent sources. Also in Seattle is Weaving Works in the University district that has good raffia and several books for sale on basket weaving. Two books I would reccomend are, Pine Needle Raffia Basketry by Jeannie McFarland and Fragrant Basketry by Katherine L. Armstong. The best book I have found is Basic Pine Needle Basketry by Judy Mulford. It is listed as "out of print" on many "books in print" but I found it through the Caning Shop in California or Royalwood in Minnesota.

Copyright © 1997 Marian Gee

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