It was pretty windy in London earlier this week, resulting in quite a few branches ending up on roads and pavements. We have a lot of lime trees around us, and on walking past some fallen branches I noticed that on some of them the outer bark had split and separated, with layers of inner bark, or bast, clearly showing.
Why did I bother picking these up? Well, I remembered an article in the Basketmakers’ Association newsletter last year about making cordage from lime bast. The author, Helen Leaf, explained that to prepare the bark you need to soak it to allow the layers of fibre to delaminate and separate. Apparently this soaking can take up to six weeks, ideally in a slow-moving stream or river, during which time the bark starts to rot and smell of “vegetative decay”.
I remember thinking then that this was probably something I would never try. We do have a garden pond, but it’s currently full of frogspawn and I don’t think ESP would appreciate the smell! However, it seems that the combination of rain, strong winds, and car tyres might be an alternative way of delaminating lime bark in more urban environments. 🙂
So I separated the bast from the outer bark and the wood. The bast itself comes in several layers, some quite smooth, others more mesh like, with lots of holes.
I soaked it for a little while to help scrape off the remaining bits of outer bark, and then split it into thinner strips.
Then I made cordage in the usual way. Lime bast is more fibrous than, say, day lily leaves or daffodil stalks, which feel quite silky when they are dampened. But it feels a lot stronger.