As promised, a birch bark tutorial!
Since so many people seemed to love these tiny birch bark canoes, I thought I'd share how I make them.
What you'll need:
birch bark (bark, not birch paper)
raffia or waxed thread/artificial sinew
a sturdy needle
clothespins or small binder clips
I've found it really helpful to soak the birch bark for several hours or overnight before doing this project. It makes the bark more pliable and seems to keep it from tearing quite so easily. If your bark starts to dry out while you're sewing you can dunk it in a bowl of water or steam it with your steam iron (which is also a nice way to convince pieces of bark to lie flat since the bark wants to curl up. Perfect for making gift tags.).
Cut a rectangle of bark to the length and twice the height of the boat you want to make. The piece I've cut is about 2 1/2" x 2". Gently fold it in half but don't try to crease it. I lay my finger along the center and use even pressure when I fold.
Cut the top curve of the canoe while holding the top edges together, making sure to get a symmetrical cut.
Clip a clothespin on one end of your canoe to hold it in place while you cut the curves at the other end of the canoe, again making sure the two sides match up evenly. Repeat for the other side.
You now have your canoe shape and can begin to sew. Use the clothespins or binder clips to hold the ends together while you work or to hold the piece together if you have to leave the project for a minute.
Thread your raffia or waxed thread onto your needle and prepare to sew. You'll be sewing the entire canoe with one length of thread so make sure you snip a long enough piece. I cut about 20" for this tiny canoe.
note: if you have a dremel tool with a very tiny drill bit you can pre-drill your holes. This makes the job much easier and the bark is less likely to tear while sewing. If you don't have one it's OK, just sew carefully and keep a distance between your stitch holes and the edge of the bark.
Begin stitching at the bottom of one end, sewing through both layers of bark. Sew up the curve and over the top of the "point" using a whipstitch.
Hold a twig flush to the side of the canoe and whipstitch around it and the top edge of the canoe side.
When you reach the "point" on the other end of the canoe, stitch through both layers of bark, down then back up the second curved end, making an "x" or shoelace pattern.
When you reach the top of the curve your needle should be on the unfinished side of the canoe. Sew a twig to this side as you had done on the other side.
Sew the "x" pattern down the end curve, and tie a small knot at the end. Trim any excess twig and you have a canoe!
I choose to add some decorative stitches under the twig supports, but you can leave it as is if you'd like. You can add a loop to use as a hanging ornament also.
You can also simplify the process by just sewing each end and skip the twig supports. This style is more prone to tearing so handle these with care.
I made one of these canoes out of a cereal box for the boys to play with and the cardboard is a great weight to practice with. I think these would also be really sweet made out of felt.
This is a decorative canoe and won't float as is. By sealing the holes and weighting it properly though, it could be.
If you give this a try, I'd love to know how it turns out.
My PSA: I think it should be noted that I gather my birch bark from trees that fall in our woods. You can read about that process here. Although I've read that you can harvest birch safely from a live tree, it seems unnecessary and destructive to me. That's not my kind of thing. Birches are plentiful where I live, but if they're not plentiful in yours, I'd bet you can find some suppliers of sustainable bark online.