Pine is Pine...

Pine is Pine? Not really. I had the pleasure of teaching a pine needle basketry class this past Saturday. A question was posed that I couldn’t immediately answer. How many varieties of longleaf pine are there? Perhaps the gist of the question was actually, how many varieties of pine are there with needles long enough to be easily usable in basketry.

Ostensibly, you could try to use any pine variety that is soft and pliable. Northern forests boast plenty of white pine. However, the needles from these trees aren’t quite 1/3 the length of some of the longest pine species. The longest in North America that I’m aware of are the longleaf pine needles. They can reach just shy of 2 ft in length (average 15-18 inches). The Torrey Pine from the Pacific West can reach nearly 13”. By comparison the white pine is short and would it take a painfully long time to make a reasonable sized basket.

Like other natural materials, pine needles can be dyed. Though this is the case, most antique baskets you will find are left natural in color. The decorative aspect of pine needle basketry takes shape in the stitching done on this type of coil basketry.