Nov 06 2007

Sewing Birch Bark

Published by at 8:18 pm under Plant Materials

If you have access to high quality birch bark, sewing provides a useful alternative to weaving. Woven baskets are more flexible and sturdy, but they are practically impossible to make waterproof. They also takes a lot more time to make.

First, cut and clean the bark. Cleaning is done by removing the loose pieces on the exterior. I usually turn the exterior in, but both is good. You can either cut the corners or fold them, the first method isn’t waterproof, while the last one can be if done carefully. When folding, always do it over a fire. Heat will make it go pliable in an instant. It can be heated any number of times, but don’t hold it over the fire for very long. The bark on the photo has been crudely pegged, due to lack of time to construct proper clamps. The other photo displays a small eating bowl only kept together by simple pegs.

birchbark1.JPGbirchbark3.JPG

Digging and preparing roots will be covered in a seperate post. Use the roots well soaked and pliable.

For the sewing you need a bone or antler awl, the roots and a preferably some clamps. Clamp it together and start sewing. There are several types of sewing, depending on if you are sewing along or across the grain. Here I’m only demonstrating how to sew along the grain or overhandstitching as I believe it’s commonly called. If you are just making a quicky basket, a kettle or some other consumption utility, just stitch on one split root on either side with long stitches. This is safe, since the bark will not so readily split from the holes when they are far apart. On sides where you are stitching through only one single piece of bark, stitch on sidepanels, with grain running in the opposite direction of the one of the main basket wall. This is of the stiching of a kettle and the kettle in use.

birchbark2.JPGbirchbark4.JPG

A related stitch is the layered one. This one is stronger due to covering the rim entirely and having lots of connection points at different grain runs of the bark. I stitched this one with three alternate depths, but you can use any number. Here you are: A new basket, with a quite fancy rim.

birchbark5.JPG

Regards
Torjus

Get my book "Traditional Trout Fishing: Fishing for Survival in the North (Volume 1)
".


8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Sewing Birch Bark”

  1. Sam_acwon 06 Nov 2007 at 10:23 pm

    I’m really interested in this – the birch bark here is quite thick and leathery so it should be ok for building things with. I’ve only managed to make an expedient packet for collecting pine resin and a lot of fires with it so far though!

  2. Marcon 06 Nov 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Hey Torjus,

    good work man. You more and more show the depth and fullness of bushcraft skills, methods and usefullness and I stand in awe. The baskets look really good.
    Probably dumb question but cooking in a kettle from birchbark? I guess that is not done in open fire? But how do you use it then?

    greetz,

    Marc

  3. Anonymouson 23 Nov 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Heat rocks and put them in the water filled basket I think.

  4. Monicaon 12 Oct 2011 at 10:22 am

    Hello, I myself has a keen interest in traditional tecknologies. I just want to make the remark – a birch tree is almost dying if we have taken a piece of bark from it. One should only take bark from a tree which has fallen or get the permission from the land owner that it is allowed to take bark. To want to live natuarally means that you want to treat the nature according to natural laws.

    In Sweden for example it is strictly forbidden to take birch bark from a living tree withour permission.

  5. Torjuson 12 Oct 2011 at 10:32 am

    Monica, I have skinned hundred of trees. Most of them are still alive. Birch does generally not take damage from being skinned.

    I have lived all my life in this area and innumerable generations before me and is much more entiteled to the bark than any absentee landowner.

    Swedish laws and natural laws are two very different things.

  6. Little Arrow Umkagnuraqon 12 Jun 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Wow, this is cool! My ancestors were in the arctic, so they didn’t have birchbark 😀 but oh well, i wanna do this! This is great, seriously!!!!! Vellinqaqun for sharing 🙂 have a great day man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you native or sometihgn?

  7. Torjus Gaarenon 15 Jun 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks

    Everybody is native somewhere. 🙂

  8. Anonymouson 15 May 2019 at 3:56 am

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Tips for how to not split the bark as you are making holes and then when the roots start to tug on the holes? Will thicker bark prevent splitting?

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.