How to Make a Native American Dream Catcher
Dreamcatchers by L.A. Cargill
Some dreamcatchers I have made before
I have made many dreamcatchers and have studied the legends that surround them. There are probably as many styles and legends for dream catchers as there are native American tribes.
I was told at a young age that my great grandmother was full blooded Choctaw. She had even lived on the Oklahoma reservation. I have seen photos of my grandmother, and she looks very much like the Choctaw women of today so I have no doubt that her mother was a first American.
My own mother had a native American name, and she gave me one as well. She also taught me many customs and beliefs of the Choctaw tribe. Although I strongly resemble my father's Irish side of the family (and I have a Catholic sister), I have never believed in the doctrines of the Christian faith. The Choctaw beliefs stuck with me, and I practice them today. This could also explain why I study the Aztecs and Mayans which are also first Americans.
The main legend of the dreamcatcher comes from a story of an Indian princess that wanted her baby to sleep well and have good dreams. She saw the spider web and figured that it could catch bad dreams. She added a feather to allow the good dreams to filter down to the sleeping baby. Over the years, the web became more complex and the addition of more feathers, beads and decorations grew.
Different tribes have different shapes for their dream catchers. Circles are popular, but other shapes are used. Webbing is made with all sorts of materials, the most common being artificial sinew these days. There are different ideas on how to add the leather fringes which hold feathers, beads, and charms. Some have no added fringe. Others have very elaborate fringe. Dreamcatchers come in all sorts of colors and can be custom made to suit your décor.
Step by step video making a dreamcatcher
Photos of how to build the webClick thumbnail to view full-size
Enlarged photos of how to make a dreamcatcher
For this demo, I have used enlarged materials to show the webbing and the general construction of a dream catcher. If you want to try this yourself, please remember that practice makes perfect and you probably won't get the technique down right away. Once you learn it, you will be pleased with the results!
I always make my dream catchers during the waxing of the moon. I'm not all that superstitious, but It does seem to make a marked difference in the "power" of the dreamcatcher. I have made some during the waning moon and they just don't seem to turn out right. Then during the night of the full moon, it is also helpful to "charge" the completed dreamcatcher by hanging it out to be infused with moonlight. If the weather is bad, I hang them in a window to catch the moonlight.
The easiest hoops to use are the metal ones available at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Wrap them with the leather lacing and then start your web. I am now learning to make my own hoops from vines and I like them better. I tend to make everything really BIG! Gotta learn to tone it down.
Tie on the sinew or cord or candle wicking to the outer hoop. Then begin looping the cord around the outer hoop. Typically, you will make 8 outer loops to represent the eight legs of the spider. I don't always count the loops, I just space them out evenly. If you end up with ten or twelve loops, no big deal. When you get back to the first loop, start looping onto the first cord loops, bisecting each loop in half. Don't pull too tight, the web will gain structure as you go.
Add beads, charms, or whatever onto the inner loops. These things will appear to have been "caught" in the web, just as dreams are! Wooden pony beads look very authentic and earthy. Feel free to choose whatever you like.
At some point, you will get to the last looping around. There is no set size for the "hole". It varies with the size of the dreamcatcher and the materials you have used to make it with. You will know when it gets too difficult to keep looping. Tie it off with a bead or a couple of knots and some glue if you like to keep it from unravelling. Then add a charm, feather, or whatever to hang in the hole and guide the good dreams downward.
Tie on fringe wherever you feel it needs to go. Add beads and feathers to the fringe. Trap some loose feathers in the web for decoration. Tie on a hanging loop at the top and you are done!
Now, hang the dream catcher over your bed and get a good night's sleep!
© 2010 Lela