Quillwork: An American Indian Heritage

Decorate clothing and other materials with porcupine quills with this American Indian heritage craft technique.



Quillwork Pendant
Quillwork pendant created by Christy Ann Hensler, Devil Dancer collection, Missoula, Montana.
PHOTO: J. F. HENSLER
Quillwork Loom
Homemade loom with woven watchband in progress, Christy Ann Hensler, artist's collection. 
J. F. HENSLER
Quillwork Basket
Pine needle basket with quillwork, Christy Ann Hensler, artist's collection. 
J. F. HENSLER
Quillwork Hairpiece
Quillwork hairpiece with wrapped quill streamers, ermine fluff, and dove feathers, by Christy Ann Hensler, Devil Dancer collection, Missoula, Montana.
J. F. HENSLER
quillworked moccasin
Appliquéed quills on a buckskin moccasin, by Christy Ann Hensler, Tamara McKay collection, Almira, Washington.
J. F. HENSLER
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Step 2: When the first quill is nearly "wound out," lay a second quill, follicle end up, on top. Then bend the remaining tip of the first spear over the new follicle end to hold it in place.
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Step 1: Begin with the first quill about 1/4 inch from the bottom of the rawhide. Wrap the quill to the right as shown, making sure each wrap is tight and completely flush with the previous one.
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Quillwork Watchband
Porcupine hide with natural and dyed quills and wrapped band. 
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Traditional Quillwork Designs
Traditional Blackfoot quillwork designs.
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Step 3: Wind the spear end of the second quill over the "wrapped back" quill number one, holding the splice in place with your thumb as needed.
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Step 6: Make a stitch up and over the final spear. Navigate the needle back under the lower quills until it comes out from the place that it originally entered.
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Step 4: Continue to wrap the new quill on around the leather, just as you did the first quill, until it's almost used up. Then go back to step 2 and add a third quill just as you did the second. Repeat for every new quill (changing colors where noted) until you're about 1/4 inch from the top of your rawhide.
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Step 7: When the needle is all the way out, slide it off the thread. Take both ends of the thread and gently tug them until the last quill end disappears beneath the final wraps. Let go of one end of the thread and lightly pull the other to remove all of it from your quillwork.
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Step 5: Insert the needle about three wraps down from the top, moving the needle between the quills and the leather, and slightly to one side of the splices, bringing it up and out from the final completed wrap. This should position the needle on top of the last quill tip.
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