Spruce Bark Containers

Spruce Bark Containers

As I’m sure you’re all aware the earth in general and particularly the sea is having huge issues with the levels of irresponsibly disposed of plastic items, with studies showing that the sea now contains more individual particles of micro plastics than it does fish! So with that in mind I’ve been looking to reduce my level of plastic usage and waste which in part led me to the topic I’ll be covering in this blog.

A few months past I was involved in helping to fell a large spruce tree in a former plantation block to help allow light into the area to promote the growth of smaller trees and plants, during the process of bucking the fresh trunk into smaller firewood sized lengths I noticed just how easily the beautiful thick bark was peeling from the logs, never one to waste an opportunity to gather natural resources I asked the land owner if it was ok for me to strip some sheets of bark. Despite the rather puzzled look on his face he said he was more than happy for me to take some. After ten minutes work with a Mora to cut the bark through to the sapwood inside and some rather sap stained hands I had a couple of nice sheets of bark

Sheets of bark
Sheets of bark.

I also knew that I was going to need some spruce roots to stitch my containers together with so with the help of a piece of roe antler to dig surface roots up and a roe bone tool with a V shaped notch carved into it to strip the outer bark from the roots I gathered what I needed for the projects I had in mind.

Root stripping tool
Root stripping tool.

The first container I made was the simplest so that’s what I’ll cover here. I took a large rectangle of bark and cut a strip about an inch wide from the long edge to use as the containers rim I then marked my centre line by lightly scoring the outer bark with the tip of my knife. I then scored an oval around my centre line making sure not to cut all the way through the bark, this oval will form the base of the container when its folded.

Drawing of scored bark sheet
Drawing of scored bark sheet.

Once you’ve scored the outer bark its time to start folding, go gently at first working the two sides upward, at the same time using your knee to encourage the concave base to form. Once you have your bark formed into shape it’s time to start stitching it with spruce root, I tend to split thicker roots down the centre so they have a flat face that sits flush to the bark and I also soak them in warm water for ten minutes or so to make sure they areas pliable as possible.

Stitching the body of the container
Stitching the body of the container.

I then used an awl to pierce the stitching holes working from the bottom to the top of the container and using a wide X stitch start to lash it together with my spruce root tucking the left-over root down through the inner stitches to secure them in place. Then comes adding the rim, take the strip you cut from your sheet earlier and thin one end down until you can slide it into one of your side seams then wrap it around the top of your container whip stitching it in place with this spruce root as you go until its fully wrapped round the rim and stitched nice and tight with spruce root, once you’ve finished stitching the rim tuck your loose end into your last few stitches locking it off and your container is more or less complete. The bark will remain pliable for a few weeks but once it dries it will be hard as wood and a great substitute for plastic containers.

Fully stitched container
Fully stitched container.

Indigenous cultures around the globe have utilised bark containers since the beginning of time from tiny needle containers and good sized foraging baskets up to large bark skinned canoes and whatever the size the process is roughly the same. These containers were made from spruce bark but I’ve used elm bark in the past and read about numerous other tree species being used so why not have a go with what you have locally and use the ancient skills of our ancestors to help provide a slightly cleaner less plastic filled future for the generations to come.

Related posts