Lynn Hoyt, Little Wobbler
Tips and Techniques from the coilers in the Pine Needle Group
          compiled by Lynn Hoyt

Lynn Hoyt poses a question to the Pine Needle Group Mailing list. Here is a compilation of the group's answers. If you have a question to ask, or an answer to add to this list, please submit them to Lynn Hoyt, via email.

Question for September-

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for August -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for July

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for June -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for May -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for April -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for March -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for Februrary -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for January -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for December -

Back to list of questions (top)

Question for November -

Back to list of questions (top)

    Questions for October

  1. How can I make and keep my stitches tight?

    Vincent Viglione- One thing I do is I keep my stitches very close together, as soon as they become 1/4 inch I fill in new stitching between the old. Also as I'm stitching I keep my free hand indexfinger on top of the stitch. Also most of my coiling is with only 6needles in the coil and the close stitching makes a very tight basket that needs no waxing.

    Toni Best- I agree about tight stitches being close together. I have never waxed a basket to give it stability. I must just be getting rid of fruistrations by pulling really tight. I keep my finger on the sticth I have just pulled through the coil until I think it is tight enough. I also pull extremely tight. I think if you can handle raffia, you can stitch with anything. Since it is natural, it has a mind of its own, but the stitching results are wonerufl. When I am doing a smapler basket of stitches, nothing shows off the beauty of the design like natural raffia against a dyed pineneedle. I tell students that I teach that where the needle goes into the coil is just as important as where it comes out to create beautiful stitches.

    Nancy Gildersleeve- In coiling as in all forms of weaving, textiles as well as basketry, tension is very important. Both hands are used, first to make the stitch through or around the coil, then the opposite hand comes forward to hold down the stitch as the next is made. It is a two part step, stitch, pinch down and hold, stitch again and pull tight.

    Sue Cowell- okay, this is a "whole nuther"discussion, if you get into stitches, and/or waxing. Anyone who has one of my baskets would probably agree my baskets are fairly tight, but this comes from stitching, not a "finish". I really think we are talking apples and oranges here, which could be confusing for "beginners". On the other hand, I agree with Toni about taking out frustrations on the basket. When I was sitting at my father's bedside in the hospital, I created the tightest basket you ever saw. You could have carried a bowling ball in it. My husband says he can tell if I'm upset about something just by the way I "jerk" my artificial sinew. I've actually cut my fingers on the sinew. On the "other" hand, I love the finish of a couple of baskets I have which have a beeswax finish. One of my baskets in the trades came with a couple of beeswax hubs as a bonus. I just haven't had the guts to try it yet. A "double split stitch", as I call it, is much more able to hold the tightness. Plus, the reason I use it so much, I LOVE the way the stitch emphasis the curve of the basket. I, too, prefer the artifical sinew. When using raffia, I was constantly breaking it. It's that stress thing, I think.

    Jeanne Williams- I was always taught on just a brass ring or a plastic ring. First making the half hitch knot or buttonhole knot then weaving the inside of the ring then starting to take up the loops of the stitches with the needles and raffia. I would always do it VERY close and SMALL tight stitches with just a few pineneedles then adding as you would go around the ring, because as the basket grew it would fan out into these fantastic stitches. Then it would be up to you decide how big and magical they become. My teacher always said not to forget to add the needles or you won`t have much of a basket. Smart lady!!!!

    Karen Clanin- if i have read all the posts on this subject right i think everyone is talking about a very basic stitch.if i had tried this on my very first baskets i would have pitched them out and never tried again. thankfully, for me at least, i didthe split stitch and i have found that these seem to stay tight with little effort. perhaps beginners should be urged to try the split stitch or a 2 part stitch as both seem to stay tight pretty much on their own.course, i use only artificial sinew as i dislike raffia, and i think the sinew helps the stitches stay tight?

    Leigh Adams- To get tighter coils, try waxed sinew. It splays out so nicely and the wax adheres to the needles. The sinew won't break easily so you can really put pressure on it. My best tip is to put a bandage around the top joint of the little finger on your coiling hand so that you can put some serious tension on the thread without cutting through your flesh. Also, try a wrapped coil and see how cooperative they are. I suppose it's the bondage and discipline approach to coiling!

    Barbara West- I use Raffia, Sinew and also Embroidery Floss and all three work well with the right tension.Raffia will split at times but I love the beautiful look I get for different designs.When using floss I use wax like for quilting to keep it together, I use all six strands of the embroidery floss.I think the tension you put in the basket is what makes it tight or loose.My baskets are very tightly put together.Well just thought I would give a little bit of my experience.

    Alaine Schumann- I make my stitch (I stitch front to back) bring the stitching material forward to position for inserting the needle and hold the stitch tight with my left index finger while inserting the needle. My first few baskets got a little loose, but with experience I don't have a problem with loose stitches or baskets anymore.

    Margaret Shingler- I use a hemostat to keep the binder tight when I must put the basket or gourd down for awhile-just pull the last stitch tight and clip to the binder so it can't slip loose. Also the hemostat works very well for getting the needle into and out of tiny gourd openings. I've been doing mostly minis and I find that the tiny clothespins in the craft stores will hold the coil in place without getting in the way too much. A gauge also helps me-gives a bit more to hang onto besides keeping the coil uniform. My one time with damp seagrass gave me a floppy centered basket and I've not tried seagrass for a basket since. On gourds I use needles and seagrass dry and find that if I give the coil a bit of a twist, it will bend without breaking. Thin fibers are my favorites-no wet, no break, just coil.

    Back to list of questions (top)

  2. How do I add new binder and still keep tight tension while stitching?

    Carol .....? To add new binding material I take a stitch up through the middle of my coil and leave a tail, I then tie a small over hand knot attaching the new binder onto the old and take it back through the same spot and continue to stitch. The spot where you have just added your new binder does not show.

    Vincent Viglione- For what it's worth here's my method. I don't like to knot the sinew, so when coming to the end I simply drive the needle down through several rows of coils, it usually takes the use of a pair of needle-nose pliers. I pull the sinew all the way through. To start the new sinew I drive the needle up through the rows coming out at a point that the next stitch would be. I don't cut the loose ends but do cut them about 2 inches long. After I've gone around the basket one full coil and have passed over the 'splice' I pull those loose ends very tightly and cut with a scissors. That way the cut ends pull into the coil and are invisible. I find this method handy if I'm changing sinew color or wrapping the coil with different colors. The method I use does not create a loose splice, since I drive the needle straight down thru several coils. No need to zig-zag. Because the sinew has a little bit of 'stretch' to it, by pulling the loose ends after the next coil and cutting them they simply shrink back into to coil and 'disappear'. I've been able to create animal designs, as well as geometric designs using this method. I actually thought that a lot of coilers used this method and really didn't think that I was so innovative.

    Toni Best- I have this thing about knots as well and figured out how to do this anchoring of your weaving material years ago as well. It gives a neater basket which is tight.

    Pamela Zimmerman- I agree. I do not like knots. I always add my binder in the same manner, and sinew especially seems to take to this type of adding. I do make a zig or zag to make sure, however. It holds very well...just try to rip it out! I have found, however, a difficulty in trying to teach this method, have not found any easy way to illustrate it and make it understood.

    Kathy Awbrey- I add both ways. Depends on the sinew and when I'm at with the basket. Sometimes I knot - if it's not going to show, and other times I drive the needle down through several rows. Sometimes I even start the next batch of sinew close to where I've pushed the other sinew at and knot it there on the outside of the basket until it's finished and then trim. It seems some pineneedles act looser (ponderosa does this if they are large ones) and this keeps things tighter through the basket.

    Karen Clanin- It seems I have taught myself a totally different way of adding new sinew. Since I usually use some version of a split stitch this works well for me and you really can not find where I've done this. When I need to finish an end I stick it back through where I've pierced the sinew in the stitch. Say my last stitch with this piece of sinew leaves the tail and needle on the inside, I go to the stitch below and run the sinew to the outside being careful to also exit in the same place on a stitch, then I will go to the stitch below on the outside and do the same thing again, ending up inside. By pulling the sinew tight it doesn't show. I leave the tail until I've done the next row and then by pulling the sinew tight and using curved cuticle sissors I cut it as close to the basket as I can. If I have any sticking out I just mash it into the sinew of the stitch with the needle. That's the glory of using waxed sinew. To ad the new piece i do the same thing but backwards as i want the new piece to end up on the inside of the basket where the tail was in that last stitch. My baskets are very tight and firm and I've never had the sinew 'unravel' doing it this way.

    Back to list of questions (top)

    Links to The Pine Needle Group Site:
    Pine Needle Basket Links
    Other Coiled Forms
    Resource Links
    History & Technical Links 

    Pine Needle Group Logo, created by Carol Antrim