- A type of decoration used by many Indian tribes on various articles of
dress, bags and pouches, pipes, and horse gear. Quillwork, which
later was replaced almost entirely by beadwork, was done with the quills
of porcupines and those of bird feathers.
The Cree, Dakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho
were the principal quillworking tribes, although in earlier days porcupine
quills had been employed in decorative embroidery from Maine to Virginia
and west to the Rocky Mountains north of the Arkansas River.
The work was done chiefly on dressed skin,
but some of the Woodland tribes decorated birch bark with quillwork.
The split quills of feathers were used by the Eskimo; other tribes, mainly
Algonquian, employed the hair of the porcupine as well as the quills.
The same designs and same color schemes
were used in beadwok as had been used in the older craft.
It was the duty of the man to kill the
porcupine and pluck the quills as soon as possible after the animal's death.
The women sorted them according to length, since they varied from one to
four inches. As the quill of the porcupine is a round hollow tube
which ends in a barbed point, it was necessary to flatten it before using.
A woman would moisten the quill in her mouth, and then draw it between
her fingernails or teeth. Sometimes a bone quill flattener was used.
The quill itself was white and was dyed
in various ways before being applied to the buckskin or other material.
The red dye was made from the buffalo berry, yellow from the petals of
wild sunflowers, and black from the wild grape. Quills were plaited
if they were to be wrapped around a pipe stem, and if they were sewed
on buckskin they were wound around or folded over the sinew after it had
been run through the buckskin.
within this Site
and Pouches ][ Beads ][ Calumet
][ Costume ][ Knife
][ Papoose ][ Porcupine
][ Quiver ][ Sinew ][