General Question

TaoSan's avatar

How do you make a dreamcatcher?

Asked by TaoSan (7038 points ) April 29th, 2009

Okay, so, there’s plenty of instructions floating around on the web, but I’m not quite sure about which ones to follow. Most seem rather “simple”, like metal ring and plastic feathers. I want the real deal though, it’s for someone really special. So, the bigger the better, possibly like the one in the movie Dreamcatcher. I could buy one, but that’s not “special” enough, this one has to work! Any experience you can share appreciated. Like, what kind of feathers should I use and whatnot.

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21 Answers

BookReader's avatar

…my maternal grandmother’s brother was a shaman… although i know next to nothing of the culture, i have had my experience with the oneness of the universe and dreams…i have constructed a dreamcatcher in years past for one of my children who was, also, a dreamer but preferred not to be…i followed the design known as “the eye of god”- i let my spirit be my guide…

RedPowerLady's avatar

Making a dream catcher is very easy. I’ve made several. (also I’m Native). LOL.
I think you are quite perceptive to not want to make a “fake” one as that is cultural appropriation and well just a crappy practice.

So my first question is do you want one made from a metal ring and leather?? Or one made from nature like a wood circle?? Nature is probably more traditional although most people I know use the metal ring and leather (because leather is also traditional).

I’m happy to post the steps for you and give you tips. But it’ll be easier to do if I know the answer to that question above as it is the 1st step.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Get something roundish. Go outside and look at sticks until you find one you can bend without breaking. Tie it together so it is circle-y shaped. Using one string, tie a knot to start the web. Then make a knots (or just loop the thread around the wood), evenly spaced around the circle connected by straight thread. You will not cut the thread/string/whatever until you are done. If then. Once you’ve gone all the way around, start in on the straight lines of thread you’ve left between knots. Loop the thread over the middle of it. Don’t tie a full knot, this is important, just loop it around the middle and make sure it ends up kind of looking like drawing an “l” in cursive around the string.

Keep going around and around until you are done. You will know. If you want, you can add beads or whatever as you go. I would try making a few to get the hang of the spacing before you start beading them.

They are super easy and fun and a great craft for kids.

A quick Google shows this is about what I’m saying. Of course, I’m going from memory of both teaching others to make them at a craft night and from when my drama teacher taught us to make them, so the real instructions are probably way helpful.

Edited to add: Oh, and if you get a thin-ish bit of wood and want to make something really good looking, soak it until it become pliable. Then get a large circular shape and tie it into a nice circle, tied to the shaping device in numerous places to ensure proper shape. Allow to dry. Voila! Awesome metal ring shape with a wooden frame.

Fyrius's avatar

I do hope I’m not going to have to point out that dreamcatchers have no chance of actually affecting one’s dreams, and derail the thread in the process into a scepticism versus traditional beliefs debate.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius then leave other people’s cultures alone, you don’t have to believe in it but you should allow others to have their beliefs w/out having to point out yours

TaoSan's avatar

@Fyrius

Please stay on topic. The Q wasn’t do dreamcatchers work, but how to make one.

@RedPowerLady

Actually, I was thinking a real wood circle, was thinking all natural. And spectacularly large, if I can get it done.

@EmpressPixie

Awesome, that’ll be a start!

TaoSan's avatar

Sorry for double quipping:

@RedPowerLady

Would this design be “authentic” or is it pure Hollywood?
http://movies.about.com/library/weekly/bl031903s.htm

RedPowerLady's avatar

@TaoSan It is a bit hollywood. Most “authentic” dream catchers are single circled. Although I find the other designs artful and quite beautiful. Also the feathers they got hanging from it look nasty and well that is not traditional at all. And of course the skull hanging from it is well um.. nope. Now I understand this is from a horror film and it looks like it. Dream catchers are good not bad and thus should be beautiful not creepy.

So I am going to assume you want to make one because you respect Native culture and not for some other reason. I wouldn’t tell you how to make one otherwise.

Do you still want to make one even though the picture you gave me is really creepy and not traditional?? I won’t tell you how to make one of those because well frankly I don’t believe in cultural appropriation. If you still want my instructions I will be happy to give them to you. I have them typed out and ready. Otherwise I’m sure following the internet instructions would be fine for making a creepy non-traditional culturally offensive one. LOL

Fyrius's avatar

Very well. I’ll shut up.
@RedPowerLady But not without inserting my ceterum censeo that freedom of belief is a purely political right, and that it’s not an excuse to believe anything you want without having to justify it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Fyrius and i purely disagree but that is for another thread and not this one

TaoSan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Oh yeah, the feathers and skull are totally over the top of course. I would have replaced those with new, pretty and colorful ones. What actually fascinated me was the 5in1 design.

But if that’s Hollywood garbage then of course it’s useless.

So, how would I go about an “authentic” one in wood only. (The metal ring seems like cutting corners to me).

RedPowerLady's avatar

@TaoSan I think the five in one is very artful and quite pretty. But it’s not really traditional. Of course after you know how to make an “authentic” one you can always experiment around with making artful ones. As long as it is for art’s sake and not for phoney baloney ;)

————————————————————-

If you want a natural one then the first thing you want to do is go get some willow. Now is the right time of year to get it without harming the plant. Dreamcatchers are typically small and not large in size. However you can make a large one if you want to and the size will depend on the willow you get. If you want a large one then choose a long strand of willow. If you want an even bigger one you can tie two strands of willow together. I believe, but am not 100% sure that it is Red Willow that is the most traditional. It grows abundantly near rivers. To harvest Willow without harming the plant you will need a good pair of sheers or a really sharp knife. DO NOT rip the plant from the ground. Cut it so the rest of the plant can live. Also when you harvest something like this you are supposed to leave something in return. You don’t have to do this but I’m not going to teach you the wrong way so I’m not leaving it out. Leaving tobacco is the best way to do it. NOT recreational tobacco.

Once you have the willow, before it has dried out, your bend it to form your circle. And you tie the two ends together. Most people use Sinew (or artificial sinew) for the thread. This is easily found in bead stores and real sinew may be found in a Leather store or (what are those stores called that stuff animals??). If you are using two twigs to make a larger one then you bend half circles and tie both ends together. Do it neatly and nicely. If you are having a hard time bending it then get it wet. Once tied let it dry out.

Then you cut a really long peice of sinew. It is okay if it runs out, you can always add on while weaving it.

The next step is to decide how tight you want your weave to be. If you want a small weave you will start out with a smaller spaces and if you want a larger weave or if you want to put beads in the weave then you will start out with bigger spaces.

So with the sinew you tie a knot on the willow circle. Knot facing down. Then about an inch away (or whatever lenght you have decided on based on my note above) you tie another knot. Knot facing down. You do this until you have gone completely around the circle. This should have created some straight strands of thread that go from knot to knot. This is the base of your weaving pattern. Before tieing the first knot make sure you are leaving a tail behind. A long strand of string. When you tie the last not leave a tail as well. Then you can use the two tails to form your loop for hanging the dream catcher.

Actually this website gives pretty good weaving instructions:
http://www.nativetech.org/dreamcat/dreminst.html

As show you do not actually have to knot the initial circle but it helps keep it steady if you do. You don’t want any knots from there on out. It is more loops.

So the next step of the weaving is to take your thread (easiest if on a needle) and you are going to wrap it around the middle of the first base thread. You can see a good visual on the link I gave you above.

You keep doing this until you have the desired width of a circle in the middle. Then you tie off your sinew.

If you want beads in it then while weaving you add beads. Play around with this a bit but it’s pretty simple. Before looping/weaving the next one over you just add a bead then loop/weave.

If you want something hanging from the center then you leave some string hanging after you make your last loop/weave and tie something on it to hang in the middle.

Now to decorate the bottom. If you want to. Not everyone does. You can use feathers. Most people use turkey feathers for this type of thing. Most traditional is likely eagle feathers but of course you must be enrolled in a tribe to legally possess an eagle feather (discussion for another day or thread). If you do use feathers you should know how to take care of them and they should not be ratty at all. Another option is to hang beads from the bottom. There really are a lot of decoration options. If you just want to use the sinew to attach the feathers or beads then make sure you tie the new knot to hang the feather or beads next to a pre-existing knot so it doesn’t look tacky. Other options are using leather at the bottom to attach feathers or bead or just by itself. Or using ribbon. Some people also hang up from the sides too which looks pretty nice. Here are a couple of decoration examples. The first one you can see what I mean by hang up from the sides. You dont’ have to use the pattern they use around the top of the dreamcatcher, i think that looks a bit odd. The second one you can see a different style that is used quite often, and that is not hanging from the bottom but just attachign to the side. The pic I provide is kinda funky looking but you get my drift.

http://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/productcart/pc/catalog/dreamcatcher_1323_detail.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2407/1546610053_10ce0a5476.jpg?v=0

Here are a couple other decoration possibilites:
http://www.pawandfeathers.com/Dream%20Catcher.jpg
http://mysticcanyon.com/images/dreamcatcher.jpg (these feathers here are also important to a specific tribe)

When it comes to decorating I would say that feathers, beads, leather, sinew are all traditional. And I suspsect that people just did what looked good or felt right or held significance for them. There may be more traditional patterns to decorating but I am not from the tribe where dreamcatchers originated and so I do not know these.

For the sake of vanity. The spot where you tied the dream catcher (willow ) ends together should become the spot you use to decorate or hang your dream catcher from. That way it doesn’t stand out too poorly.

Also a note. It is important when making anything that weaves (or really anything) that you only put good thoughts into it. If you are making the dreamcatcher and you catch yourself getting frustrated or say a friend walks in the room and starts annoying you (even for a completely unrrelated reason) then you put it down and don’t work on it right then.

Oh and technically you are never supposed to sell things made traditionally although most people do nowadays. So there you have it.

I’m open to questions. I know this is rather long but I really wouldn’t know how to shorten it.

TaoSan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

WHOA!

Thank you soooooo much for taking the time for this excellent post! No really, thank you so much for the time and effort!

RedPowerLady's avatar

@TaoSan You are quite welcome :)

If you do make one you should post a pic so we can see the results :)

tiffyandthewall's avatar

@RedPowerLady oooh i’d like to thank you too. i’ve been wanting to make one myself, but never even thought to ask how to go about it. this summer, i’m planning on putting your instructions to use (:

RedPowerLady's avatar

@tiffyandthewall Awesome. I hope it turns out great. Of course you shouldn’t collect willow any time other than now. So maybe you should just make your circle now. Otherwise you might kill the plant.

augustlan's avatar

@RedPowerLady Awesome. Now I want to make one, too! Maybe a project for my kids and I to do. :)

YARNLADY's avatar

@RedPowerLady very nice I would just like to add that the authenticity of a dream catcher is instilled by the maker, so while there are traditional methods and materials, the makers’ own input is what makes it “authentic”.

gailcalled's avatar

Around here I pick up feathers all the time; dropped by Red-tailed hawks, blue jays, cardinals, etc.I treasure them as is but can see how wonderful they would be in dream catchers.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@YARNLADY Good point. One reason why I was putting in quotes “authentic” because I didn’t quite know how to define that word in relation to this craft. I think you did a good job of that :)

RedPowerLady's avatar

@gailcalled Perfect way to use them :)

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