Root baskets are a distinctive rustic craft made from an unexpected resource. We don’t think of roots as being a necessarily useful material, but they have several benefits for a craft making material.
Growing underground and twining around rocks and through different types of soil gives them a unique texture, usually knobby and gnarled.
A good sized tree will reflect with its roots the size of the above ground growth, so imagine that a yard tree or one in a park setting that is 20 meters (65') across from drip line to drip line will have a huge amount of roots.
Of course, not all of those will be useful for crafts, but it gives you an idea of how long the roots are.
You can encourage the growth of the roots by root pruning, or slicing down around the base of the tree or shrub in the years prior to digging it up.
If you do this only in certain sections, you don’t even have to kill the tree to harvest the roots, simply dig up those areas and replace them with new soil.
This will encourage yet more fine roots to grow into the new soil.
Once you harvest the roots, gently shake off any clinging soil, and coil the roots to dry naturally.
Depending on the type of tree, some remain supple for years, others tend to dry and crack.
Spruce is renowned for its flexibility, and was used for centuries by First Nations people for baskets and other utilitarian items.
Larch roots are used for many crafts, including baskets and other utilitarian items.
Other types of plants that may have useful roots are Thymus, the herb and small ground covering plant that we know and love for its scent and attractiveness to bees.
Digging up an entire thyme plant is sometimes necessary, and as they really dislike root disturbance it sometimes spells doom to the plant, but you can use the long winding roots for crafts such as small baskets or bows to decorate a twig wreath.