Tag Archives: Native American Crafts

Summer 1978 #tbt

This is where I spent my summer in 1978. #tbt

OSR Tipi Exterior

OSR Tipi Exterior, Dwight McKay

This is the tipi I lived in as part of the staff at Onteora Scout Reservation in upstate New York. This was taken as they were finishing pitching the tipi. I was part of the Troop Leader Training group that ran at OSR before the start of camp, so I was not able to help with the tipi set up, but was able to go visit the tipi for a few minutes while TLT was running. Here’s the interior.

OSR Tipi Interior

OSR Tipi Interior, Dwight McKay

This was my first “dream job”. I taught native crafts, wore native clothing much of the time and loved every minute of it. I learned a lot that summer.

Quill Work

At last month’s Tecumseh Lodge meeting in Indy, Larry Kincer taught a class in quill work. I’ve wanted to give quill work a try, so I was glad to have the opportunity. Embroidery with porcupine quills is an old (17th century) method of native american clothing decoration. Dyed quills are wrapped or woven in patterns.

Quillwork, front side

Frontside of my quillwork practice piece.

We used pre-dyed quills Larry brought and worked on wrapping them in simple rows on strips cut from a plastic container. Thin strips of rawhide would be the preferred material once you get the hang of wrapping, but the plastic strips worked OK for practice. After clipping off the barb from the quill, the quill is softened either by soaking in water or holding it in your mouth. Next, the quill is flattened either by running it between your teeth or using the back of spoon or knife blade. The flattened quills are wrapped around the strip, once or twice depending on length. The end of each quill is bend over beginning of the next quill and the wrapping covers the ends so that they hold each other in place as you can see in the picture below.

Quillwork practice, back side

My practice quillwork piece, back side.

Handling the quills requires some care and a tolerance for occasionally being pricked by the sharp barbs. The barbs are shaped so that your own muscle motion pulls the barb deeper into your skin. Larry had a porcupine hide with him with the guard hair and quills still on. The hide is covered with quills! You can readily see why you would not want to go grabbing one of these animals bare handed!