American Indian Flat Dance Fan Construction

fringe will remain nice and white. If necessary, white liquid shoe polish can be added for a bright white color or a “slick” look if you so desire.

10-A. Alternate Method of Rolling Buckskin Fringe*:

Another excellent method of making rolled buckskin fringe is the same as that used for making sinew bow strings (Figures 20-22). I suggest that you try both methods and use the one that works best for you. This method is not difficult, although like the other technique, it will take a little practice to twist both halves of the buckskin evenly. Simulated sinew is a good item to use to practice this method before using actual buckskin, as it rolls in a similar manner and is very inexpensive.

Assuming you are right handed, hold the tab (the end that is not split apart) between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Grasp the upper side of the buckskin piece between the fingers of your right hand, within a couple of inches of your left hand, and twist it clockwise as shown in Figure 20. When it is tight, hold it between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, and using the little finger and ring finger of the same hand, reach under and grasp the other side of the fringe piece as shown in Figure 21. Twist your right hand counterclockwise and use the fingers of the left hand to secure the twist that is put into the fringe as in Figure 22. Repeat the process with the other half of the fringe, and so on until it is completely twisted. Quite simply, what is being done is to twist the individual halves clockwise, and to twist them around each other counterclockwise. This wraps them upon themselves so they will not unravel.

After you have completed the twisting all the way to the end, it is usually not even necessary to secure the ends, although you might want to put a small dab of white glue on to keep them together while you smooth and size them as described in Step 11.

* Adapted with permission from Jim Hamm, Bows & Arrows of the Native Americans, Bois d´™Arc Press, Goldthwaite, TX, 1989.

11.”Chalk Line” Fringe:

As an alternative to rolling buckskin fringe, a twisted cotton cord is sometimes used as an inexpensive

substitute. This is made from 1/8´ ´chalk line´, which is available at most home improvement centers or lumber yards. Cut the cotton cord equal lengths anywhere from 6´ to 8´ in length. This should be in proportion to the size of the fan you are making and is normally an inch or two longer than the handle section. Next, dip the tip ends into white glue to prevent them from unraveling. Allow the glue to dry and then if desired, you can lightly paint the fringes with white liquid shoe polish to whiten it up and make it look more like real buckskin.

12. Attaching the Fringe:

The fringe can be attached to the handle at this time; however, you may prefer to wait until you are almost finished with the beadwork in order to avoid the fringe tangling with the beading thread as you work. First, cut all fringe to the same length, but be sure to cut from the loose end so that the tab ends all match. These tab ends hang down and keep the fringe from unrolling. Next, put a small amount of contact glue on one side of the loose end of each fringe and on the cut-out area at the bottom of the handle. After the glue is thoroughly dry, place the fringe uniformly around the handle and wrap it with thread to build this area up so that it is even with the rest of the handle. See Figures 23 and 24.

American Indian Flat Dance Fan Construction

13. Covering the Handle:

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.

14. Beading the Handle: Gourd Stitch

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´Â or ´peyote´Â 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´Â 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.

Native American Flat Fan Construction - Crazy Crow Craft Focus Article

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´Â instead of smooth.

Native American Flat Fan Construction - Crazy Crow Craft Focus Article

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´Â, 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´Â 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

“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…”

Native American Flat Fan Construction - Crazy Crow Craft Focus Article