Thursday, October 22, 2009

7. Three Considerations for Faster, Easier Coiling Post 7.

The last post saw lots of commenting! Thanks to Patti, Vincent, Annejala and everyone for their comments. It sounds like everyone has their own formula to “get it right” in terms of moisture.

Tony, it is hard to say for sure what your needles are, but if they were at least 10 inches and in bundles of 3, you probably have Southern Longleaf pine needles. They were originally very common here in eastern NC, but since Weyerhauser paper company logs the entire area now, longleaf is harder and harder to find. It is very slow-growing, and the new trees they plant are faster growing, but shorter-leafed. A nice Southern Longleaf Pine tree is a treasure around here nowadays.

Sounds like Vincent and Clay have very similar styles. I am very interested in your results. It sounds like you had a long time to perfect your technique, and that it works really well. When I soak needles that long, and then pull very tightly, it tends to break the needles. So you must have a trick up your sleeve that I am just not getting. I would love to learn it. Both of you make baskets that are amazing!

Thanks to Vincent for sharing his chicken story, too. I just love that story ( not the dog part.)

Still reflecting on our habits…

Do you use a gauge? Some people think they cannot coil without a gage. This is unfortunate and perplexing to me. Gauges have been used to hold straw when coiling bee skeps, and this is quite understandable. Straw was bundled in massive coils, and was falling out all over the place if a gauge (a cow horn) was not used. Pine needles are very different. Coilers who use gauges say they are doing so to keep the coil uniform. It does keep the coil uniform, but this is more easily achieved, in my opinion, by watching the ends of the pine needles as they run out. The gauge makes adding pine needles more difficult, which adds seconds to every addition. Lose the gauge, and see what happens. (i am SURE we will have comments on this opinion...come on....)

"Oh my gosh, my coils will be all different sizes!” Not if you pay attention. And I have news for you. I often taper a coil to a smaller size when I am going around a very sharp corner, or build it up when I am trying to make a sculptural shape. I have NEVER had ANYONE say to me, gee your coils are so many different sizes. NEVER.

What is your preferred coil size? A very tiny coil size builds slowly. Think toothpicks and popsicle sticks. Which one will build a wall faster? If you make larger coils, you will build a basket faster. I like to keep the coil about the size of my pinkie. This coil size builds the basket fairly quickly, while not being so large it is hard to get the needle through. You will find, if you try to make a coil as large as your index finger or thumb, that it is harder to get the needle through a thicker coil. To make a larger coil, it pays to add more pine needles in clusters, as opposed to singly. I have added whole pine needles, fascicles intact, to the center of the coil when i wanted to build it quickly.

Another easy way to increase coil size is to add a "rod," such as reed or a vine, to the center of the coil to make it build faster. This is a technique practiced by many native American people, as can be found by reading Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh's Indian Baskets (Schiffer Book for Collectors,) or one of the older editions of the same book (listed by Turnbaugh & Turnbaugh.) The technique is called "rod and bundle" coiling.

I would love to hear about your coil size and fluctuation considerations, please leave a positive comment here for everyone to read! Thanks

The next post will be about direction of coiling.


Donna in WA said...

I've always used a gauge, ever since I first learned pine needle basketry. At first it was just a short piece of a plastic straw, then I bought a metal thingy in the plumbing department at our local hardware store. It is slightly flared on one end. It works great and I have no problems with inserting pine needles into the gauge.

I think whether a person uses a gauge or not is a matter of personal preference. Using something as a gauge helps me to gauge the need for more pine needles since I have vision problems, I have to do coiling without my glasses on and with the basket held close to my eyes. I can only focus on the actual stitching process. If the guage starts loosening up, then it's time to insert pine needles. If I didn't use the gauge, I think I would end up with a really thin coil before I realized that I needed to add more needles. Then, I'd probably be tempted to pull out the stitches back to where it seems the coil is the right thickness.

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...

Yes, I must have southern longleaf pine needles then. They are 12-16" long and in groups of three. Thanks for all the info!

I usually have a core of about 6 fascicles or or 18 individual needles/leaves. I add in groups of threes, so there is about a half length of overlap for each addition.

Vincent said...

I've only used a gauge once and found I didn't like the shape of the coil showing like a coil. I use only a small amount of needles while stitching and pull the binder tight so each layer meshes with the one beneath and the basket results in a plane of pine needles with no shape of individual coils. It's just the look that I prefer for my own work.


Annejala said...

When I was taught to coil I was given a gauge and told I could use it if I wanted to. I was strongly encourage to add needles through the gauge every 2-3 stitches or I would end up with a thin basket. I have long leaf pine needles that are 16" in length. I don't needle to add needles that frequently. I prefer the method of not using a gauge. It is so much easier to not worry about keeping the gauge full!
I like watching the end of the needles and adding more needles as they run out. It takes a lot of the guess work out for me. I believe it is personal preference. Pamela, thanks again for doing this series. Annejala