Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poplar Bark Baskets!

We spent the first half of class today working on our black ash baskets. We were all in different stages of the process. I spent class working through the frustrations, but eventual joy, in weaving. Some students went on to put the rims on their baskets. Liz finished hers. Check it out! Pictured as well is Bru finishing up the rim on her beautiful basket.

During the second half of class we learned to make baskets out of Poplar bark. Poplar is also known as Quaking Aspen and Popal. This project proved to be nice and easy compared to the tedious work of making the black ash baskets. Here are the steps we

1) Using a safety knife, we made slits down a nice, smooth section of the tree. The longer the piece, the wider the basket, the wider the tree, the taller the basket.

2) Next, we peeled the bark off of the tree. It is amazing how easily the bark slides off. Jodi tol
d us that the wet, inner part of the Poplar makes for good sunscreen.

3) Now we can form o
ur baskets. With a knife, we cut an eye-shaped line running about half-way through the bark in the middle of the bark piece. This allows us for a bottom to the basket when we fold up the two sides.

4) We then stitched together the two sides to close up the baskets. We used nylon string and a baseball stitch.

5) Using a slice of leftover bark, we stitched on rims for the baskets. The inner-side of the bark is on the outside for this piece.

And that's all! There are many opportunities to be creative with these baskets and each one is very different because all trees are different. These baskets will dry out and harden. I love how much these baskets look like the material that we were using. We completely transformed the look of the bark that we used for the black ask baskets.
These, however, remind us moreso of the trees we used to make them with.


  1. This was a nice little break from the black ash baskets for me. Ive been struggling with mine a bit and was really glad to do something that was a bit easier and less time consuming :)The bark baskets also inspired me a bit more probably because I didnt have to struggle with it as much.

  2. Finishing up the black ash basket was more tedious than i anticipated. i was done with weaving and thought finishing up would be a piece of cake but tucking in those uprights proved to be quite a challenge. The biggest issue i had was that my uprights were too short and didn't always make it all the way over and down to be tucked into the next row of weaving, so i had to insert little strips of bark to hold the pieces in place. the result was very eye pleasing though, and now i only need to finish threading the rim and i'll finally have my basket!
    The poplar baskets were really fun to make. i was concerned at first that my piece was showing signs of cracking, but once i had both sides sown together and the rim placed on top it held its shape beautifully. I also liked that you can score designs into the exterior and use this simple method to add character and aesthetics to such a simple basket. I must admit though, that even though it was much harder to make and more time consuming, the ash bark basket is my personal favorite for its amazing beauty and detail.

  3. I really enjoyed weaving and finishing up the black ash baskets. It was really frusterating the first few rows but after I got them it was really easy. Having uprights that are a uniform length and thickness would make it much easier to bend them and tuck them into the next row of weaving. I wish that my basket had neater corners I felt like they were kind of lose and maybe I should have used more uprights, or clips to give it a better shape. Overall it turned out pretty well though. The bark basket I was making was kind of a pain in the butt due to it cracking or splitting. I also have to sew the bottom and it killed my fingers. I have yet to finish it but hopefully leaving it soaking in water will keep it pliable enough to not crack.

  4. Nice post Hannah! I am a huge fan of the poplar bark baskets. They are quick and easy to make, look really neat, and are functional. The only problem I had was trying to use almost the whole circumference of the tree bark to make the pouch. Because it wants to naturally curve the bark started to crack in a few spots. Next time I try it I will only use half the circumference of the tree for a narrower more stable basket.

  5. I had some problems with the poplar baskets. when sowing became more on spots where the bark was knotted I had trouble pushing the needle trough as a result the bark started breaking. Also, I'm not the best with needle work. That may have had something to do with it.

  6. I was able to make my bark basket with relative ease, as far as stitching goes, it was just tedious. I got a little too ambitious with the size of my basket though, and it ended up cracking down the middle. The one part that was difficult for me was trying to stitch the rim on, which ended in me breaking my thread, dashing my basket to the ground and throwing my arms up in despair...... except not really, I'm not that dramatic. I really want to learn how to use other barks though, like birch or hickory. Hickory bark is TOUGH. I peeled some off of a handle blank I had lying around, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't break it. Another cool bark related thing i learned the other day is that, in old logging camps, the loggers used to build their own shelters out of pole timber for the frame, and huge swaths of bark for the walls. We're talking foot tall, 5 foot wide pieces of bark here.... ridiculous...