12.10.14

How To Make a Dreamcatcher


Dreamcatchers are part of the art practices and culture of Native Americans, who are also known as Indians. For them, dreamcatchers have both a spiritual and practical meaning and are therefore regarded as a powerful amulet. I was recently captivated by Shamanism and Native American culture and, in the process, I also became interested in dreamcatchers. I would like to share my knowledge on this subject with you and through it bring the beauty of Native American culture a bit closer to you.

Dreamcatcher Creation Myth

Of all the Native American tribes, the dreamcatcher has best assimilated itself among the Lakota and Ojibwe peoples. This primarily has to do with the mythology of these tribes in which the role of the dreamcatcher is emphasized. A well-known myth regarding the creation of this spiritual item goes like this: 
A long, long time ago, at the beginning of time, a Lakota tribe leader climbed to the top of a mountain and brought with him a hoop made of willow branches which he had carefully adorned with objects which were meaningful to him - horse hair, beads, feathers and other small offerings. On this mountain, he had a vision. In it appeared the god Iktomi, a trickster-god who is also the creator of the world; he who weaves the web of life as he has the shape of a spider. This spider-like deity addressed the leader in a sacred language and, as he spoke, took his willow hoop and started weaving his web inside it. While Iktomi worked, he spoke of the cycle of life which is a cycle in the real sense of the word; man is born, grows from a baby to a child, from a child to an adult and then grows into old age during which his loved ones take care of him as if he were a newborn again. Thus the cycle of life continues. But, Iktomi warned the wise leader that, regardless of a person's age, both good and bad forces can influence him. Good forces lead to good things, whereas bad forces lead to bad things. Both types of forces can change the natural course of events. Iktomi then finished weaving his web and gave the willow hoop back to the Lakota leader with the following words: "This web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use it to help your people to properly use their ideas, dreams and visions and thus achieve their goals. If you believe in the Great Spirit, this web will filter good ideas, while the bad ones will remain trapped inside it and will not be able to pass through". The leader conveyed this vision and the wise words that were held within it to his people. Since then, the dreamcatcher protects the bed and mind of every person so that only good ideas, good visions and good dreams may reach him. 

The Role of the Dreamcatcher 

It is obvious from the above mentioned story that the dreamcatcher does exactly what its name implies. When hung above a bed, it filters good dreams, ideas and visions and traps the bad ones which are burnt by the first rays of the morning Sun. It is believed that good dreams pass through the hole in the center of the web and then slide down the feathers (which usually adorn the bottom of the dreamcatcher) all the way to the dreamer. The beads that are sometimes woven into the web symbolize spiders. Some dreamcatchers are also decorated by some sort of crystal, or mineral which symbolizes the Great Spirit, or rather the Creator in which Native Americans believe. This is because there is only one creative force according to the worldview of these peoples. This is why only one such crystal can be added to a dreamcatcher.

Some North American Indian tribes have taken a different stance on this subject and believe that the hole in the middle of the dreamcatcher is there to allow bad dreams to get out, while the web catches good dreams which then pass through it, down the feathers and into the dreamer.

In any case, both belief systems are based on the conviction that the night air is filled with good and bad dreams which fly around in search of dreamers they can visit.

Materials, Shapes and Colors

The traditional materials used for making the hoop of the dreamcatcher are willow branches (usually those of a red willow) or soaked grapevine (it has to be soaked to be flexible!). This is conditioned by the flexibility of these materials because the material has to be flexible enough so it doesn't break during the making of the hoop. 

The hoop is sometimes wrapped in suede leather whereas the web is woven out of sinew or horse/stag hair. The latter materials are slightly harder to come across nowadays so adequate substitutes are used for making the web such as thread, string, wool and similar materials.

The beads that adorn the web are usually made of wood or glass. Tradition insists that the pearls that decorate the actual hoop (if there are any at all) be blue.

Also, some dreamcatchers don't have a hole in the middle. This is usually conditioned by the beliefs of the tribe in which the dreamcatcher is made. You have seen that the beliefs regarding the role of this hole are divided. Now, some tribes believe that such a hole doesn't even have to exist because good dreams will find their way to the dreamer no matter what, while bad dreams will always be caught in the web. The absence of a hole only means that it won't be possible for them to escape once captured.

The number of feathers used is traditionally seven, but this detail has somehow been forgotten with time. If the dreamcatcher was hung above a child's bed or crib, it would often have a feather in the middle of the circle as a symbol of the element of air and its importance for human beings. An owl feather was used for girls (as a symbol of wisdom), while an eagle feather was used for boys (as a symbol of courage).

The size of the dreamcatcher depends on the individual because, according to tradition, the hoop shouldn't be bigger than an adult's palm. But this "rule" has also been lost in time so dreamcatchers are made in all shapes and sizes nowadays.

The most common dreamcatcher
weaving pattern/stitch
Today, they are also made of all sorts of materials. The hoop can be made of almost any type of wood, or metal (some even by pre-made metal hoops). Some decide not to wrap leather around the hoop, bur use wool, or some other material instead, while some choose not to cover the hoop altogether. Animal hair or sinew are no longer needed to make the web. As I have mentioned, string or wool of any color are good substitutes. But you can be creative and think of even more alternatives. The number of feathers used is also not strictly specified, as is the case with beads and crystals that adorn the web. The materials and colors of the beads also vary and their number depends on the individual's taste. So don't be afraid to work according to your creative instincts. Most rules have long been forgotten. But, you can decide to incorporate as many traditional elements are you can into your dreamcatcher simply out of respect for tradition. 

Essentially, there is no such thing as a good or bad dreamcatcher. Their shapes, sizes, colors and stitching vary from tribe to tribe and even from person to person. Some tribes make only circular hoops, while some make tear-shaped dreamcatchers. Some will leave a hole, while others will weave the web fully. Some tribes use the stitching that I will demonstrate in this post, while others try to imitate a spider web more veraciously.


Let your imagination flow freely! :)

How To Make a Dreamcatcher

To make your own dreamcatcher, you will need the following materials:
  • materials for the hoop (willow branches/grapevine/and wooden or metal hoop)
  • materials for wrapping the hoop (suede leather/wool/thread)
  • materials for the web (animal hair/sinew/thread/wool)
  • decorations (feathers, beads, crystals...)
  • scissors
  • a needle
I made my dreamcatcher out of willow branches, brown suede leather cords, white thread, wooden beads and pheasant feathers. This is why I will say "willow" for the hoop, "thread" for the web and so on in the following instructions. But don't let that confuse you! Feel free to work with the materials of your choosing and simply follow the instructions modifying them to the materials that you have.

I made four dreamcatchers - a large one which is 15cm in diameter and three small ones each about 8cm in diameter. The leather cords I used were 2mm wide. I used 2.8m of this cord to completely wrap the large hoop and 1.4m to wrap each small hoop. If you are using thread or wool that is somewhat thinner than this 2mm wide cord, of course you will need more of it. So I recommend you have a surplus of materials at hand just in case. :)

1. Make the Hoop

(skip this step if you are using a readymade wooden/metal hoop)

Picture 1: the large willow hoop
Picture 2



















Take one willow branch and bend it to form a circle of your desired diameter. In order for the branch to keep this circular form, you can spirally wrap one end around the other a few times. I decided to tie these two ends using a thinner willow branch with which I tied two knots where the ends overlap. Feel free to use any system that works for you. The main thing is that the ends remain connected and that the hoop doesn't unwind. 


2. Wrap the Hoop

Using your leather cord, tie a knot where the two hoop ends overlap (as in picture 3).

Continue wrapping the cord around the whole hoop taking care not to leave any gaps (picture 4).

Picture 3: a knot tied where the hoop ends
overlap
Picture 4: a fully-wrapped hoop

















Picture 5: the loop at the top of the hoop






When you have finished wrapping the hoop and have returned to the initial knot, make a loop which you will later use to hand your dreamcatcher by (picture 5). Cut off any excess cord so it doesn't get in the way while you're weaving the web. You can make the hoop any way you like. If you don't have any ideas, I recommend this knot because it is fairly easy and tight.

Note: some prefer to make the loop even before tying the first knot on the hoop. You can do this if you find it easier. It's completely up to you.


3. Make the Web

First thread your needle (picture 6).

Note: don't thread the needle as if you were about to start sewing (that is by leaving two ends of the thread hanging and tying them together at the bottom). Instead, just tie a double knot at the eye of the needle and let the largest part of the thread just hang. Try not to have too much thread because this will just make it harder for you to weave the web.

Tie a double knot next to the loop which you made at the top of your dreamcatcher (picture 7).

Picture 6: how to thread the needle
Picture 7: a knot tied next to the loop




















The stitching used to weave the web of your dreamcatcher is always the same, so once you get it, everything will go smoothly.

Stitch the first circle of the web

Note: the following instructions only explain how to make the actual web without and decorations. For instructions on how to add decorations (beads and feathers), have a look at the advice at the end of this post. 
  1. Pull the thread behind and over the hoop (pictures 8 and 9). You have just created a "hole".
  2. Pull the needle through the "hole" you just made (pictures 10 and 11).
  3. Pull the thread until it's straight. Just take care not to pull it too tight so the hoop bends. You want the hoop to keep its shape. You have now made your first "stitch".
  4. Continue repeating steps 1-3 always leaving the same space between knots (the distance depends on your preferences). Keep in mind that it will be easier for you to weave the web if you leave more space between knots (picture 12).
  5. When you come close to your first knot (which was tied next to the loop) and start tying your last knot, leave at most half the space you did between the previous knots (pictures 13 and 14). For example, if the typical distance between knots was 4cm, then do not leave more than 2cm between your first and last knot.
Picture 9
Picture 8: thread pulled behind and over the hoop

Picture 10: the needle pulled through the "hole" you made
Picture 11











Picture 12




Picture 13: the finished "first circle" of the web
(notice the small distance between the first and last knot)



















Picture 14















Stitch the other circles of the web

In order for you to make the second and all subsequent circles of the web, follow these instructions:
  1. Repeat steps 1-3, but instead of pulling the needle behind the hoop, pull it through the first "stitch" of your first circle (pictures 14 and 15). Take care to place your knots in the middle of each stitch and that the new stitch is nice and tight.
Note: as you start making new stitches i.e. tightening new knots, you will notice that the stitches on which you tie your new knots will start to bend slightly towards the center of the hoop and will form a slightly rhomboid shape.
  1. Repeat step 6 until you get to the middle of the hoop where you will leave a hole. When you come to your last stitch (which will be at the bottom part of your dreamcatcher), just tie a double knot to secure the construction.
Picture 15: pulling the needle through the first "stitch" of the first circle

And with this, your dreamcatcher is finished!






















Advice:


Picture 16
If (or rather when) you run out of thread, tie a double knot where you stopped. Rethread your needle according to these instructions. Then tie a double knot with this new thread right behind (or rather next to) the last knot you made and simply continue following the instructions.

In order to add a bead to a knot, simply pull your thread through the bead and continue normally with the stitch as described in steps 1-3.

If you want to add a feather somewhere, you can pull the thread and needle through the feather itself, or rather through the hollow part of the feather also knows as the calamus, or quill (picture 16). Then tie a double knot just to secure it. If all else fails, you can always just tie one or two normal knots around the feather(s). But, the aforementioned method is much better in my opinion because it is more effective and also aesthetically more pleasing.


In case my instructions weren't clear enough, you can have a look at this web site where the diagrams are really wonderful and everything is described step by step (although the instructions at the end are slightly different than mine).

Sweet dreams! :D

2 komentara:

  1. Kako da stupimo u kontakt?Moze email ili nesto slicno?

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    1. Dragi Emire,
      s lijeve strane bloga možete naći obrazac za kontakt, a isto tako pri vrhu stranice (ikona pisma).
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