as mentioned, yesterday my friend Em showed me how to do traditional cedar weaving, starting from harvesting the cedar bark all the way up to making a final product. i tried to take photos of steps along the way. please be assured that some of the bark can be removed from the tree without permanently hurting it - the first nations of the pacific northwest have been using cedar bark for thousands of years in this way. in fact not far from the tree we picked we found another tree that had been "culturally modified" in the same way - and saw how the bark was growing back to cover the scar.
first up, we found a suitable tree, a western red cedar, and then made a little offering and thanked the tree for sharing with us. then she made the first cut. we made a cut horizontally across a section of bark, and then a vertical slice on each side until we could pry up a section to grab hold of.
then we pulled up and the bark released along a length of the trunk until it came free. we pulled off several thin sections with a bit of work, although the bark does come off fairly easily in this way.
above you can see a cross section of the tree, showing the inner bark between the rough outer bark and the smooth wood of the tree. after pulling the bark from the tree, we thanked the tree again, and began on the next step. we peeled the desired inner layer from the outer bark. then we put the inner bark in a tub of water to soak and soften.
after the bark has softened, it often needs further work by making thinner strips that are easier to work with. Em then taught me to make basic cordage, which can be used for a variety of things but makes great bracelets and necklaces. but i still have a fair bit of cedar left, so i am doing some further research on weaving. perhaps eventually i will be able to make a hat like this.
the peoples of the pacific northwest traditionally use cedar for a variety of items including clothing and hats. if you are interested in a comprehensive look at how cedar plays a part in the first nations cultures of the coast, hilary stewart's book cedar is a wonderful resource. i am also hoping to perhaps incorporate some of the cedar into my stitch work; i would love to bring a bit more of the coast into my work this way.