Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Since some of my friends and family are not on Facebook, you are missing some of my basketry activities.  I thought I'd update you on the newest basketry fiber.  Meet the Himalayan Blackberry.  The scourge of Northwest gardeners. 

Rewild Portland is a non-profit organization in Portland.
They recently posted a workshop description that was very enticing.  Unfortunately, I had a schedule conflict.
 "Rubus armeniacus, or as we call it Himalayan Blackberry, is a plant that despite its common name is native to Armenia and North Iran. Over the period of European colonization of North America, this plant has become a serious invasive. Its rigorous growth and thorny vines makes it a pain to remove. Its sweet and delicious berries are eaten by many animals, thus spreading its seed quickly and efficiently. We are happy to say that we have found a use for this plant (other than eating the berries) that will encourage more of its removal: its strong and durable bark provide a great material for weaving!"
So I arranged for a workshop in Eugene with my weaving friends, taught by Peter Michael Bauer.  We had a lovely day gathering, prepping and weaving with out new material.

After finding long canes with one or two years of growth, we had to take "prickles," not thorns, off by running our hands down the length.  The popped off fairly easily.

So here are the differences, as described by Wikipedia
-thorns are derived from shoots
-spines are derived from leaves
-prickles are derived from the epidermis (so they can be found anywhere on the plant, and don't have vascular bundles inside so they can be removed more easily and cleanly than thorns and spines

                                         Canes with prickles removed   

The next step is getting the inner bark.  Using a knife or your clippers, you make a cut into the butt end of the cane.  Then you split the cane, almost like you are preparing cedar bark.  
The bark is peeled down the sides of the inner wood, and then we scraped off the outer bark.  

Some people ended up with fairly wide (1/3 to 1/2") strips.  (Not me.)

Peter showed how to plait this braid.  The older growth is darker.

The original plan was to make a sun visor.  However, we didn't get that far.  I think that most of us were just happy to find a new, free, abundant weaving material.
Peter's visor; plaited and twined.

It makes very strong cordage, also.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful, and timely: The old goose-yard is full of blackberry vines!