Native hands bark containers

Sewing the bark containers with willow strips

Today we went on an adventure into the woods. Steph brought me this day as my Christmas present and it links nicely into our trying a new thing every month!

We met in some beautiful woods where you can wild camp, Dernwood farm near Waldon. Ruby from native hands took us into her special space in the woods to learn how to make bark containers from foraged wood to completed piece.

The sweet chestnut coppice

Carrying my sweet chestnut branch back to camp

Firstly Ruby took us to cut down the wood from the sweet chestnut coppice she taught us about tree care and why they cut the trees right down to allow more to grow. We fell in love with the pruning saw and had to purchase one on our way home! We also collected some willow branches which can be used to make the bark containers, today however we were using the willow bark as our thread.

Our bounty

Then we built the fire and had some fruit tea, we are both avid coffee drinkers but embraced the fruitiness! Then to our practice debarking! Actually all went really well, scored with the knife and the used our handmade spud and good old fingers to ease the bark off in one piece. Practiced folding it into a pocket then had some lunch.

Handmade spud tool and bark stripped from small and large log, sneaky ruler to find the centre.

Removing the bark from the large piece was a lot harder to keep in one piece and I managed to split the end which actually worked in my favour in the end! Once you had your piece ready it was time to score an eye shape in the bottom to help fold the bark. Tricky……..

Folded without breaking phew! Now to trim the top.

Once the pieces were trimmed and lined up it’s time to drill holes in the bark for your willow thread. My piece of bark naturally had an overlap so I got to use the power tools to make my holes great in theory, difficult in practice as had to then try and thread together in a small gap! Steph used Ruby’s handmade palm drills which are just stunning made from antique handles they fit so beautifully in tour hand.

Threading together

The thread is made by scraping the outer bark off and using the inside piece. Stripping this off and then cutting into fine pieces with a sharp point that dries to create your needle I used a running stitch due to my overlap and Steph did a cross stitch to join the edges together. Fiddly work especially in an unpredictable hail storm and with smoke from the fire in your eyes but we love a challenge!

Once the two pieces are together then it was time to create a bark rim using a small piece from the original piece of bark and place it around the top to reinforce your opening as this is a natural material it will dry, shrink and colour differently over time, we shall enjoy watching the changes. Then more holes drilled and adding the thread around the top and we are done!

Cup of tea to warm up!

We really enjoyed our day in the woods and felt very at one with nature. If you are ever in Sussex do check out Ruby and native hands but wear lots of warm clothes!

Our finished bark containers!

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