How to Dye Pine Needles for Baskets

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Gather the longest pine needles you can find, i.e., ponderosa pine, long leaf pine (the best, they are 17-21″ sometimes), torrey pine. Needles gathered in the spring are best for lighter colors and needles harvested in the Fall for darker colors. If you are going to gather green pine needles off the tree, I always like to look for downed branches and pick the needles off there, rather than taking them from the tree.

To get the shades of blue, dark green, turquoise, purple, or black needles, use needles that were pulled from the tree while green and place them on newspapers in the shade to dry. They will already be a light green. Depending on where they are placed, they make take up to a month to dry, but usually are ready within the month. To get brown, rust, gold, red, orange, dark brown or burgundy, use natural brown needles that you have collected from the forest floor.

Use a large roasting pan to dye the pine needles. (This pan will only be used for doing this once you have dyed the needles in it). Consider using a large size for needles. Sometimes you can find something at a garage sale which can be used for doing this, as you won’t be using it for anything else. Put your burner on medium and bring to a simmer not a boil. Carefully add your dye, going slowly and stir while adding. Use the powder over the liquid as it mixes better. If you are going to be doing over a couple of pounds of needles, you may need more than one package.

Soak your needles in warm water for about 30 minutes first as they will take the dye better. Then place your needles in the pot after the dye has been mixed well. Simmer till a little darker than you wanted. (Needles will be lighter in color after they are dry). Leave in dye until you get the color you want. If you need more color add it by the teaspoon full till it looks good. If it is too dark add some water. Remember it will look lighter when dry.

When needles are color you want, place them on newspaper and let set over night. Then rinse with cold water and white vinegar(1 cup) in a sink for 20 minutes or so. Now rinse till clear. Then spread out on newspapers again to dry. If you use them right a way they probably will bleed some on you’re hands as you make the basket. So let them sit a month or so. Make sure to store unused dye in glass jars and mark them with the color you made. You can usually get a couple more dyes out of them, but I have found they lessen with the intensity. Always wash out your pot and utensils with when done. This is so your next batch is pure.

Make a basket using the dyed pine needles or add to the rim of a gourd. Watch for my articles on making a basket using these dyed pine needles, and how to decorate a gourd with dyed needles.

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