Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Plaited Birch Bark Basket

When time allows, I am trying to practice some further skills and crafts that are applicable to realistic situations when living in the woods for an extended time, with minimum kit. We use bags, containers, trays, cooking pots, plates, chopping boards, cups, bowls, warm duvets, etc with hardly a thought in our day to day lives and kit heavy camping trips. So I am planning on trying out a few of the old crafts in preparation for a weeks minimal kit trip later in the year.

First up Baskets, for wild food foraging. The reason being that clean large sheets of birch bark are hard to obtain in this country and just as hard to remove from the tree. So strips of bark would be more obtainable, as would cat-tail leaves, Brambles and willow coppice. 
I had some of the best bark I have managed to obtain so far, which was thick and clean from a tree I felled last year but still not large enough for the types of container I wanted, and carving the wooden bottom and lid takes a fair amount of time, as well as the stitching.

Practice attempts below, using cereal boxes. This book is great on the whole but a little misleading in places. I opted for the traditional way using separate weft pieces to go in and out of the upturned warps. I got so carried away making it and the bark one that I didn't take many pictures. There is however a great tutorial here although I tried not to use pegs or as few as possible as they are not normally around or have to be made in the woods.

Drying the Bark out flat after soaking

My daughter already claimed the baskets for a more important use.

Here it is. A bit on the rough side, and the top section could probably be improved but it feels good and strong. The strips of bark are 25mm wide and on average 45cm long so it is around a 10cm cube. 
I'm happy to have learnt a new method and ended up with a usable item. Glad I spent ages peeling the bark now.