While staying in everett as a guest alf, i met sweetwater nannauck, also a guest of the sterlings. sweetwater, a tlingit woman, made several offerings to the alc. This blog post is A way of recording one of those offerings: the process of using traditional cedar weaving techniques to make a Cedar pouch for hanging around the neck.
Preparation time: 3+ hours depending on how many hands you have available.
Weaving time: 1hr+ depending on how dexterous you are.
- Cedar bark, purchased from the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center art market. This had been stripped months earlier and I understand had already been cleaned up a little (removing the roughest outer layer).
- Jerry Stripper – purchased from a leather supply store.
- Leather strips – to be used for the necklace.
- Raffia – to be used to tie off the weaving. (available grasses would traditionally be used).
Many thanks to Sweetwater Nannauck for sharing this knowledge with our community.
Before you begin: The last and most important step is also the first step. You have to give your first piece of work away as a gift. Remember this as you do your work.
- Clean the Cedar so that the rough (darker) parts are removed from the top-side. This takes a lot of time scraping.
- Soak the Cedar for ten minutes so that it is pliable again.
- Put the razor blades into the Jerry Stripper at the desired width for the strips.
- Mount the Jerry Stripper onto a solid table surface. Note: This tool is not meant for cutting such thick material, so it will need a group of people to hold it in place to prevent it from slipping or breaking.
- Pull the Cedar through the Stripper. To start you will need to push the cedar over the blades, leaving enough space at one end for you to pull from. (We used pliers to grab the starting section).
- With a team of people holding the Stripper in place, pull the cedar through evenly, so that the blades can cut it into strips.
- Once all of the material has been taken through the Stripper, remove the Jerry Stripper and put it away. It will not be needed again.
- Now separate all of the individual strips into piles to keep the workflow neat.
- Then take a single strip and split it in half – the topside and the bottom side need to be separated evenly. Go slowly, or you will end up breaking it. Repeat this step for every strip of cedar.
- Soak some pieces of Raffia. This will also be used to finish up the weaving.
PART A: The Base.
- Collect 14-16 strips of prepared cedar. Lay them out in a grid. X and Y. The X axis pieces should be shorter than the Y axis. These will be cut later, so they don’t need to be too long. You may like to keep pieces of the same color on the same axis, facing the same way.
- Weave the middle X axis piece through all of the Y axis pieces. Over, Under…
- Repeat this step for the other X axis pieces. There are alternative ways to weave patterns here, but the basic format is often the best. So the X-axis pieces above and below the middle strip will start: Under, Over…
- Repeat this step, tightening things up as you go along. You shouldn’t be able to see any holes between an X and Y piece. When this is done, you have built the base.
PART B: The Front.
- Take the bottom strips of your Y-axis and fold them upwards so they lay flat against the base and point up to the top of the Y-axis.
- Fold over the X-axis strips from one side. You will cut these so it is important that they are laying flat against the base. Cut them short against the far side of the base. Repeat this for the other side of the X-axis.
- Now start from either side and take the first strip and weave it through the Y-axis pieces. Take the other side of this same X-axis piece and weave it back over the Y-axis piece as well. It should be weaving over and under the exact same as the other side. It should be quite tight. Cut off any over hanging cedar now.
- Repeat the process above. Remember to pull the Y-axis pieces up tight as well, or you will end up with a sort of growing turtle shell shape.
- Once all of the pieces are woven together you have completed the front.
PART C: Finishing
- Separate the front Y-axis strips from the Back ones. Fold the 7-8 Front strips in half, so that the ends point down (over The Front).
- Repeat this step for the back side.
- Take a piece of Raffia, and tie it around a BACK piece. Loop it around the piece next to it and then twist off. Repeat this around each of the folded Y-axis strips. They should be hanging down like odd shaped teeth – this is fine. You are creating an evenly folded loop at the top.
- When you get to the last BACK piece, continue around the Front. Then continue again until each piece has been wrapped around by the Raffia twice. You should have created loops at the top which are flush with each other all around. The loose hanging teeth pointing downwards will be tidied later. You will need to tie off the Raffia. You could cut it off or make it into a bow or what-have-you. [This should be on the BACK, so it should not be visible when worn].
- Now take the piece of leather that you will use to hang the weaving from. If you are going to wear this around your neck, measure out the leather accordingly.
- Take the leather and poke it through all of the BACK Y-axis loops that you have just created with the Raffia. Now pull the BACK teeth down tight over the leather piece. The odd teeth should now be much longer.
- Pull the front Teeth down as well, but be careful not to pull them past the twists of Raffia. There is nothing else keeping these pieces from coming undone. As the piece dries this will not be a problem.
- Once all of the front and back Y-axis strands are flush at the loop, you can cut the teeth into whatever shapes you like. I cut mine into a chevron/arrow and then split the strands up the middle to make them look more delicate.
You can tie the leather around your neck however you like. I youtube’d how to make a couple of sliding knots. Tommie Sterling threaded his necklace with beads. Sweetwater suggested we could further decorate the pieces by sewing beads in patterns over the weaving.
Remember: the final step is giving your work to someone …as a gift.