CRAFT FOCUS: PORCUPINE QUILLWORK

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Use of Porcupine Quillwork

PORCUPINE QUILLWORK

Quillwork is perhaps the oldest form of embroidery used by Native Americans. Quills were folded, twisted, wrapped, plaited and sewn using a wide range of techniques to decorate articles of clothing, bags, knife sheaths, baskets, wooden handles and pipe stems. Quillwork has been, and continues to be used to decorate the basketry of various Native American tribes.

Beadwork Replaces Quillwork

Porcupine quills were used for decorative work on clothing until approximately 1850 when the trade and application of glass beads replaced quills as the decoration of choice. This transition was made easier because: (1) Tiny glass beads allowed use of the same designs used in quillwork; (2) More colors were available; (3) Quills no longer had to be acquired, washed, sorted, and dyed before work could begin. While quillwork is beautiful, unique and usually very well done, there were limitations to the colors and designs which could be applied.

Craft Focus Quillwork Online Resources

Regardless of the type quillwork project you have in mind, we have tried to assemble all the available online links and resources to help with the task. As additional information is found or created, we will add it in order to keep this reference current. In addition to the Web resources, we also highlight related products offered by Crazy Crow to make your porcupine quillwork craft project easier and the results more assured. We are particularly grateful to assistance and pictures from Ravenshead Tiwahe and Nancy Fonicello of Ancient Artways Studio.

Frequently Asked Questions About Porcupine Quillwork – Nancy Fonicello
Common questions regarding removal and preparation of porcupine quills.

Canku-Ota – Craft Series – The Art of Quillwork – Part One
Part one of this craft series discusses the history, description of quills, how to obtain them, how to remove them, calcification of quills, preparing quill and dying quills.

Canku-Ota – Craft Series – The Art of Quillwork – Part Two
This article provides different techniques, designs, quillwork on birch bark and on leather. Also includes a listing of books and websites on this subject.

Quillwork – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Includes quillwork information and links: History, Technique, Today, Notes, References, External links

About Porcupines – Native Tech
Fact and myth about our prickly friends. Includes map showing areas where porcupines range and areas where quillwork was popular.

Tools and Materials for Embroidery Techniques – Nancy Fonicello
Type leather, threads, quill flatteners and other tools used in porcupine quillwork.

Introduction to Techniques & Methods of Porcupine Quillwork – Nancy Fonicello

Presents in simple terms, some of the techniques used in the art of porcupine quill emboidery.

Porcupine Quill Embroidery – Native Tech
Introduction to this popular decorative technique used to embellish articles of clothing, bags, knife sheaths, baskets, wooden handles and pipe stems.

The Zig-Zag Technique – Nancy Fonicello
Probably the simplest quillwork style to learn, and is yet very versatile.

The Parallel or Band Technique – Nancy Fonicello
Similar to the zig-zag technique except that the quills on the top row are folded away rather than toward you. The foundation for more advanced quillwork stitches.

The Single-Quill Line Technique – Nancy Fonicello
Executed the same way as the parallel band technique, except you use one thread instead of two, and the quill is left whole and not trimmed until the work is completed.

Multiquill Plaiting Techniques – Nancy Fonicello
Multiquill plaiting is the term commonly used to describe a type of quillwork which has the appearance of being “woven” with many quills at once.

Preparation of Porcupine Quills – Native Tech
Description of the quills, how to pluck and prepare them for use.

Quill Looming Techniques – Nancy Fonicello
Photo close-ups showing loomwork, line quilling and edging techniques.

Quill Wrapping on Rawhide – Nancy Fonicello
Diagram of quill wrapping technique.

Porcupine Quill Decoration on Birchbark – Native Tech
Introduction to a series of articles explaining: Materials & Tools for Decorating Bark with Quills, Quill Decorated Boxes and Other Bark Objects, Designs used in Quilling on Birch Bark, Techniques and Patterns to Attach Quills to Birch Bark
Instructions for Making a Quilled Birch Bark Pendant.

Ancient Artways Studio – Nancy Fonicello’s website
Website of numerous articles on the subject of quillwork. Photo gallery shows examples of work.

Northern Plains Quillwork – Ravenshead Tiwahe’s website
Well-known quillwork artist’s website. His work is represented at the top of this page. Photo galleries depict other works online.

Quillwork in the Northwest Territories
Description and pictures of various types of quillwork: woven quillwork, sewn quillwork, quillwork on birchbark, and a brief discussion of other types of quillwork. PDF file.
Porcupine Characteristics – Natureworks
Describes: characteristics, Range, Habitat, Food, Reproduction and behavior of porcupines. Great Pictures for kids.

Quill Boxes by Lorraine Besito (Ojibwa – Saugeen Reserve, Ontario)
Nice quilled box examples.

Tribal Expressions Gallery
Nice examples of quilled birchbark boxes and sweetgrass and split ash baskets, decorated with quillwork.

19th Century Mi’kmaq Quilled Box
This is a fine example of a Mi’kmaq birch-bark box decorated with porcupine quills collected in Newfoundland in the early 19th century.

Our Native Crafts
Brief article on quillwork.

Why Porcupine has Quills – Chippewa Legend
Also includes facts about our prickly friend, as well as a short article on quillwork.

Craft Gallery – Quillwork Photos – Powwows.com

Porcupine Quillwork – Related Products

The following items are used in the above-article, or may provide added reference and helpful information.

Quillwork Starter Kit

Quillwork Starter Kit

Product No. 4849-010-001

$15.95

The only one on the market! Easy to learn and do.

Kit includes:

  • 1/2 oz. quills
  • thread
  • rawhide
  • full set of illustrated instructions

NOTE: Wheels shown are not included. Secondary images show quilled wheels and pipe bag sections as quillwork examples.

White Nymo Thread - Size A Bobbins

White Nymo Thread - Size A Bobbins

Product No. 5023-001-026

$2.10

115 yards/bobbin; Priced per bobbin.

This is the finest nylon thread available for beadwork and sewing garments. It is not recommended for warp threads in loomwork, but works well if pre-stretched before starting. Excellent for weft threads. Will not rot and is extremely strong.

White Nymo Thread - Size D Spools

White Nymo Thread - Size D Spools

Product No. 5022-006-026

(400 Yard Spool)

$8.25

Priced per 400 Yard Spool

This is the finest nylon thread available for beadwork and sewing garments. It is not recommended for warp threads in loomwork, but works well if pre-stretched before starting. Excellent for weft threads. Will not rot and is extremely strong.

Heavy Duty White Cotton Thread - Size 10 Spool

Heavy Duty White Cotton Thread - Size 10 Spool

Product No. 5020-010-026

(185 Yard Spool)

$8.95

Priced per 185 Yard Spool)

This white, heavy duty cotton thread comes on wooden spools which feature a glazed finish. Size 10 is extra heavy duty and well suited for tying roaches, making bustles, drumsticks and other projects where a natural cotton thread is desired.

Heavy Duty White Cotton Thread - Size 12 Spool

Heavy Duty White Cotton Thread - Size 12 Spool

Product No. 5020-012-026

(420 Yard Spool)

$8.95

Priced per 420 Yard Spool

This white, heavy duty cotton thread comes on wooden spools which feature a glazed finish. Size 12 is heavy duty and makes great warp thread for loom beading or just for general sewing.

Beeswax

Beeswax

Product No. 5050-001-000

(Per Ounce Cake)

$1.95

Per one ounce cake.

A very fine quality 1 ounce cake for waxing thread, which increases thread life and prevents tangling.

Sharps Needles - Size 10

Sharps Needles - Size 10

Product No. 5010-010-025

(Package 25)

$5.50

Priced per package of 25 needles.

These short, stiff needles are best suited for lazy stitch or applique work sewn directly to buckskin or cloth, beaded earrings, gourd stitch, etc., and are also good for sewing leather.

Sharps Needles - Size 12

Sharps Needles - Size 12

Product No. 5010-012-025

(Package 25)

$6.50

Priced per package of 25 needles.

These short, stiff needles are best suited for lazy stitch or applique work sewn directly to buckskin or cloth, beaded earrings, gourd stitch, etc., and are also good for sewing leather.

Scratch Awl

Scratch Awl

Product No. 4900-003-001

$4.95

Crazy Crow's Scratch Awl features a finished hardwood handle with a sharp steel point. This tool is a real life saver when working with leather where needle holes are required to make sewing easier.

Beadworker Scissors

Beadworker Scissors

Product No. 4900-004-002

$4.95

Crazy Crow's Beadworker Scissors are special purpose needlenose scissors that allow you to snip fine thread or trim tiny decorative fan feathers. Very sharp and top quality. 4-1/2" overall length
Genuine Deer Leg Sinew

Genuine Deer Leg Sinew

Product No. 1905-121-002

$3.75

Dried sinew strips from deer. Use for beading, sewing, lacing, fletching, bow-backing and other projects where you want to use original, authentic materials. You will find that sinew is really easy to use! Free 2 page information sheet on "preparing & using genuine sinew" with each order. Sold by the piece. Avg. 9" long.

Genuine Deer Back Sinew

Genuine Deer Back Sinew

Product No. 1905-131-001

$6.95

Dried sinew strips from deer. Use for beading, sewing, lacing, fletching, bow-backing and other projects where you want to use original, authentic materials. You will find that sinew is really easy to use! Free 2 page information sheet on "preparing & using genuine sinew" with each order. Sold by the piece. Avg. 12" long.

Porcupine Quills - Dyed

Porcupine Quills - Dyed

Product No. 1925-003

(1/4 oz pkg)

$5.95

Hand-pulled and washed with virtually no hair. Perfect for all quill work projects. Available in natural and dyed color. One ounce contains approx. 4,000 quills depending on the size, which varies from approx. 1" to 2-1/2" (average about 2").
Porcupine Quills - Natural

Porcupine Quills - Natural

Product No. 1925-002-800

(1/4 oz pkg)

$4.50

Hand-pulled and washed with virtually no hair. Perfect for all quill work projects. Available in natural and dyed color. One ounce contains approx. 4,000 quills depending on the size, which varies from approx. 1" to 2-1/2" (average about 2").
A Quillwork Companion - Heinbuck

A Quillwork Companion - Heinbuck

Product No. 4103-010-086

$16.95

Jean Heinbuch - Destined to become the definitive source on the art of quillwork. The author describes and illustrates all of the basic and advanced designs used by the American Indian. Easy-to-follow text will simplify the beginner's learning of the techniques that will allow you to become adept at this American art form. 90 pp: 70 illus. SC
Guide to Indian Quillworking

Guide to Indian Quillworking

Product No. 4103-009-076

$9.95

Christy Ann Hensler - An excellent how-to book for the quillworker, this book describes 18 different techniques with concise instructions and clear illustrations from a hands-on perspective. Also includes tips on repair and restoration, as well as caring for quilled items. 64 pages, 29 color photos & 22 illustrations. SC.
Rawhide Pieces (approx 1 sq ft)

Rawhide Pieces (approx 1 sq ft)

Product No. 1709-001-800

(approx 1 sq ft)

$9.95

Stiff enough for drums, parfleches, etc. This commercial product is a perfect substitute for Indian cured rawhide (except moccasin soles).
Tuff-Hide Wheels - 2"

Tuff-Hide Wheels - 2"

Product No. 1715-201

$0.80

Durable to resist tears, these 2" accurately shaped wheels are the perfect base to any medicine wheel project. Flexible to imitate the feel of rawhide, impervious to moisture so they won't warp, and available in a variety of colors to match dance clothing. May be wrapped with quills, ribbon or chainette fringe.
Tuff-Hide Thin Wheels - 2"

Tuff-Hide Thin Wheels - 2"

Product No. 1715-301-028

$0.75

Same 2" high quality as above, but thinner as preferred by some quillworkers. Natural rawhide-tan color only.
Quilled Wheels - Sioux Indian Made

Quilled Wheels - Sioux Indian Made

Product No. 4507-001

$22.50

Fine Sioux Indian-made quill work in Four Wind colors. Note: These are handmade and sizes may vary (approx. 2" diameter). Most are on genuine rawhide.

2016-12-21T23:15:52+00:00