Repairing Coiled Baskets, Some Examples

It is pretty common to find old coiled baskets with broken stitches. Invariably, someone finds out that you coil pine needle baskets and brings an old broken basket to see if you can fix it. Can it be done? Here are some photos and reports from Pine Needle Group members who have tried their hand at making old baskets "good as new."

Basket repair by Debbie Fritz

Basket repair by Debbie Fritz Before
Basket repair by Debbie Fritz Before
Basket repair by Debbie Fritz After
Basket repair by Debbie Fritz After
Debbie writes:

"PNG member Fran Amos found this at Goodwill (for under $2.00) and gave it to me. I used a mix of traded needles from Jeanine Thames and fumed needles that I got with my exchange basket from Rena Vickery for repair and to match the patina."

See the "jump" pages under the before and after thumbnail photos to read how this basket was repaired step-by-step.

Tray Repair by Susan Butts

Susan Butts Tray Before repair
Tray Before Susan Butts repair
Susan Butts Tray After Repair
Tray After Susan Butts Repair
Susan wrote:

"I just did a repair job on a basket that was over 100 years old. The main problem was that the raffia on the top edge and the handles had disintegrated and fallen apart.

"As one who almost never uses raffia because I hate the way it shreds, I was hesitant to try this repair. However, after I started, it was relatively easy to do, and turned out very well. It was quite a learning experience, and the man who owns the basket was quite pleased that his great grandmother's basket could once again be displayed in his home."

Old Purse repair by Kaye Burlason

Old Purse repair by Kaye Burlason, After photos
After Kaye Burlason repair,
no before photos available.
Kaye writes:

I found this purse at a flea market and it was squashed flat to the bottom. I gently pulled it up and had to reshape all the thin wire shapes. All the raffia teneriffe was in good shape. My husband, Bob, cut some heavy wire and kind of made it box shape to fit inside to make it stronger. Then I made a velvet liner to cover that insert of wire. It is too heavy now to use as a purse but looks nice for a show piece.

Wish I had thought to make a before picture when I first bought it. I actually worked on it two days--long hours though. I am not very good at lining the inside. It was hard to make the velvet cover that wire like a pocket.

I just repaired three pieces recently and did not think to take photos before sending them home. One was a wall hanging, one a can with pine needles glued upright that needed the trim replaced and one a bowl with ragged handles and two rows around the top. Had to tint the raffia with hot coffee to match the last one and had to try three times before I got a match. Now I will use the mistakes on something else.

Comment from Carol Miller:

I thought I would share an experience I had recently. Some time ago on this list we discussed the finishes we all use on our work. I had the pleasure of repairing a pine needle basket that was purchased 20-25 years ago, the rim was coming undone as well as the edge of the lid. The basket was sealed with shellac, it was very brittle and the binder which appeared to be 3 ply waxed linen was also in a state of deterioration. I do not know whether this basket has been in the sun at all.

Prior to being a part of this group I was of the opinion that all baskets had to have a finish on them, and I used my fair share of shellac. Now I question that decision. I now seal a basket on a rare basis, unless I feel it may be handled a lot and then I will seal it with bee's wax.

I have not been coiling long enough to have known that shellac may do this. I think we should all rethink the use of shellac on our works of art. I did not like what I've seen with it when reparing this basket. I know it is something I will NEVER use again if I feel a piece needs to be sealed.

Another comment from Pamela Zimmerman:

"all the baskets I hvae ever been asked to repair have been stitched with raffia. They almost all show breakage along the rim or the bottom joint. Of course, they are all pretty old, as well, but I have never seen damage to pine needles "

If you have an old basket you made repairs to, and you have photos, send them to The Pine Needle Group, and we may post your photos. Please also describe the repairs you made. Thank you! Pine Needle Group Logo, created by Carol Antrim