Cover the entire fan handle with leather by cutting roughly to fit and gluing with white glue. While the glue is still wet, pinch the ends of the leather together in back to ensure a snug, smooth fit (Figure 25). Any extra leather should be trimmed off with scissors after the glue dries. Figure 26 shows the front of a handle that is covered with buckskin and ready to bead.
You are now ready to proceed with beading your fan handle. The method used for covering fan and gourd handles is known as “gourd stitch” or “peyote” beadwork. In choosing beads, I recommend size 13/0 seed beads or smaller, and Czech “Cut” Beads are ideal because of the reflective flat areas on each bead. Other beads are acceptable and Indian craftsmen often mix regular seed beads with “cuts” if they wish to use a color that is not available in cut beads. There are 3 different gourd-stitch techniques which are used on fan handles, and I will describe the most common, which consists of repeating units of 3 beads, as shown in Figure 27.
Before picking up any beads, it is important to understand that the beads used must be carefully selected so as to fit together evenly and neatly, almost like bricks in the wall of a building. If the beads are uneven, the design will not be uniform and the work will appear “lumpy” instead of smooth.
On the other hand, irregular beads can be used to advantage when adding beads, as described below.
In order to begin beading, you must first determine how many beads will be required to go completely around the handle at a point close to the bottom edge, where you will begin the beadwork. Anchor your thread to the buckskin, as shown in Figure 28, “Starting the Unit”, and wrap a string of beads around the handle so that they fit snugly against one another. Do not begin exactly at the bottom edge of the handle, as the beads and thread will tend to slip off.
For this technique, you should use a number divisible by 6; however, sometimes the diameter of the handle does not allow this. If a multiple of 6 will not work, then you must use a number that is divisible by 3. If divisible by 6, there will be an even number of “units” that will best adapt themselves to some of the design elements used in this technique; however, a number divisible by 3 can be used if necessary. A slight bit of space between the beads is preferable to having too many beads, as the work will then be too loose and tend to slide around on the handle. After determining the number of beads the handle will accommodate, remove 1/3 of them. For example, if you have 30 beads around the handle, take off 10 and keep them separate, as you will soon need to put them back on.
To begin the actual beading, run your needle through the first bead for a second time, pulling it snugly against the knot. See Figure 28. Push all but the first 3 beads back around to the right so as to keep them out of the way for now, as shown in Figure 29. Pick up one of the 10 beads you removed previously, and going over the top of the second bead, run your needle through the 3rd bead on the string. Pull these 3 beads