Spruce Roots

Tall spruce trees with straight branches have good straight roots. Spruce roots are dug out about three feet from a tall spruce tree growing in a mossy place. Very light reddish-brown coloured roots are the best as they are young and strong, black roots are older and break easily. The roots the size of a pencil or little bigger are a good size to work with. Straight long roots are easier to split and the basket maker does not have to stop and add new roots frequently. The roots are coiled and stored in a cool place in a plastic bag to keep them moist. They can be frozen as freezing does not hurt them.

It is best to gather the roots in June, when the sap is running, as the bark comes off easier then. A rainy day in June is an ideal time to harvest spruce roots. Any other month the bark is very hard to peel off.

The root is either split in half and the bark is scraped off with a knife or boiled for one hour. If the roots are prepared by boiling, after the bark has been removed the roots should be scraped with the back of the knife to squeeze out any excess water. The process makes the roots soft and pliable. Spruce roots are split starting at the thick end. A split is started with a knife, holding each half with the thumbs and forefingers pulled away form each other. The remaining fingers keep the root straight. It is common to hold one side in the mouth and the other with one hand leaving a hand free to ensure the remaining root is kept straight.

Only the outside pieces of the root should be used for stitching, as they are soft and pliable. The roots are trimmed evenly with a knife and one end is sharpened to a point for sewing. If they are not to be used immediately they are coiled and dried for storage. The roots can be moistened again in a bowl of water when needed.