The cedar tree was a very versatile material, used by the First Nations peoples of the Pacific northwest. The bark yields a red dye and can be woven into baskets, hats and spun into fine clothing.
The inner layer of cedar bark was carefully removed from the tree, by making a horizontal cut in the bark. A portion of the soft inner bark was separated and rolled up and hung to dry. When dry. the bark was cut into strips, ready for making mats or baskets. The yellow cedar bark was soaked, boiled and beaten, similar to the retting process for flax fibers. Garments made from yellow cedar were soft and pliable and were worn to shed the rain
The image portfolio of the Curtis Collection has an amazing collection of photos of cedar bark clothing and life on Clayoquot Sound.
Julie Joseph was taught the ancient techniques of cedar bark weaving by her grandmother. Today she makes innovative use of this medium to create hats, baskets, dolls and wall hangings.
Other Indian artists also work with cedar bark, cedar root, bear grass, horse tail and other traditional materials. But many have difficulties finding the cedar trees that sustained their life for centuries. “It’s harder to find the materials now because – where are the cedar trees now? All the low lands and the swamps, they’re all gone, all logged off. Miles and miles of nothing.” Richard Cultee
More about Cedar Bark Weaving
Cedar Bark Dyes
I used cedar bark to dye wool. Here’s how I did it.
Cedar Bark Weaving – Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre – You Tube