Bark made into fibres

Bark can be split into pliable, long strips suitable for basketry making. Vine rinds or barks can make very long weaving elements, producing a strong even structure, free of joints.

Bark can be also used to decorative effect when colour or gloss is required to contrast with other materials.

On the west coast of Canada, among First Nations communities, bark is worked by women.

Spring and summer months are the best for the removal of bark from the cedar trees, whether red or yellow. The yellow is thought of as superior to the red because of its greater strength.

Stripping the tree always begins with a prayer to the tree, asking for its ‘dress’ to transform into fibre for baskets or clothing for people.

Bark was formerly prepared by drying in the air and pounding with a bone mallet on a smooth stone, until it became supple.

The bark was and is still split into strips and woven into ceremonial head-dresses, capes, blankets, rain ponchos, waistcoats, bags, baskets, covers for bowls, mats, and also to decorate masks.

In England willow is the common basketry material. Traditional English baskets are of stripped willow, either buff or white.

Buff is produced by boiling with the bark intact, releasing tannins which stain the stems light brown, then removing the bark. White is stripped without boiling. “Green” willow refers to freshly cut stems.

The use of prepared bark fibres in cordage is very widespread. Cedar has long been used in twined cordage on the Northwest Coast of north America.

Fibres from prepared tree bark and vines have been manufactured by peoples of the Amazon basin for many hundreds of years in making straps for back baskets and material for containers such as dart quivers as well as bindings on arrows, bows and blowpipes.

Bark fibres are used in making cordage in the Gwembe valley of southern Zambia, near the border with Zimbabwe.