Quillwork (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Quillwork is a form of decoration that was used across the northeastern United States and Canada and as far west as the western slopes of the Rockies and through the central Plains south and east to the coast—the area where porcupines are native; it is still used today by artists from these areas
Porcupine quills provided many tribes with material that could be dyed a variety of bright colors. Several methods were used, and the quillwork of the Plains may be differentiated from that of the eastern nations. In both cases the quills were taken from the porcupine by rolling it in a soft robe. The quills would stick and could be removed individually; the barbs were cut off and the quills were cleaned. Quills are tubular in shape but could be flattened by pulling them between the teeth. Plant and animal dyes were used to dye them bright colors. Popular colors were bright pink, bright yellow, purple, green, and red. Some northern nations used quills in their natural color, off-white with dark brown ends.
After dyeing, they were ready to be plaited together, often in rows creating both geometric designs and pictorial representations. Plains nations preferred geometric designs, whereas those of the Eastern Woodlands tended to be floral in pattern. Good quillwork was tiny, tight, and colorful, and it created beautiful decorations on any article of clothing. Several techniques were used. The quills could be wrapped...
(The entire section is 565 words.)
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