Monday, February 9, 2015

Cedar Bark Basket

I finally got 2 days of rain, and no work so I got to play with some cedar bark. You have to harvest the bark when the time is right and those opportunities only come around so often. Then you have to save it for a time when you can really sit down and give the tree some respect and weave it into another form.
Cedatr is a very sacred tree and I really wanted to put my full intention into this basket and let it tell me how to shape it. I didn't have any set plan for this basket, only to start with a sqaure base. So here is my process.....
So this is where I started from. Bark was stripped from the tree and outer bark removed. Then bundled into coils and dryed for later use. Well, now it is later, and I took the coils out and soaked in the bath tub over night. I then take the coils out and let mellow for a few minutes on an old towel. Then I began to split the bark into thinner strips and cut to length of desired basket. I cut my strips pretty long so I got a taller basket, because the bottom strips become the sides.
Above is splitting into thinner strips. Once you get the number of strips you need and uniform length, you are ready to begin your weaving.
To begin a "plaited" basket, you start with the basic over under pattern. Yes, just like in school with those construction paper strips!
You want to make sure the center square of weaving is centered and ends are even.
Now you can begin to "turn"and start weaving up the sides.
You will need to split more weavers at this point to have for weaving the sides.
After I turned, and put in my first row, I did a round of "twining". This is a different weave, from the over under weave. I did this to lock it into place and give it some stability. I wanted my basket to go straight up, so I felt it needed it. Expert basket makers don't need to do this and can totally weave the whole thing. I am a beginner, so I did everything I could to be sucessful and have a useful basket.
As you can see, I chose to do a twine round after each plaiting round. I did this because I didn't want my basket to flair out, which mine tend to do. This really helped to keep it going up and not out. I also keep a big bowl of water on the table to soak my weavers in while I'm working. Keep a damp towel handy is helpful for when I need to get up and take a break. I just wrap up my basket to keep it moist. You can also dunk your basket in the bowl if everything gets too dry and becomes less flexible. Some people keep a spray bottle handy.
After I was weaving and twining along, I wanted to do something different for interest. So I put in a wider band and made some twine from all the little scraps from cutting and splitting. I used the twine I made from cedar for interest around the wider strips. I purposely left them hanging out so I can put some decoration on later, like beads etc....Now the top has to be finished and there are many ways this can be done. I always refer to 2 of my favorite books for ideas and finishing techniques. 
"Cedar" by Hilary Stewart is an amazing collection of information and a priceless resource. Also, "The People of Cascadia" by Heidi Bohan is another priceless resource. It gives tons of info as to how all the plants and animals were used here regionally. Of course cedar was a primary resource and was used in all aspects of life from clothing to houses, to boxes to rope, and of course baskets. She lives in Duvall, WA and teaches many classes. If you ever get the opportunity to, you should take one of her classes!
See her classes at
And finally, my finished basket. I think I will add a strap made of leather and some beads and feathers to complete it. Hopefully this summer it will be stained with huckleberries. Thanks for your interest.

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