With pine needles found in the forest, some thick waxed thread, needles, pliers, a paper straw, and lots of patience and practice, Marina Piro from the YouTube channel Wild She Goes weaves two pine needle baskets with two different lid styles. She demonstrates each step, from finding and preparing the needles, to wrapping and stitching each coil, to finishing each piece with polish.
Different tribes used different materials, weaving techniques, basket shapes, and characteristic patterns. Northeast Indian baskets, for example, are traditionally made out of pounded ash splints or braided sweetgrass. Cherokee and other Southeast Indian baskets are traditionally from bundled pine needles or rivercane wicker.
Southwestern Indians make baskets from tightly coiled sumac or willow wood, and Northwest Coast Indians typically weave with cedar bark, swamp grass, and spruce root. Northern Indian tribes like the Ojibwe and Dene craft birchbark baskets, and the Inuit even make whale baleen baskets (though this is a more recent tradition than the American Indian ones).
As native people were displaced from their traditional lands and lifestyles, their traditional tribal basketweaving styles started to change somewhat as they adapted to new materials and absorbed the customs of new neighbors, and in places like Oklahoma where many tribes were interred together, fusion styles of basketweaving arose. However, unlike some traditional native crafts, the original diversity of Native American basket styles is still very much evident today.
Native Languages also includes lots of photos and links to the work of native craftspeople. Piro also recommends the book Pine Needle Basketry: From Forest Floor to Finished Project (affiliate links: Bookshop.org, Amazon).
Watch this next: My Father’s Tools and the Indigenous art of basket weaving. Plus more weaving and tutorials:
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