Mohawk * Oneida * Onondaga * Cayuga * Seneca * Tuscarora

Discussion on Porcupine Quills and Beading

"Trillium" (flower) 

Porcupine quills on birch bark framed with sweet grass.

"Deer Clan" 

Size 12 glass seed beads, leather, bone hair pipes, brass beads

Written by Kanatiiosh

Prior to the introduction of glass seed beads, clothing was decorated with porcupine quills.  Porcupine quill work is becoming very rare because since it takes so long to do, many people do not have the time.  

Quills are gathered from the hide of a porcupine.  The quills are musty smelling, so they have to be cleaned before using them.  Quills can be dyed by using natural plants to make all kinds of colors.  

Quills were also used to decorate moccasins, shirts, dresses, and deer hides.   I have seen Haudenosaunee moccasins with  dyed tassels made of the long guard hairs of the porcupine, which are sewn into the cuffs of the moccasin. Those tassels really complimented the quilling on the vamp and cuffs of the moccasin. Also, moose hair was used to embroider beautiful designs on headbands, and other articles of clothing.  

Today many Haudenosaunee people use glass seed beads to decorate their clothing.  The most common color bead used is white because it represents purity.  

Today glass beads come in many different colors and sizes, and they, unlike quills, require very little preparation time. Some people prefer to work with a beading board placed on their laps.

On the board they place their beads on swatches of leather. They use black for light colored beads and white for dark colored beads. The leather swatches provide a good background, and it prevents the beads from rolling off.  Also, when done with a color, the swatch can be lifted and the remaining beads saved for later use. 

Beading takes a lot of patience, but is well worth the effort.  At the top of the page are some of the pieces that I created. 

If you would like to see more of my beading go to:

  Kanatiiyosh's Art Gallery


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