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How To Make A Simple Dreamcatcher

Updated on August 06, 2016

Make A DreamCatcher - and Save the Day

I have always loved making native crafts ever since I was a young lad. I used to make my own moccasins out of a deer skin my dad traded wood work for. I thought wearing moccasins would make me able to sneak up on rabbits easier. It worked like a charm and my mom didn't have to provide me with summer footwear. It worked because I believed it would.

The other native craft I was fond of making were dreamcatchers. Legend has it the if you place a dreamcatcher over the place where you are sleeping for the night, the dreamcatcher will filter your dreams catching the bad ones and letting the good ones through. The good ones slip through the web and slide down the feathers and you have a peaceful sleep filled with nice dreams.

Now in the last few decades the DreamCatcher has succumbed to commercialization and is no longer the art of loving hands. Cold steel rings replace the formed bent willow withe. Gaudy colors and shapes abound. Almost every flea market and trade show around.has one stall or another selling dream catchers. They are not the same. They don't have the power.

Let me show you how to make a dreamcatcher that works, if you believe.

Image Credit

Dream Catcher Supplies

Typically dreamcatchers are made with personal objects of found objects. This process invokes power and makes the connection between the dreamcatcher and the owner than much more complete. I've found crow feathers and long wispy heron feathers and made a dreamcatcher just from those findings.

Lace Lacing Leather Suede Dark Brown 25 Yard Spool
Lace Lacing Leather Suede Dark Brown 25 Yard Spool

You need this type of lace to cover the outside of you dreamcatcher circle and to make the feather hangers.

 
School Smart 085837 2-Tone Imitation Eagle Feather, 10" to 12", White with Black Tip (Pack of 12)
School Smart 085837 2-Tone Imitation Eagle Feather, 10" to 12", White with Black Tip (Pack of 12)

Turkey feathers or gull feathers are fine. I like pheasant feathers as well. I like the larger feather over the small ones but that is personal.

 

Lengends and Lore

I grew up reading old tales of cowboys and Indians and making native crafts from moccasins to beaded vests, belts and chokers. I made my own set of bow and arrows but they were pretty pitiful examples. I taught myself how to walk quietly and stalk animals in the wild. I learned to make small invisible fires and catch and cook a rabbit or squirrel. Many of these skills I still carry with me, some may be a bit rusty but I know how to loom beads to make flat decorations or hand sew roundels.

Each of these crafts came with a story or legend that I read before I made my work. I mostly like the dreamcatcher legends. Dreamcatchers starter with the eastern Ojibway tribes of Canada. Each tribe back then was pretty unique and distinct. You could tell by the decorations or the cut of the clothes whether a native was Cree, Ojibway, Crow or one of the many other native tribes of North America.

I was born in Ontario where the Ojibway natives are but grew up in North Eastern Alberta where the Northern Cree call home. My wife is Mete of Norther Cree and French descent. I've enjoyed making crafts from many different native cultures but I like to keep them true.

Dreamcatchers have come to be adopted by most North American natives as a symbol of fellowship. Though originally from a small part of north eastern Canada now you can find dreamcatchers almost anywhere. Personally I dislike the commercialized dreamcatchers made with metal hoops and wild colored feathers.

They were made simply by parents wishing only good dreams for their children. The objects incorporated where found on that day as signs or messages from the Creator. A feather or two, maybe a pine cone or seed head from some dried flowers. A willow withe was cut and bent in a small 3 to 8 inch circle and tied with leather lace. Sinew or twisted thistle fibers were used to lace the web. A single bead was threaded on to simulate the spider, master of the web. It was this controller or web master than would be in charge of catching all the bad dreams and letting the good one filter down the feathers to be cleansed and allow the child the protect them need to rest peaceful.

Build Time

Prep Time: 1 hour

Total Time: a lifetime

Serves: 1

Materials

  • 1 willow withe
  • a length of leather lace - to make feather dangles and wrap the circle
  • flat waxed thread
  • 1 black pony bead or charm
  • feathers
  • blue pony beads for the feathers
  • two small squares of red felt
  • a short length of yellow yarn
1 X Natural Simulated Sinew
1 X Natural Simulated Sinew

Originally the lacing was done with sinew I used flat waxed thread or lacing or this simulated sinew when I can find it.

 

Instructions

  1. 1 : Cut a willow branch or withe - long and straight but thin enough to bend into a circle or teardrop shape. Bind the ends and let dry for a few days to become less flexible. It is easier to make the web with a rigid form.
  2. 2a: You can start stringing the web or start lacing the leather around the outer ring. I have done it either way with no difference in the final product. Space the lacing so the willow bark shows through.
  3. 2b: Start string the web with the outer ring. Tie on with a clove hitch. lay the string across the hoop about 1 1/2 to 2 inches away and bring the string behind and through the loop you've made and continue on around the outer ring. Depending on the size either 7 or 11 points of contact are made in the first cycle. You last contact should be about 1/2 an inch from the first.
  4. 3: Continue on with the next cycle using the the center of the webs made on the first round as your contact points. Adding a bit of tension will make that diamond shape. Be careful not to pull too tight as it will warp the willow circle. Continue around for a two or three more cycles.
  5. 4: When you get part way around the third or fourth cycle, string on your spider bead or charm. If your finished dreamcatcher was a clock face the spider would be sitting around 7 or 8 o-clock.
  6. 5: Finish the last cycle after the spider bead but remember to leave a hole in the center of the web. Tie off the string and add a dab of glue or nail polish to seal the knot.
  7. 6: Next comes the addition of feathers. The traditional way to prepare feathers was to add a small loop of lacing doubled over the end of the quill to form a loop. The base of the feather had a few down fluffs added and a small 1 inch square of red felt was wrapped around the quill to hide all the quill and lacing ends. two wraps of yellow yarn held the felt in place. This is suitable for a large feather. For a smaller feather, like a pheasant or grouse feather, I would use the waxed thread and string a pony bead on as the tie loop and wrap the quill ends with red and yellow yarn.
  8. 7: I like blue or turquoise beads on my feather ties. I string the feather on the leather lace, loop the ends over the hoop and pull the ends back the the front of the hoop, one on each side. Slide two or three pony beads on the ends of the lace to hold it in position. This is a friction fit so match the size of the beads with the lace. If you have to, use a bit of glue, but I use friction fit beads because you can change the feathers easily as they tend to fade and age after awhile and could stand to be replaced.

Weaving Diagram

Weaving Diagram
Weaving Diagram

Step By Step Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cut willow withes or straight thin branches.Wind withes into loops and tie them. Let them dry to stiffen up. I'll clean the leaves off later.Here is a simple diagram that starts the weaving. It shows 7 points the process is the same for 11 points. Using 11 points requires a longer thread for the weaving.Weaving done. An 11 point weaving with only 1 spider bead and no others. Notice the ring is not quite circular and the weaving gets lopsided because of it. The center hole should still reflect the basic shape of the outer ring though you can adjust t
Cut willow withes or straight thin branches.
Cut willow withes or straight thin branches.
Wind withes into loops and tie them. Let them dry to stiffen up. I'll clean the leaves off later.
Wind withes into loops and tie them. Let them dry to stiffen up. I'll clean the leaves off later.
Here is a simple diagram that starts the weaving. It shows 7 points the process is the same for 11 points. Using 11 points requires a longer thread for the weaving.
Here is a simple diagram that starts the weaving. It shows 7 points the process is the same for 11 points. Using 11 points requires a longer thread for the weaving.
Weaving done. An 11 point weaving with only 1 spider bead and no others. Notice the ring is not quite circular and the weaving gets lopsided because of it. The center hole should still reflect the basic shape of the outer ring though you can adjust t
Weaving done. An 11 point weaving with only 1 spider bead and no others. Notice the ring is not quite circular and the weaving gets lopsided because of it. The center hole should still reflect the basic shape of the outer ring though you can adjust t

Tip:

When using multi-stranded thread like the simulated sinew, waxed thread or even dental floss; tie a knot in the leading end so your thread doesn't split and cause you grief.

Adding Your Personal Touch

- making a dreamcatcher your own:

Now that you've seen the traditional or my take on the traditional simple dreamcatcher, let's personalize it. I mentioned earlier that the dream catcher was typically made with found items, so look around and see what you have.

If your craft basket has no leather lacing but you have ribbon - use that.

If you are on a walk in the park and find a crow feather or pigeon feather use those.

I made one dreamcatcher with a jack pine branch with a pair of pine cones still attached. I had to steam the branch to bend it in a circle as it is stiffer than willow, but it worked.

I tried once to use little crystal seed beads at each joint in the web and I turned out lovely - like a spider web covered with dew.

Instead of feathers - try fringe or lace ribbons.

Sometimes I leave the branch long, sticking out from the loop and put a feathered bird to perch on it.

Use silver charms that match you personality or intent. and use them for the spider bead.

In the middle of the web instead of a hole sew a photo of something special in the center.

Try wrapping birch bark around the loop. Use only the outer bark that peels off easily and don't cut too deep or you will kill the birch tree. You should be able to find bark that is freely peeling from a live tree for this. If you must cut the bark off, find a dead standing tree or one that has fallen. The bark is so tough it is there long after the tree inside has rotted. There is no need to kill a tree for its bark.

I'll be adding more photos of my own as I plan to make these dream catchers with my nieces at camp coming soon. Stay tuned.

I'm Scared To Go Camping With The Kids

Your Comments Are Appreciated and An Integral Part of This Lens

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      I have always loved the thought behind dream catchers. I think they are a great gift to be given to those who you care about.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @Gayle Dowell: Thanks. I have made so many myself and the only one I have myself is the first one I made. It seems so small and crude now by what I do now... still..

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @Lady Lorelei: So true. Making one yourself means so much more than buying one for a gift.

    • EpicEra profile image

      EpicEra 3 years ago

      We've always got a dream catcher or two floating about :)

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 3 years ago

      very nice lens. I've never known anything about dreamcatchers. I always thought they were commercial items because they are sold in gift stores. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 3 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      When my son was born, a good friend made him a dreamcatcher which has hung ever since in his bedroom. It's such a sweet tradition and I didn't realise I could make my own so easily. Can't wait to see more step by step photos.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @EpicEra: handmade or gifts bought or received?

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @CrazyHomemaker: I think it makes them more interesting if you know a bit about them..

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @Rosetta Slone: I'll get on it....

    • profile image

      Torrs13 3 years ago

      I've always wanted to learn how to make my own dreamcatcher... I think they look really cool. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 3 years ago

      I've wanted to make one of these for some time. Thanks for the inspiration and the instructions too. I'll check back later for those photos! :)

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @Torrs13: Stay tuned... I`ll be doing the photo series with the girls the first August weekend.... so stay tuned.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @rebecca-mathews1: Thanks... I appreciate it.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @Rosanna Grace: Thanks.stay tuned.

    • profile image

      ldnznmx 3 years ago

      Really very inspiring lens. I'll also try to make it on my free time. Reading this lens is very interesting..

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @ldnznmx: Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 3 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      What a fun craft to do with kids. Bet they'll love it!

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 3 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I bet the girls will have a wonderful time!

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks. I hope so.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @LynetteBell: I hope so too. All of them.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 3 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Both of my children have dream catchers. I love the idea of making them. Well done.

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      omgz awesome!!

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @GregoryMoore: Thanks so much .

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @anonymous: Truly? Trey...

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      nice

    • HughSmulders LM profile image

      HughSmulders LM 3 years ago

      I guess that it is a perfect gift! Hand-made presents re always more personal.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 3 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      You have made a great tutorial for making dream catchers!

    • profile image

      ArtbyMAR 3 years ago

      What a great tutorial. My daughter is obsessed with dreamcatchers--will have to try making our own.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @HughSmulders LM: You bet.. those are the ones I keep

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @shellys-space: Thanks.... and thank you for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @ArtbyMAR: Do try... stay tuned I'll add more pictures as I can

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Its nice to see this

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      crstnblue 3 years ago

      Very nice lens! Made me recall some wonderful childhood moments! : )

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @anonymous: nice to see you here... thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @crstnblue: Awesome. I am glad I could do that......

    • maryseena profile image

      maryseena 3 years ago

      An ideal holiday project! Children would love to make their own dream catchers and adults too.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @maryseena: Yes. We'll see how the kids do when we go camping in a few weeks. I have all the supplies and a surprise for them....

    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 3 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      Thank you very much for this lens! Great idea.

    • lewisgirl profile image

      lewisgirl 3 years ago

      I love dreamcatchers. Nice lens!

    • PriscillaPWood LM profile image

      PriscillaPWood LM 3 years ago

      beautiful lense! love these. :)

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @PriscillaPWood LM: Thanks for visiting. I appreciate it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I love your lens. And I like how you provide the attributed rather than pointing to ready made ones. This is inspiration from the top level. Thank you very much for sharing and showing us how it is done. Namaste.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @anonymous: I believe the power within only comes with those hand made. The power comes from the bond shared between the maker and the receiver. Thanks for your lovely comment.

    • Wilson Lisa profile image

      Wilson Lisa 3 years ago from Hong Kong

      Useful lens. Love it.

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      great page.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      great page.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks Stay tuned in a week's time for updates.

    • hovirag profile image

      hovirag 3 years ago

      I really want to go and learn from the Native Americans - one summer we had a Hungarian girl visiting form Canada in our summer shamanic camp and she told us a lot of stories - what she experienced over there!

      Making my own mocasin and dreamcatcher with real feathers would be an added bonus:)

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @hovirag: Simple crafts with a history. Everything handmade with a history makes the object that much more connected to the person. Even more if you pass it on.

    • profile image

      shabi9764 3 years ago

      thanks for your advices! I'll do it for sure!

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @shabi9764: I'd love to hear about the results. Good luck. They are awesome.

    • SavioC profile image

      SavioC 3 years ago

      I was reading about Dream Catchers some time back & I understand they were made (in the old times) as a medium of filtering Dreams (only letting the good dreams & holding the bad ones in the web). I guess the commercialization must have ruined this concept. Glad you put this out. Thanks .

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @SavioC: I agree. Sometimes hand made is the best. I do like the original idea behind the dream catchers more than the commercial look of the modern ones.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      I love the two handmade dream catchers in my home. Appreciated learning how to make my own here. This is a craft I would very much enjoy.

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Beautiful. I've always wanted to make one. Thank you!

    • AnonymousC831 profile image

      AnonymousC831 2 years ago from Kentucky

      Great lens, I love windcatchers,

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 2 years ago

      Glad I found this. I love dream catchers and made one years ago but I forgot how to make one.

    • profile image

      Ibidii 2 years ago

      This is awesome! Thank you for the detailed information and instructions. I have wanted to make some of these dream catchers forever! My hens were attacked, and died. I saved some of their feathers. Now I know what to do with them. I have direct ancestors from Ontario. Awesome lens! :-)

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 2 years ago

      @Lionrhod: Awesome. Send me a picture of your creations.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 2 years ago

      @AnonymousC831: Thanks.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 2 years ago

      @ZenandChic: Now you can try again. I'd love to see a picture of them.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 2 years ago

      @Ibidii: Sorry to hear about those chickens. It would be a nice way to remember them.

    • iamshermie profile image

      Shermie Mills 2 years ago from US

      Thanks for sharing this. Love this lens. :) Great reference.

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