This miniature basket measuring 1 to 2 inches in diameter is perfect as a pendant or Christmas tree ornament. The technique is easy to learn; after a little practice, you should be able to complete one in just a couple of hours.
• 30 to 40 dried pine needles (If you use green needles, the basket will shrink.) Any size needle may be used; longer ones are somewhat easier to coil. Soak the needles for a few hours or overnight. Drain thoroughly.
• 3 yards waxed cotton or linen or other strong thread, or use waxed dental floss
• 1 tapestry or wool needle, size 16, 18, 20, or 22
• 8 to 10 sprigs dried rosemary or lavender, each 4 to 6 inches long
1. Thread the needle with 1 yard of single-strand thread. (Do not double or knot the thread.)
2. Cut the sheaths from the ends of two thick, or four or five thin, pine needles.
3. Holding the needles together, wrap the tail of the thread four or five times around the needles about half an inch from the cut ends.
4. Fold the cut ends back to form a small loop just large enough to allow the needle to pass through and wrap the thread again to secure the loop (Figure 1). You can enclose a seed or bead in the center of the loop by securing it with the stitching of the first coil, if you wish.
5. To begin the first coil around the loop, bend the needles around and above the binding. Draw the needle from front to back through the center of the loop; pull up the thread firmly. Continue stitching through the center, placing the stitches 1/8 inch apart, all the way around the loop until you have completed one coil (Figure 2).
6. Bind the second and each succeeding coil by placing each stitch for the new coil next to a stitch on the previous one, piercing the middle of the previous coil (Figure 3).
7. Continue coiling until the base is about 1 inch in diameter, adding more pine needles to keep the coil of consistent thickness. Then gradually angle the coil upward (as if coiling a clay pot) as you stitch. As you start up the sides, begin to add 1- to 2-inch dried herb sprigs (no need to soak the herbs) to the coils, holding them parallel with the pine needles. When the sides reach 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall, gradually reduce the number of needles in each coil to taper the top of the basket. Take several stitches with the thread, knot it in an inconspicuous place, and clip off the end.
NOTE: To add another length of thread, knot the ends of the old and new threads together next to a coil so that the knot may be hidden by pushing it below the surface of the coil with the blunt end of the needle. To make a larger basket, use a larger bundle of pine needles and increase the diameter of the base and the height of the sides.
To wear the basket as a pendant or hang it as an ornament, thread the needle with cord or ribbon and string it onto the basket.
Kathleen Peelen Krebs of Berkeley, California, is a freelance writer who has been making baskets for twelve years.