The Barking Technique
Here at Handmade in Labrador we use a traditional local method to bark many of the fabrics we use in our products. We use a variety of local plants in our work including Labrador Tea, Alder, Birch and Spruce. With these, we are able to produce a variety of natural colours — yellows, mossy greens, greys and a traditional brown bark colour.
What is barking? The Dictionary of Newfoundland English tells us that barking means, "Immersing nets, sails, etc, in the liquid steeped from the bark and buds of conifers, as a preservative." A bark pot is a "large iron cauldron in which an infusion of conifer bark and buds is prepared," and something that is barked has been "preserved by immersion in the liquid steeped from conifer bark and 'buds'."
Traditionally, in Southern Labrador women used bark dying to colour cotton duck Cossacks (hooded coats) and trousers that men would wear out hunting. The white cotton duck was good camouflage in winter, but in the fall of the year a darker colour worked better as camouflage. Sealskin for skin boots was often barked as well, as a preservative.
How to Bark a Cossack
Kathleen O'Brien of West St Modeste, Labrador explains the process of barking a Cossack in this 2008 interview (CHE Collection, CHE-ID 45).