Bringing in pine needles from the outside — some might call that person crazy.
Perhaps, a basket case.
But not for these crafty locals. They gather them to create baskets made of nothing more than everyday pine needles and colorful string.
They’re learning how to create their crafts from Rocky Boyett who teaches pine needle basketry, twice a week, free of charge, in Dade City and Zephyrhills.
“At first, it is hard, because it’s a different concept than people are used to getting their hands wrapped around,” said Boyett, a 76-year-old Vietnam veteran, who has been teaching the classes for about eight years now. “Even then, for people who have been doing craft work for years, they may catch on a little quicker than most, but still there will be a lot of trial and error.
“All I want to do is pass along how to make baskets,” Boyett added. “I’m not selling anything, I’m not making them to make money, either.”
Boyett says it takes time to learn how to stitch together pine needles with just string and a sewing needle, but there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
He teaches the basic, most commonly used “V stitch.”
The class offers step-by-step instructions.
“It does take a long time,” Boyett said. “You can’t come here for a two-to-three hour class and go home with a finished basket. It will take days, weeks, maybe even longer depending on the size of the basket.
“And it takes two stitches to make a V, and baskets, depending on the size, will have thousands of stitches,” he said.
The classes are free and some supplies are provided, but participants also need to bring some of their own materials, including sewing needles, string and, of course, lots and lots of pine needles.
“Obviously the longer the pine (needle) the better,” Boyett said. “But everyone gets it from their yards or from someone they know who has pine trees. Usually it’s best to just take them right from the tree and let them dry out, so it makes for a fairly inexpensive art form.”
Boyett’s students don’t limit themselves to making baskets. They’ve also produced pot holders, coasters, jewelry and other items.
Like Boyett, many students choose not to sell their creations. They may give some as gifts, but it turns out participants often just can’t part with their baskets.
“It is hard to let go of them,” said Wesley Chapel resident Evelyn Sivelle, who has been attending the classes for about three years. “You put in 60-plus hours of work, but it must be the satisfaction of completing one, all the time it took and how it finally looks finished that makes you just not want to sell it.”
“It’s hard to sell them,” Boyett added, “not just because of attachment, but to get a right price for it, considering how much work goes into making even the smallest of baskets. I even offered (Evelyn) $200 for one I really liked, and she won’t take it because she likes it too much.”
Others, who just started the classes and are still working on their first basket, are aware it requires patience to create something so simple, yet so intricate.
“Some people think they can come in here and learn everything in one day — nope!” new student Jan Wilson said. “I’ve been doing it just over a month now, but it took time. Finally, at one point, I turned it over and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m doing it right!’”
Pine Needle Basketry classes
When: Mondays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.
Where: On Mondays at Dade City Senior Center, 13853 15th St.; On Thursdays at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church of Zephyrhills, 5855 16th St.
Details: Rocky Boyett, aka Dr. Sticks, teaches, free of charge, anyone who wants to learn pine needle basketry. The craft involves hours and hours of learning to sew and bind pine needles. Boyett also teaches how to make customized walking sticks and canes from outdoor branches.
Info: Call Rocky Boyett at 706-676-8318.
Published September 21, 2022