12. The front side of the sheath must now be lightly hydrated (moisturized). Remove the clamps and take a clean rag and wet it with warm water. Wring out about Â¾ of the water, then lay the rag over the entire surface of the sheath. Allow this to soak in for about 15 minutes.
Remove the rag and wipe the hide down with a dry cloth. Wipe all in one direction, the same as before. The moisture may have caused little knaps of tissue to raise up, but wiping down will put them back in place, and they will eventually dry back into the surface.
Painting the Hide
13. The first step in painting the design is to do the outlining, if outlining is part of the design. (Some tribes typically do not outline their designs. Outlining is done with a very fine line, usually in either black or brown, but sometimes other colors are used. Use the wood stylus and the appropriate paint color to practice making fine lines on the damp inside surface of your sheath. To avoid splotches, use very little paint on the brush/stylus. This is slow work and requires a steady hand. Do NOT first draw lines with a pencil and ruler, as the pencil lines will show through, and the finished piece will not look “Indian”. (Indians didn’t have rulers.) Tip: Make a tiny pencil dot at the start and end of a line, then use free-hand with the paint brush to connect the dots. Remember, this work is not supposed to look “perfect”.
Begin outlining. (It’s easier to begin in the middle and work out.) As you apply the paint with the wood brush, press the point into the rawhide with a little pressure. This helps the paint to penetrate more deeply. After you’ve outlined about half of the design, begin filling in the designs (Step 14). The idea is to outline and complete portions so that your paint brush hand is not placed on previously painted areas.
Filling In the Designs
14. If the hide is still damp after you complete the outlining, you can begin to fill in the designs. If the hide has dried out, get a clean cloth and wet it with warm water. Wring out all the water, then CAREFULLY lay it over the painted area so as to not rub and smear the paint. After 15 minutes or so, carefully lift off the cloth. If the hide is damp to the touch, begin to paint.
Note that, in old parfleches, the different paint colors generally do not touch. In a triangle design, for example, the outline is first painted. Then the fill color is added to the inside of the triangle, but it only comes close to – but does not touch -the triangle outline. This prevents color bleeding. (Fig. 8) Remember to rub the paint into the hide during its application.