I learned about pine needle basketry from outdoor educator Hannah Hemmelgarn, just north of the Ozarks near the Missouri River, who had learned it from First Peoples in the Great Lakes region. She was teaching a group of outdoor learners, my three kids among them.
The kids soon had other things they wanted to do, but I was entranced by the spiral pattern of the work, and the smell and the feeling of those gorgeous pine needles all together between my fingers and the patient but sure stitching together of the courses. I felt calmed and uplifted.
When I left at the end of day with the beginnings of a basket, I knew that at some point, I would make a whole basket and maybe more.
But who has such time?
The beginning of the basket stayed just that, a beginning. I toted it from one move to another, always promising myself that I would one day pick it up again.
Days flowed by and weeks and years. Life found me up in the Pacific Northwest, in a region that was as gorgeous as it was foreign to my Midwest sensibilities.
It was there that I came to find my home outdoors, Powell Butte: a place I would come to again and again to retrieve myself when I'd gotten scattered.
With miles of trails in old Doug Fir forests and wide open grassland savannas I had plenty of exploring to do. Eventually I came upon a stand of young pine trees with needles that were 7 and 8 inches long. Holy cow! these would make the very best pine needle baskets ever.
I gathered some of the needles and brought them home, putting them in my craft dreaming supplies (with the other craft things that had captured my heart but sat waiting . . . ).
And time passed . . .
and then, life took another twist.
My kids' dad had work opportunity in Minneapolis that was not to be passed up.
I cried as I packed my things -- I had come to love my magical Pacific Northwest home and couldn't imagine being happy moving again -- but paradoxically felt a sureness about the rightness of the change.
So we moved again.
Something about being in a completely new place
where I didn't know anyone
during a spiking pandemic
-- but maybe it was also the lineage of my personal relationship with the craft -- it having come to me via the Great Lakes region in the first place--
made me feel that it would be a good time to bring out the crafts I'd been waiting for just the right moment to pick up again.
So here is my first pine needle basket.
I loved making it and and made another one for someone I love.
I feel that there are more baskets in me.
may it be so.