The ceaseless drizzle and pall of grey clouds that has descended upon New England and refuses to lift has taken its toll on my spirits of late, kind reader. Though I have been mostly house bound, and thus surrounded by craft materials and dozens of worthy projects, somehow all of these things fail to inspire, mired as we have been in all of this damp gloom. What to do, then? Well, I have been enjoying perusing the online collections of the National Museum of the American Indian and Harvard's Peabody Museum of Anthropology, and was inspired to dust off my beading supplies and small sack of loose dentalium shells and engage in a bit of Native American style craft work.
Following is an image of a small buckskin medicine bag that has been in my possession for some twenty years and has acquired quite an aged patina.
Many years ago I adorned it with a cowrie shell, and a strip of beadwork that I had done on a loom and (gasp!) glued onto the front of the bag. It didn't take long for the beadwork to fall off, leaving ugly patches of glue behind. This morning I decided it was high time to try out a beading technique I hadn't tried before: the so-called "lazy stitch", so as to cover the scars left over from the earlier adornment, and add a touch authentic Native American flair. The lazy stitch is a classic method for applying beads to leather; beads are stitched right onto the surface in tidy rows that may comprise a simple decorative strip or encompass a decorative expanse of beadwork on a vest, saddle bag, pair of leggings or the like. In learning the stitch, which is not difficult but does require some patience and an adherence to time tested techniques, I referred to Steve Nimerfro's guide entitled "Sioux Style Lazy Stitch Beadwork" published online by craft retailer Matoska Trading Company. I started by drawing a grid to represent the bead strip and then decided on a pattern, filling in the squares on the grid according to the bead colors I had chosen to use. Then I just translated the pattern I made up on the grid into actual beads, row by row, and stitched them on according to the instructions! I like the way it turned out-- not too bad for my first try!
I have a few more items I am eager to do lazy stitch on, most notably a buckskin shaman's cap I made about fifteen years ago that will benefit from strips of beadwork to cover the seams where the leather is sewn together. I will definitely post photos when I begin that project! I have a few other medicine bags that could use a little sprucing up... perhaps I should start a new FinderMaker segment called "Pimp My Medicine Bag" and invite readers to send in before and after photos of their medicine bag creations and alterations!
My second project, completed just last night, was inspired by this old necklace in the Peabody Museum's collection made by a member of the Karuk tribe in California:
Dentalium shells come from a type of Mollusk, and were used as an early form of currency by many Native American tribes. They were commonly strung on natural fiber thread and traded by the strand for goods or services. Strands were also bundled together and worn both as decoration and an outward symbol of wealth. I had a bag of small dentalium shells I had ordered online without any particular project in mind, and was delighted to finally be inspired to put them to use!
The shells are naturally hollow, but the pointed end is quite narrow, and needs to be nipped off so that a waxed thread may be passed through; they also tended to have bits of gravel lodged within, so it was necessary to run each one through with a stiff wire to clear the gravel before stringing. I was able to get seven strands from my one ounce bag ($3.50) which I then attached to a seven inch strip of rolled buckskin that would rest against the back of the neck (as the little pointy shells would be fairly uncomfortable against bare skin). This is how it turned out:
I really am quite thankful to all of the fellow FinderMakers who follow my blog. Knowing that there are folks out there who share my interest in finding and making things encourages me to stay active. Thanks so much for joining me here... I have so many projects to work on, and I look forward to sharing them with all of you!!!