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How to Make a Native American Dream Catcher

Updated on June 26, 2017
Austinstar profile image

Lela earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX. She has been writing for the online world for years.

Dreamcatchers by L.A. Cargill

Dream catcher with arrowhead
Dream catcher with arrowhead | Source

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 web

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Circle of old vinesWrap with leather laceBegin the webAdd beadsFinished web
Circle of old vines
Circle of old vines
Wrap with leather lace
Wrap with leather lace
Begin the web
Begin the web
Add beads
Add beads
Finished web
Finished web

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 Austinstar

Comments - Ask questions here and I will answer them! Don't forget to rate this hub!

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    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 5 months ago from Alabama, USA

      That dream catcher is so beautiful. I just love them!

    • Austinstar profile image
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      Austinstar 9 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thank you. My grandmother is on the Dawes role. She was Choctaw and remembers the tales from the trail. She passed on many traditional recipes that I still make today. Happy America day!

    • profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 9 months ago

      This is really beautiful. I have to save this so that I can make one for me.

      My great, great grandmother was in trail of tears, I found her name and number on the Dawes Roles, but could not find her parents number.

      And my great great grandparents on my father's side were full blood.

      I loved this very much.

      Blessings my friend.

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      EmeseRéka 21 months ago from The Desert

      I'm sorry to hear about your arthritis. Its great that you were able to share your knowledge though. Crafts are so much fun, but the next best thing is teaching others to do it.

    • Austinstar profile image
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      Austinstar 21 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thanks Emese. I have not been making very many dream catchers these days. My arthritis is getting the best of me. My hands hurt too much to do crafts these days.

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      EmeseRéka 21 months ago from The Desert

      Great hub! Thank you for sharing this. I had wanted to make one myself for quite some time, even though I have one I have gotten way back when I first moved out here in the Southwest. You make it look easy. I remember hearing about its connection to the moon phases. Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • Austinstar profile image
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      Austinstar 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Try using leather glue. It dries flat. I usually put a smudge of leather glue, then press the spot together with a clothespin. I leave it overnight, but I think it cures in a couple of hours actually.

    • profile image

      Lucie 2 years ago

      Hi I have been doing dream catchers for about 6 months, I usually use faux suede to cover my loop and glue it, but there is always a bulge from the glue gun. Is there a way to eliminate that bulge? Thank you

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wow, making own dream catcher would be very unique

    • Austinstar profile image
      Author

      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thank you very much! I like these because it is like putting puzzles together. I need to swap out some of the photos on this hub and update it. Thank you again and good luck with your project. Don't get discouraged if it isn't perfect, just do it again!

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 4 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Wow. what a great hub. I can't wait to gather my materials to try my hand at make one of my own. I have downloaded the video to my RealPlayer to refer to as a guide. Thanks for the info.

      PS. the dream catchers pictured on etsy.com are just beautiful.

    • Austinstar profile image
      Author

      Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      It's difficult to photograph these. I can tell you that the more you make, the better you will get. I finished one last night that was my best ever. It's listed at my shop on Etsy if you want to take a look.

    • profile image

      Newbie 5 years ago

      I have always loved dream catchers even though I am not native American. I follow a pre-christian belief system. I made my first dreamcatcher last week when That's Life had one to make. I couldn't see the pattern of the web properly because they had the pictures on a white background and I forgot to leave a hanging loop, so I had to use string to make one. The finished product was not very good, but I hung it up in my son's room and he loves it. I told him what a dreamcatcher does and he sleeps better believing that it will give him good dreams. I know that my next one will be better after looking at how to make them online.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I will but hopefully I'll be smarter next time. It was nuts, I just decided to go ahead and paste the glue with the top of my finger - I wanted to spread it around this bead. I forgot that there is a reason they call it hot glue;)

      I actually have blisters on the pads of my fingers today! It doesn't really hurt though.

      I love making the dream catchers! It is really relaxing to do in front of the t.v. I am so glad I tried it Austinstar!

    • Austinstar profile image
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      Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Funny how that works. You'll be able to go commercial in no time. Set up an Etsy store. I sold a few there, but my hands prevent me from making them in bulk. At least make them pay for the materials!

      Next time you have hot glue on your hands or whatever, try ice first. It makes it brittle and non-sticky.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I can't wait to see it - no - to own it! I bet it has been fun for everyone to see the progression too. You tell them it's mine! Haha! I feel like a little kid who knows a present is on the horizon. I'm kind of childish that way:)! I still use the word Goody - frequently! Lol!

      I wasn't saying goody while I peeled the glue off my fingertips last night. I had to make hundreds of copies this morning and I was so glad to be right handed! You should have seen the kids this morning marveling over the dream catcher. Neighbors drop their kids here before school. Everyone wants one:)! Thank you for that - I was pretty darn popular today!

    • Austinstar profile image
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      Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      That's funny. Hot glue guns are so much fun! I hope Maddy has some cool dreams now.

      I'm really going to try to finish your painting today. My neighbors and the contractor guys have been watching the progress. They think it's great. You are going to love it.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I finished my new dream catcher. Maddy wanted me to have it done by tomorrow morning because she wants to take it to camp in case she has bad dreams. How could I not do it? I thought I was really cool and used my hot glue gun for the first time ever.

      I burned all my fingertips on the left hand. And glued a pen to the fringe. And glued a bead to my counter top:) LOL!

      It came out beautiful some how:)! Omg!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I've got both - Michael's is closer though. Maddy looked at yours while I braided her hair. She is really looking forward to trying this:). Thanks - I bet we will all have fun even if it looks hilarious:) lol - should make for very interesting photos!

    • Austinstar profile image
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      Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I like Hobby Lobby, but Michael's is good too.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I'm going to try this at home - it will be a perfect thing to do with the girls! Where would you think I could get the best beads? Or feathers? We have unlimited shopping here or order online? Sounds like I'll need to practice first.

      I'll email a photo of all three;) thanks for the fun idea!!

    • profile image

      BigSkyLove 6 years ago

      Hello,

      We make authentic native american dream catchers, beaded lighters and jewelery.

      Please visit us!

      http://www.etsy.com/shop/bigskylove

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      Another great hub, voted it up!

    • Austinstar profile image
      Author

      Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thanks, I hardly have time to make them anymore. I really need to make some to sell on etsy. People are bugging me for some.

    • princess g profile image

      princess g 6 years ago

      awesome hub, I love your dream catchers!

    • Austinstar profile image
      Author

      Austinstar 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      What about the Irish? Are they white because of potatoes? LOL!

      Every culture is unique in so many ways, but where it counts, we are the same. We all live on this one planet.

      Thank you for the good words.

    • angel115707 profile image

      Angel Ward 7 years ago from Galveston, TX

      You made it so simple, I enjoy this hub! I am part Creek and I have studied their belief system a little, they believed in one God just like my faith, I am a christian, thankfully they don't contradict too much, tho the famous phillip deer did't like the christian faith much, he has a good argument towards "religion" lol....

      I especially love the mythology of the Muscogee, creeks...that they are red from being created with the red clay of the mississippi, and the white men..were created by the foam of the sea!! ( I am part viking too so I like that foam part!)

    • profile image

      Gail 7 years ago

      I Made a NICE Turquios n Black Dreamcatcher it is For SALE it is a HEALING Colour.I am a NATIVE CANADIAN :)

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 7 years ago from Australia

      Austinstar, these dreamcatchers look fascinating I would love to make one but I don't know if the Australian natives have an equivalent item. I must look into this?

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Awesome hub! I have a few around! Love em'

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      Austinstar - You said it well. Yes, I guess I will have to post an article about my stay with the "Ho Ho Kom" Indians on the Gila River Reservation at Sacaton, AZ. An interesting time for me, and I guess for them, too. I wrote at least one deal about Indians - not a very good deal, but fun to do and stick into "Mother Gus," a really "Dumb Poem" book. You can pick up on that one here on Hubpages at http://tinyurl.com/y9dm923

      Gus :-)))

    • Austinstar profile image
      Author

      Austinstar 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Awww, Gus, you crack me up. Yea, it's just like a Kilt, those injuns only had what nature gave um under those breach cloths! Musta been hard to ride a painted pony!

      Kachina dolls are a lot like Voodoo dolls, so be careful with that wolf head!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      Howdy AustinStar - We don't have a dreamcatcher around here, but we have a nifty kachina doll I got for my boss (!) when I was piddling around earning bread on the reservation of the Gila Indians in Arizona. It was "Wolf Man." Nifty dude, that one. His wolf head comes off to reveal the Indian guy underneath. (Did not want to try anything lower down than that because you never know what may lurk in the mind of an Indian who sells to the white man...) I liked the thing because it gave me something different to bring home to the boss and now you have reminded me to spin a tale about that whole deal. Nice article you wrote here. I can barely tie shoelaces, so I will pass on the dreamcatcher making, but I appreciate you telling us how to go about it.

      Gus :-)))

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Oops! Sorry I posted twice!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Great hub! I've always thought these were cool.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Awesome - never knew how folks did those - have a couple myself!

    • Austinstar profile image
      Author

      Austinstar 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      You are quite welcome breakfastpop! Send me a photo!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Great hub. I may try this, thanks so much.

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