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Barbara Covil West, Photography

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Digital Art

Pine Needle Basketry

By Barbara Covil West

History of Pine needle Basketry

It is believed that pine needle basketry probably existed for as long as pine trees and humans have shared the earth. It has documented that among the first to make basket using the pine needles were the Seminole Indians, living in the area of what is known today as the Florida Everglades, they made the most of the local grasses, vines, roots, fibrous leaves, strips of barks and pine needles.

Sewing these natural materials together, they made baskets that they put to many uses. Some baskets were treated with pine resin, and used for carrying water. Others, utilizing hot stones for heat, and used for cooking. Others vessels were used for feed containers and storage.

Civil war and Pine needle basketry

During the civil war, materials for basket were scarce, and Mary Jane McAfee from Georgia was in dying need of materials for hats and baskets. She tried to make hats from bulrush but found out that the hats proved to be heavy and was not comfortable to wear. While still searching for some native product for which to make the hats light enough to be worn with ease, she happened to see a limb of a long leaf pine in a wagon load of pine straw in which the farm help were coving the potato beds. Mrs. McAfee conceived the idea that these long slender needles might be so treated as to render them sufficiently tough to be woven into hats while retaining their pliability. She succeeded after some experimentation in accomplishing this.

The last spool of Coats thread was used to make the hat and for all others “Home spun cotton thread “was employed. The pine needle hat of which he father loved to talk about was the first product of her new found art. Mary Jane McAfee was hugely an instrumental in the growth and the spreading of the art of Pine needle basketry. She went on to teach classes in the colleges in Tenn.

Pine needle basket making, is part of our heritage that utilizes our countries natural resources, becomes a legacy for future generations, as the craft is passed on.




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