Typically once i gather my needles, i work them into a bundle with tops pointing in same direction, then i take the ends off. If the needles are fat, i’ll split them into individual elements, if they are thin i leave them in the group (usually it’s a group of 3)
I then wrap the bundle in a nice napkin, then i can just pull them out one at a time as i am making my basket.
As i mentioned in my previous post i usually try to go for needles that are fresh. If this is the case i typically don’t clean them. If they are dirty, soak them in a sink full of slightly soapy water, rinse and then air dry. I always make my baskets with dry needles. I’ve tried with damp needles, but once they dry your basket becomes loose.
There is one exception to this. Sometimes the only needles you can find are dry and brittle. I will soak them to help restore some flexibility and create the basket with them slightly damp. If i make sure to pull the waxed thread nice and tight each stitch the basket stays firm.
Once you have the bundles prepped, you can actually keep them in a dry spot for a long time. They only disintegrate when exposed to outdoor weather.
When working with the needles try to get the shiny curved edge to the outside, it gives the basket a better look.