Crafting has intrigued me for most of my life in some way or fashion. Five year old me would sit and attempt to emulate my grandmother while she crocheted. She had the patience to lovingly teach me her skill that I carried into my adulthood and will pass onto my girls. Yarn passing through my fingers as I create a warm wool hat or blanket for one of my children brings back many comforting childhood memories of her. All of my children, and my cousins’ children, have a “Grandma blanket”. Taking the yarn and adding stuffing to make a beloved toy was one of my obsessions for a while. Too bad that phase ended before we started having kids. Oh well, maybe one day I’ll pull out my old patterns and make some babies for my littles to play with.
Crochet went by the wayside as Ryan’s “hobby” became a full time job. Now our days are filled with leather. Little bags, big bags, knife sheathes, belt pouches, purses, belts, leather. All leather, all the time. Mark it. Cut it. Punch it. Sand it. Dye it. Sew it. Italian Calf. French Calf. French Bull. Deer hide. Buffalo hide. Cow Hide. Beeswaxed dipped. Vegetable tanned. Chrome tanned. Oil tanned. Going on 5 years now by the grace of God alone, between work and kids/cabin duties, there isn’t much time left for crochet “just because”. So my hooks are packed away until a new hat is needed, which I was just informed by Ryan will be soon enough. Our business has scratched my itch to create. Much to my husband’s dismay, my sewing machine and I have just never seen eye to eye so making clothes is out for now. Leather scratched my creative itch and I thought that was all I would need. Man I was wrong!
“I’m going to teach you to make baskets.” My neighbor was convinced that I needed to learn to make birch baskets. I have to admit that I wasn’t jumping out of my seat to learn, but it sounded cool enough so I tried it. What have I been missing my whole crafting life! Ryan has been reminding me how he brought up the idea of basket weaving many times before. Stubborn! Imagine how many baskets I could have made had I listened to him. Baskets have now filled every storage space available in the house. Need a place to store the 3yo’s duplos set? Oh look here’s a basket I made last night. No where to put all the fruit, yep I’ve got it covered. “Mommy, can I have a basket for my Legos?” Of course you can baby girl. A basket for everything and everything in it’s basket. That’s how that goes right?
Suddenly my little piece of the forest paradise became a whole new world of creative inspiration. Baskets had awakened a desire in me I never knew existed. Sadly, I was told that if I wanted to make baskets I would have to wait until mid June when the sap is up to peel my bark. Unacceptable! With my knife in hand, I promptly marched myself out to the wood pile to run an experiment. Could I harvest bark off of dead trees that we were going to burn? I could! I can! I do! Living in our cabin, birch is a daily requirement for cooking, heat, and hot water. Why bother with peeling live trees in the middle of mosquitopocalypse when I have an endless need for firewood. Instead of asking Ryan “how long until you’re done cutting wood” I now ask “hey do you need to cut more wood today?”
White, red, and my favorite, silver. Shiny, smooth, thin, and easy to weave. Depending on the age of the tree, I can rub off the outer layer and expose gorgeous undertones of deep red and rose mixed with the metallic tones. Being a thinner bark, it tickles the perfectionist in me (the result of years of leather torture, I mean work) because it will weave together nice and tight without gaps. Red is thin as well with beautiful undertones of yellow and orange, though not as prevalent on our property. White is the most common in our area. It is a fun one to work with as well. Varying from paper thin to too thick to touch, it is by far the most versatile. I love peeling off the outer layer and exposing the thin rose bark underneath. Big baskets to hold bathroom towels or books can be made with the thicker layers. Everything else can be made with the thinner layers. Baskets have become my new obsession and I can’t walk down the trail without fantasizing about the basket each tree could make.
Woven. Plaited. Square. Rectangle. Circle. Heart. I’ve even got a hexagon to try. Every basket is different. Distraction. Constantly. Put the kids to bed and midnight arrives before I know it thanks to baskets. If I’m not making one, I’m searching out new ideas. Did you know that in Finland there are traditional bast shoes made out of birch? Oh yes, I will crack that pattern. Therapy. Stress relief. Leather is misbehaving and not going the way it should? Put it down. Grab my knife. Peel a tree and make a basket. Life is better and I can refocus on work. Long, exhausting day keeping house, cooking, and tending to children? Pull out the bark and make a basket after they go to bed. It’s the best way to unwind and go to bed relaxed. Baskets make me happy. Baskets give me an outlet that is mine. Baskets have organized my house. Baskets are piling up on my porch waiting for new homes. Baskets. Baskets. Baskets. I’m a basketcase.