Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cradle status

making good progress on my soft, newborn cradle...finished beading the hood with the exception of a narrow strip of dark red in the front that will be added along with an inner liner; tab is done except to cut the fringe; calico is attached to the hood except for a small opening in the back where the tab slides in; rawhide stiffner is all cut and shaped and will go between the beaded hood and inner lining; last is to finish out the seams on the calico. I had taken the fabric to a local seamstress so she could make a nice clean seam but I picked it up, thinking I could do it myself...I didn't want to cut too much and sew alot of seams so I simply folded the fabric and will cover it with the inner lining (which may be some green fleece I have on hand or I may dig thru the remnant bin at Hobby Lobby).

wod comes that baby and parents are moving back to the States after living abroad for the past few years; mom says not to ship anything to London as they are living out of suitcases. I will personally deliver when I go to NYC for labor Day weekend. The baby will be almost too big by then (new born cradles were used age 0-4 months) but it was unlikely to be used much anyway. I ordered a wampum button as a special touch; the Dutch set up the colony of New Amsterdam to trade east coast clam shell beads (wampum) for furs that came down from Iroquois country via the Hudson River. Later the British pushed the Dutch out and renamed the colony New York. The European movement of wampum into the woodland interior continued for centuries and became an important aspect of economic, social and political relations. These shells were expensive then and now; a single button cost $15 so the little guy only gets 1. The shells are becoming more scarce due to coastal pollution so are even harder to get...

this new development gives me time to work on the lizard amulet for his umbilical cord; hope to have both ready when I go east.

May try out the cradle on a neighbor's baby just to see how it fits; no doubt this will require some lengthy explanation...

Sunday, July 25, 2010


awhile ago I decided I wanted a new pow wow dress but I don't sew and don't have a sewing machine. A friend offered to make it, but then she had a baby and life got busy (plus she has all her own sewing & beading projects). Still I recently bought the fabric: dark green wool with 3 color bands along the edge (known as 3-band wool broadcloth)...I had hope to get saved list stroud cloth but decided it was just too expensive for now ($89 a meter vs $39 a yard for the broadcloth). Heres the image from the pattern (and in green!). And I have been slowly buying up brass sequins for some decoration. I asked another friend to consider making it for me and am waiting for her reply; she made my lovely green dance fan and sews Caddo clothes. I added a link to her webpage if anyone is needing custom made regalia (see bottom right for her link).

Trade cloth dresses replaced hide ones on the plains later than in other areas, but by the reservation years the buffalo were gone and missionary women were offering sewing instructions. For more on native women's sewing circles see

Today many women dance in cloth; it is more affordable than hide and easier to work. It gets hot out west during pow wow season so many have cotton dresses; I hope wool will be better suited to my new life in the Chicago region. I will eventually make my moccasins, a belt with large brass conchos (silver is more common but I think the brass adds an older look and will go nicely with my green fabric), belt bags and all else. Think I discussed this in one of my earliest postings at this time last I am a year older and still don't have my clothes together; time to refocus!!

PS: my friend Tracy has agreed to take on my dress project, says she has wanted to work with this wool fabric, but had not yet had the opportunity and looks forward to making something other than Caddo clothes (which are very lovely and usually purple). We will work out some trade (which I think is more fun than cash money anyway) and I sent her copies of 2 excellent books: "Identity by Design" and "19th Century Plains Indian Dresses" as both are fantastic reference books.

My neighbor (who has a furniture repair shop and more importantly a pick-up truck) gave me a big sheet of plywood recently so I can stretch the hide for my moccasins....its looking like that may be a good project to finally start!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

ball #1

finished my first ball using one seen at the Cowen's auction site for inspiration (simple design until I better understand this process)...turned out ok, looks like a ball anyway. Should be stuffed a bit more but getting it all closed up was more important for now.

white lusters arrived from Noc Bay so its time to stop playing with this ball project and get back to serious cradle business!!

A post script: sent this ball to Tracy's son Phillip (a handsome young man with a foot in the Kiowa/Caddo and non-Indian worlds) who says he loves it so I feel inspired to make another one soon!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beaded Balls

for quite some time I have been wanting to work on beaded balls. Now I have the time while I wait for the back ordered white beads needed to complete my soft cradle cover (an email reply from Noc Bay says they may be in late this week or early next week). So to keep myself busy I decided to begin a small ball project; I had posted a question on the Pow wow craft forum and a reply suggested making the cover in 4 sections, then bead & assemble. I found a 4 section ball pattern on the internet, cut some chamois weight deer hide and sewed pretty well. I have now marked out 2 sections on hide (stretched in an embroidery hoop) and am laying down simple singe needle applique lines of 8/0 pony beads in white, dark blue & light blue and will add a small line of red to cover the seams. It looks a bit klunky; have never used ponies before and they seem so big! May try again with seeds for a tighter look.
A search of the web finds a few balls, mainly in auction websites where they bring $100-200 each. These photos of Lakota balls all appear to be made from seed beads and generally date from the 1880s & 1890's, the late Reservation period that saw an explosion of beadwork production. Generally Lakota girls used them in puberty rites, but other native communities made balls for play toys (Naisha girls played with hide and later rag balls). Presumably newly made ones are for collectors to display rather than children's play or girl's initiation. I hate the idea of my things being placed in a curio cabinet and not fully enjoyed so I'll send my 1st one to a friend who has a son, hopefully he can give me some analysis of its use as a toy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Southern Plains blanket strips

Left: a William Soule photo, simply listed as Kiowa-Apache brave, taken at Ft. Sill sometime in the early 1870s. Note the unusually large rosettes on this blanket strip, probably done in white and dark blue beads on hide with sinew, then sewn onto a wool trade blanket. This art form is usually associate with Lakota, Cheyenne and other northern tribes, although blanket strips are also seen in Kiowa ledger art. I don't know of any museum held pieces that are identified as Kiowa-Apache (Naisha); beadwork done by Southern Plains people at this time tends to be less elaborate than northern forms so these may have been valued trade items or gifts from Cheyenne or Arapaho friends/kin.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bead matching

here is a great site for information about vintage beads:

the European hobby folks seem super obsessed with getting all the right colors etc and this is important for museum restoration work as well. There is always controversy in the museum & collector worlds if some thing should be repaired; as a beader I say yes...someone worked hard to make a nice project; missing beads can easily be added (especially if they can be appropriately matched) and it returns the project back to a state of completeness (which was the craft worker's intent). The photo page at this website has a very interesting read on how some of this restoration work is done. I think this would be a very interesting job!

I like the vintage colors, they seem softer...northern folks (Crow etc) use pastels and because of the Crow/Kiowa kinship we see some of these down in Oklahoma too. I don't do much work with the old colors as they are usually a bit more expensive to buy, but I think they would be good for just the right type of project (perhaps a male doll). I should just add 1 or 2 to each order and slowly develop a little pile, saved for special occasions!

I've been thinking of this more as I plan out Ray's blanket strip...old ones were made with pony beads and some new ones are in seed. I don't see much of a price difference, especially when buying in larger quantity such as a kilo (hank=24 strings, kilo=12 hanks). I'm leaning towards 8/0 pony beads and found a William Soule photo of an unidentified Naisha man with blanket taken at Ft Sill sometime in the early 1870's ...I may adapt his strip design which has a white background and most likely a dark blue for contrast. This piece has unusually large rosettes; hard to determine exact dimensions, but the wide strip appears more than 4 inches and the rosettes must be close to 8! Its a remarkable beading effort...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

cradle tab

now that I have run out of white beads for the cradle project I need to think of what to do next...although I have no real instructions, the Whispering Wind article briefly mentions a rawhide stiffener which probably held the heavy beaded section up off the baby's head...(these were used in the other style of cradles too) so I will need to cut and trim and then soak & shape. I also need to bead the square tab (article says this was made from rawhide but I will make mine from buckskin as its easier to bead). Tabs were apparently decorated in a variety of ways including fringe, bells, beads, thimbles, beads etc so this will be fun to make. Not sure if it needs to be rigid and I don't know if it had a function or was merely decorative.
Once I have all the elements completed it shouldn't take too long to assemble them together. I would however prefer to finish all the bead work before I move on to another aspect but I can work around the time delay...

While I wait for the white beads (that have been back ordered) I can also start a lizard amulet for Connor's umbilical I did before I will stuff it with polyfill & sage, then leave it partially open for mom to fill and finish sewing closed.

So there is plenty more to do but its moving along...