Harvest & Process Natural Materials for Baskets, Rope, Drums, Bows, Arrows & More

Lead instructor, Chris Chisholm, teaching the many uses of willow. From aspiring to basketry, willow is one of our region's most important plants.
Lead instructor, Chris Chisholm, teaching the many uses of willow. From aspirin to basketry, willow is one of our most critical plants.

Saturday, January 26, 2019 Workshop from 10:30-5:30 in Puyallup, WA

Join us to learn critical skills of efficiently and honorably harvesting natural materials for making baskets, rope, drums, bows, arrows and so many other crafts of traditional living. We’ll harvest and prepare willow for baskets as well as medicine; stinging nettles for strong rope and nets as well as food; cattails for insulative coverings and mats; hazelnut for arrows as well as food; vine maple for bows; cedar for drums, and more.

Willow & Vines for Baskets & Medicine: Learn the best way to collect and propagate willow for many purposes, including bark for lashing, shoots for basketry, and leaves for aspirin. We have several willow species in our region, both native and naturalized, with some being more strong and flexible than others. We’ll also look for non-native vine species like ivy, clematis, wisteria, and other plants that work great for basketry, and show you how to properly prepare and store them for future use.

Vine Maple & Hazelnut for Bows & Arrows: We leave cedar bark basketry to Native specialists, but we do use fir and cedar roots for many things, as they are some of the strongest materials available, even when fresh. Similarly, vine maple branches are some of the strongest and most flexible materials anywhere, and a coiled basket from this tree is a beautiful sight to behold. In fact, vine maple and beaked hazel are our best, most abundant sources of material for bows and arrows! Growing all over Western Washington, hazelnuts are challenging to gather before the squirrels get them, but even if you have to buy the commercial variety called Filberts, you will learn that there is an amazing set of food products you can derive from them.

Nettles for Fiber Arts & Food: Process and spin our strongest abundant plant fiber for this region, to make rope for all sorts of projects. We will harvest and dry it, then spin it into cordage using various “reverse wrap” methods. Take home what you make for use over the coming year. You might never buy rope at the store again! And, we’ll enjoy some healthy nettle tea while we spin. learning to properly dry and store it for continual use as a tea tonic for improved health during the cold and flu season.

Workshop Participants Gathering Cattails

Cattails for Multiple Crafts & Food: Learn the gifts of the cattail as we gather leaves from our #1 survival food plant and dry them to craft useful items such as rope, pot holders, or with enough time, window shades! Cattail is our greatest source of carbohydrates in the wild which you can roast over the coals of a fire, and work together to separate flour from the starch-filled rhizomes, adding that to “ash cakes.” Cattail is also our most abundant source of “down” for insulation and as part of a tinder bundle and “carrying match” used for keeping embers alive when combined with dried nettle stalks and other materials.

• Cedar & Pine Families for Drums & More: Today, we’ll look for downed, seasoned cedar logs in preparation for drum rounds, but we’ll keep an eye out for salvaging pine family wood as well. Did you know that the pine family also includes spruce, larch, fir, and hemlock trees in addition to the “pseudo psuga” commonly known as Doulgas Fir? Amazingly, the entire world-wide family (pine, not cedar) seems to have common edible traits, but you have to remember that not all needle-bearing trees and shrubs are in the pine family. The pine nut, the pine needles, and even the cambium layer of pine bark are all edible. The first is high in fat and protein, the second is super high in vitimin C, and the last contains useful carbohydrates. You’ll also find out that pines are are highly useful many other things including construction of course, but not just for buildings and furniture. Many of them, like the Douglas Fir, make for great bedding, with boughs that provide a soft, aromatic sleep. In addition, that aroma is a hint that there are great medicinal qualities to pine.

Workshop Participant Harvesting Nettles

You’ll also have the choice of harvesting and using reed canary grasses, tule rushes, and other options in preparation to make other crafts of interest. You can take home materials you harvest, but if you would like to take home some of the materials we previously prepared and seasoned for baskets, bows, arrows, etc., we will request an additional contribution. We will also have our recommended field guides for sale, including Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Botany in a Day, and more. Finally, please note that we can only scrape the surface in a 7 hour workshop, so if you would like to learn to a more advanced level and have time to really practice your skills, please enroll in our 5 Day Summer Course: Wild Ethnobotany & Herbalism Training or Traditional Technologies: Skills of the Ancient Artisan.


$95, and just $85 per additional friend/family member.

Registration: Who & How

Our weekend workshops are designed for adults, but youth are also welcome to register with an enrolled parent or guardian.

Credit/Debit Card Registration Option: Just call us at 425-248-0253 and we will take your registration securely over the phone.

Check/Mail Registration Option: Send with a check donation payable to the Wolf College, 1026 14th St. SW, Puyallup WA 98371 with participant name(s), phone number, email address, age of any minors, and any allergies or health restrictions we should know about.

Or Use PayPal to register via secure online donation with a credit/debit card or via direct withdrawal from your bank account. Use the link below (might not be visible if you are using “reader view” on your phone or other device) or sign into paypal.com and “send money” to our email address: (we’ll get back to you with any additional information we may need)

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Refund Policy: Standard deposits ($100 for day programs, $200 for overnight programs) are not refundable unless we don’t accept your application. If you cancel in advance of the program start time for any reason, you may receive a full credit good through the following calendar year on appropriate and available programs listed on our schedule, although an additional deposit may be required to secure your spot in the future program. If a program you sign up for is canceled and not rescheduled at a time you can attend, you may receive a full refund except in case of natural (weather, geologic, etc) disasters, government shutdowns, conflicts or curfews, or other unforeseen emergencies making it impossible for staff and/or attendees to reach or use program locations, in which case all payments made will be held by us without expiration date for your future use in appropriate/available programs of your choice. No refund, nor credit, is given if a participant is asked to leave a program for inappropriateness as determined by our kids, youth and adult agreements for participation.

Preparation & Background:

Upon registration, we will email you driving directions and packing list. Although we have extra of the following items, do try to bring rubber boots and dish gloves for cattail harvesting, leather gloves and scissors for nettle harvesting, and clippers for willow harvesting. Also, please prepare as you normally would for a hike, including lunch, water bottle, 10 essentials, etc. and dress for the weather! Join us today and at any of our Weekend Workshops on themes of survival, wildlife and ethnobotany, and please contact us for carpooling information