DIY DREAMCATCHER ORNAMENTS
One of my most favourite things to make! For a quite a while I made and sold dreamcatcher baby mobiles and over the years I’ve become slightly obsessed. Dreamcatchers of all shapes and sizes, using various natural, repurposed and purchased materials. This tutorial specifically shows dreamcatchers as holiday ornaments and gifts for friends. However, the process is universal for a number of different dreamcatcher styles, whatever the theme or occasion.
For larger hoops, I use young red willow branches (easy to bend), or older, drier branches soaked in a tub of hot water to become pliable. For the smaller ornamental style dreamcatchers, I use brass hoops that you can purchase at any craft store. I’ve even seen them in some dollar stores.
One of my favourite presents to give friends and family are handmade ornaments that I made myself, peeps who are really into holiday trim and decorating just love that action! This year I started making a bunch of different smaller styles to gift as unique sets and medium dreamcatchers for rearview mirrors on the dash of cars or with bells on the tassels to hand on doors! I’m also making a couple of larger ones for certain individuals on my list to hang in their homes or over their beds.
I started making them back in November and one I got into a groove they’re easy to make in the evenings while watching Netflix and winding down after a long day. I like to have a lightweight food serving tray, or tea tray (I have a few cheap ones from Ikea for couch crafting), to keep all of my materials organized. I even made a (cheesy?) DIY video of the weaving process. You know you want to see that, right? If in the very least to make fun of me, no? Be kind, it’s my first DIY vid. Dreamcatchers have and always be a well received gift, I hope you enjoy making and giving them as much as I do…
Brass hoops of various sizes, you choose what you like! (Obviously the smaller ones are easier if you don’t start off with too many points. Less detailed, but still really pretty especially if you are giving someone a set of 4 or 6 for the tree!)
Sinew (colour of choice, I favour natural tones)
Various beads (pony beads have the widest hole to feed leather, hide, elk or deer-skin through, but as you will soon see I also use seed beads, crystal, turquoise and semi-precious stone beads with smaller holes)
Deer skin scrap (the softest of hides, next to elk. Typically this is saved from the animal when we go hunting to feed our families, it is traditional to use all of the animal in respecting the life they gave us to sustain and nurture us in many ways)
Sequin trim (for super glittery holiday style dreamcatcher ornaments!)
Fake hide or cord is also used, or yarn, lace, or fabric! It’s really all up to you, I’m just sharing some of the traditional Native ways of making dreamcatchers, however there are many different Indigenous tribes with varying teachings and traditions behind the making of dreamcatchers. (Be sure to check out the traditional Ojibwe dreamcatcher teaching at the end of the tutorial!)
Hot glue gun and sticks
Leather and/or fabric scissors
Sewing needles (various lengths/widths)
Wire beading needles (if you want, not totally necessary)
Ornament hooks (if you’d like to include them with your ornaments, you should!)
Mini needle nose beading pliers
Mini brass and silver cones
Bells (if you are going to make a few medium sized ones as door handle ‘sleigh bells’)
Begin by dabbing a tiny amount of hot glue at your starting point of where you’re going to begin wrapping your material around the hoop. Sequin trim, lace and yarn are especially slippery on the brass and doing this just makes your job easier. When I’m wrapping hoops with hide however, I don’t use any glue. Nor do I use glue when working with branch hoops.
Keep wrapping, nice and tightly…all around the hoop until you get to point at which you started. (I usually use a facecloth to protect my hand when wrapping hops with sequin trim as it is surprisingly rough and your fingertips with get little cuts and scratches all over them, especially if you are making lots of these!) Finish off the wrapping of the hoop by extending the trim (or whatever material you are using to wrap), long enough to make a small loop and cut.
Make a small loop and secure with some hot glue! That’s it, you’re wrapping is done and you can get on with the weaving of the ‘web.’ Please note: when you’re making rearview mirror and door-handle dreamcatchers, you want to make the loop nice and long, so that people can hang it up easily. I finish the wrapping of the hoop with whatever material I’m using and cut a separate length (about 6 or 8 inches long), to double up and make a slipknot at what will be the top centre hanging point of the dreamcatcher. There are several pictures of this style of dreamcatcher down below for a visual.)
STEP FOUR, THE WEAVING PROCESS: (As shown on deer skin wrapped hoops)
Begin at the top centre, right next to the loop or slipknot hanging point of your wrapped hoop. This is where you will tie a nice secure knot, three times to ensure it doesn’t slip out when you are into your weaving!
STEP FIVE: (First Round)
Establish how many points you want on your dreamcatcher. Remember: the more points you have the more detailed and longer it will take to make your dreamcatcher. I measure a scrap piece of paper to use as a guide to ensure an even amount of space between my points as shown below. I use my thumb and forefinger to hold down each point as I go around, looping over the hoop, under and through the sinew (this is where the middle finger comes in as shown below to make a small hole), to make each point, tugging as I go. Tightness is always key throughout. Don’t tug too tightly if you are working with a branch made hoop as this will warp it. Check out the video below for detailed description of the weaving process!
STEP SIX: (Weaving the web and adding beads)
Wasn’t that PRO?!?! Hopefully you get the jist. It really isn’t all that difficult, just play around. You will create your own style and groove! You can leave the dreamcatcher as is, as I have done with the sequin wrapped ones as shown below, or you can finish it off with leads (tassels) and feathers with our without beads. (Shown below without beads on the tassels.)
This particular dreamcatcher (as shown below), features deer skin tassels. Cut long thing strips, to the length you want. I usually make three tassels, one at the bottom centre of the dreamcatcher and two more flanking (slightly shorter than the middle one), either side of the middle one. Hang the strands by feeding a loop through the weave at the base of the hoop and make pull through making a simple slipknot as shown below.
I like to finish these off with feathers, which can be done by simple tying a knot around the stem of the feather and using a pony bead to hide the fray of the knot, or a mini brass (or silver) cone as shown below. This is where the needle nose pliers come in. The cone will slip off if you don’t flatten the hoops a bit after you feed the strands and feathers through them. So do that, mmk? You can put feathers on all of the strands if you like, I chose to only put feathers on half on the one shown below. Remember you can also attach bells to the strands to make holiday door jingles! That’s it…get creative and have fun with it! I’d love to see your pictures if you get into making some of your own, comment here with a link to your blog or instagram if you take photos of your dreamcatchers following this tutorial!
As with all things, teachings and designs of the dreamcatcher will vary among First Nations and other indigenous cultures. The dreamcatcher signifies our connection to the dream world. Many people use it to encourage good dreams and prevent bad ones. The circle represents life and the weave embodies our connection with all things.
Traditionally, mothers, sisters and Nokomis, (grandmothers) weave enchanting webs for new babies using willow hoops, (to make the sacred hoop) and sinew or other strong and pliable plant life to wrap around it. It is in this shape of a circle to represent how giizis, (sun) travels across the sky each day. The dream catcher will filter out all the bad bawedjigewin, (dreams) & allow only good thoughts to enter into our minds when we are just abinooji, (babies). There should be a small hole in the centre of each dreamcatcher where all the good bawadjige may pass through and as the sun rises the bad dreams are soaked up by her, (giizis, the sun’s) rays.
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