Beautiful Basketry From Maple Suckers: Minnesota Crafting

Updated on May 30, 2018
An attempt to create a useful basket from some small trees growing from the side of the maple tree in my yard.
An attempt to create a useful basket from some small trees growing from the side of the maple tree in my yard.

Trees Meet a Basket Maker

Every year, our maple trees get a cluster of small trees at the base known as suckers. They really don't have any practical purpose, and we usually hack them off. This year, I decided to use them in a basket project. I haven't made a basket in over 45 years, so I wasn't sure if I could actually accomplish anything constructive.

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gathered a good amount of suckersbroke off the leaves and small branchesbend and snap downwards
gathered a good amount of suckers
gathered a good amount of suckers
broke off the leaves and small branches
broke off the leaves and small branches
bend and snap downwards
bend and snap downwards

1. Gather the Branches

In our front yard, there are several trees that needed their suckers removed. Out I went with a pair of scissors and clipped as many as I could, removing the leaves and small branches. I carried them to the house and proceeded to the dining room table.

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simple pattern on sidessimple and straightforward on bottomclose up of bottom
simple pattern on sides
simple pattern on sides
simple and straightforward on bottom
simple and straightforward on bottom
close up of bottom
close up of bottom

2. Get Inspired

I had a basket that I keep candy in and used it as a light pattern as to what to do. It seemed to have cross pieces and side pieces, all connected in the bottom. There were longer pieces that went up the sides and flipped over.

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remove other branch as wellthere will be strips of barkcut the bark along the length of the suckerstrike with mallet until bark is looseneddiscard branches and leaves
remove other branch as well
remove other branch as well
there will be strips of bark
there will be strips of bark
cut the bark along the length of the sucker
cut the bark along the length of the sucker
strike with mallet until bark is loosened
strike with mallet until bark is loosened
discard branches and leaves
discard branches and leaves

3. Work With the Branches

I took the longer pieces and removed the bark carefully and had a long strip. Then, I used a wooden board and a rubber mallet to smash my way across the length. It didn't take long, and I had a strip of bark that was ready to be used. The sucker was now stripped of bark. I set it aside to use later.

I didn't use the leaves. I simply pulled them off the branches and discarded them. All I used was the bark and the actual sucker two ways: with bark and without bark.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
see how bark just peels offbare twighere's the bark, ready to use as possible stringhang on chair while waiting to usecross bar pattern for bottom of basketFill in space with extra twigstart weaving the bark around, over and under and repeat
see how bark just peels off
see how bark just peels off
bare twig
bare twig
here's the bark, ready to use as possible string
here's the bark, ready to use as possible string
hang on chair while waiting to use
hang on chair while waiting to use
cross bar pattern for bottom of basket
cross bar pattern for bottom of basket
Fill in space with extra twig
Fill in space with extra twig
start weaving the bark around, over and under and repeat
start weaving the bark around, over and under and repeat

4. Drill a Hole

I drilled a hole in my board and had a metal piece holding all my twigs in place. Then, I used some finishing nails to hold my twigs in place in the shape I wanted.

Use the mallet to break the sucker into strips. It's hollow and should break easily.
Use the mallet to break the sucker into strips. It's hollow and should break easily.

5. Use the Mallet

Use the mallet to break the sucker into strips. It's hollow and should break easily.

Use the bark and strips in and over-and-under pattern to create a basket.
Use the bark and strips in and over-and-under pattern to create a basket.

6. Use the Bark and Strips

Use the bark and strips in and over-and-under pattern to create a basket.

To Be Continued...

I ran out of bark and twigs, so I am at a standstill for this project. It's also 93°F outside, so I suppose I won't be continuing this for a while.

Hopefully, you will be inspired to create something from your suckers.

Questions & Answers

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      • firstcookbooklady profile image
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        Char Milbrett 3 weeks ago from Minnesota

        Thanks, Larry Rankin. Thanks for your comment!

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 3 weeks ago from Oklahoma

        Very cool!

      working

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