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Jun 14

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What is a Dream Catcher and How Do You Make One

Learn to Make Native American Dreamcatchers

how to make a dream catcher

Anyone can make a Dreamcatcher. Dream Catchers are based on Native American traditions. One tradition is that a Dream Catcher is hung over the bed, or sleeping area to protect the person from bad dreams. Another is that with a belief in the Great Spirit this allows the Dream Catcher to hold all of your visions and good dreams. How the Dream Catcher works is dependent on what you believe, and the traditions you follow. That is the Indian way, but for many the Dream Catcher is no more than an Art piece to display that can be found in Galleries, eBay, Pow Wow’s or while on vacation to a nearby Tourist area like the Grand Canyon.

Ever wondered how to make a Dreamcatcher, or what the story is behind them? Below you will find easy to follow directions, and a video showing how to make a contemporary Dream Catcher, as well as watch and listen to someone making a Traditional one.

Dreamcatcher Images Copyright: Kathy McGraw

Dreamcatcher Note:

Many people say “make a dream catcher”, but it is also appropriate to say “make a dreamcatcher” (dreamcatcher as 1 word). I have used both in this tutorial.

Making Unique Dream Catchers

What does it take to make a dreamcatcher?

I used to make customized Medicine Wheels and Dream Catchers for people. I only made one of any kind, and although the basic design was similar, the power and adornment of each sometimes took days, or weeks. Getting a feel of the person in order to incorporate their power into the design is the most time consuming part for me. But this is what makes your Dream Catcher unique; you are represented in it.

Everyone makes their dreamcatcher in their own way, and that is what you should do.

Native American Indian Flute Music CD

Ancestral Voices Native American Flute Music

Ancestral Voices

 

When I am working on a piece I usually have some music on. It soothes my own spirit, and sets the tone for my work. Carlos Nakai is one of my favorite American Indian Flute Music composers. I have several of his CD’s and they are quite peaceful.

 

Picture Of One Of My Earliest Dream Catchers

This Dreamcatcher was made for my son when he was in the Military

Dream Catcher for SonThis was one of my first Dream Catchers made over 20 years ago for my son. You can see the leather is starting to unravel a bit, but other than that it still hangs in my son’s home. You can make a similar Dreamcatcher very easily.

What is the History of a Dreamcatcher

Learn the Dreamcatcher Legend

History shows us that Dream Catchers originated in the Anishinabe/Ojibwe/Chippewa Nation. All 3 of these names are for the same Nation. Anishinabe means “Original Person” and is what they call themselves, never having recognized the American version of their name; Chippewa. Ojibwe is the French Canadian version of the name.

One Legend has it the Anishinabe or Ojibwe people were experiencing bad nightmares and a vision of a web around a hoop. They then experimented with bending red willow for the hoop and making a web with a hole in the middle. A feather was tied to the hole to allow the bad dreams to flow through, and the good dreams were caught in the web.

Another story is that the Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) brought the missing sun back to the people. When the Anishinabe/Ojibwe people migrated they then made circular hoops (representing the circular motion of the sun) from Willow trees, and used sinew or cordage made from plants to make the web. These were hung on babies cradle boards to get rid of the bad dreams and only allow good ones to pass through the center of the web. The bad dreams would be destroyed by the first rays of the sun.

Today Dream Catchers are made by many different Nations, and non Indians alike. The Contemporary Dream Catcher is not made of Willow, but of a metal hoop, and is basically just an Art Decoration to many people.

Materials For Making a Dreamcatcher

materials to make a dream catcher easy

It is pretty easy to make your own Native American Indian dreamcatcher, just follow the steps here and personalize it however you want. It will only take a couple hours (maybe less) to finish, depending on skill level. Kids have a harder time in the beginning learning to do the initial loops of the web, but once they get started they can do it, and just need help finishing the center of the dreamcatcher web.

  • Metal Hoop –  For the small dreamcatchers (keychain or rear view mirror size) a 3-4″ hoop. For a bigger size a 10″ hoop is good.
  • Leather Cord – This is for wrapping the hoop, and for adding feathers and beads.
  • Artificial Sinew – This is what the web of the dreamcatcher is made from.
  • Beads – You can use the beads on the leather strips that hang down, but you can also incorporate beads into the actual web design.
  • Small token, Crystals, Turquoise – These are usually tied onto the piece of sinew you have left around the center of the web. Every stone has a different meaning. Other people put a small item that has personal meaning here.
  • Feathers – The feathers are used on the strips of leather you put the beads on.
  • Scissors – These are the only things other than the materials for the dreamcatcher you will need.

Making a Dream Catcher Step-by-Step:

Step 1

I always have my vision first. Who am I making it for, what color scheme am I going to attempt, and do I know this person well enough to meditate on their personal power.

So, Step 1 is preparing yourself. Set the tone, put on some inspirational music.

Step 2

Gather materials, and start by wrapping the hoop. You will need enough leather to completely cover the hoop starting it by going over and under (keep a strip about an inch or so long that later you will tie so it will hang). Keep wrapping the leather until you have come back to your original starting point.

*** Watch the Video after Step 3 to show you how to wrap your dream catcher.

Step 3

The next part is making the web. A Dream Catcher is like a spider’s web. And if you are using sinew you will feel the sticky part of it.

*** Start by going over the hoop, then a few inches apart bring the sinew over and then under for the next loop. You do this continuously until you have a hole in the center of your web. This is when you will tie it off. Using a lighter or scissors work for getting rid of the extra piece of sinew you will have.

Illustrative Video on Making Indian Dream Catchers

This Video will give you a good overview of how to make a simple Dream Catcher…this is the basic form you will use for anything in the contemporary designs. Traditional Dream Catchers only use natural materials like Grape Vines for the hoop.

How to make a Dreamcatcher
by Miss Sarah Jo | video info
0 ratings | 1,144,397 views
curated content from YouTube

Dreamcatchers for Kids

dreamcatchers for kids

Kids love to make dreamcatchers. The dreamcatcher looks very hard to make, but it’s not, and once kids get the hang of it they will usually sit until it’s finished. Younger kids often need help to get started with the loop, and the web, and possibly tying off the center. Then not only do they decorate it the way they want, but as you can see by this young man, they might play with it before it hangs on their wall.If you are looking for a fun craft for kids, then check out these Dream Catcher Kits for Children.

What is a fake Dream Catcher?

There aren’t, in my opinion, any fake Dream Catchers. Many people make them for sale, but if you want a “real” Dream Catcher made by a Native American then you need to look for a tag saying they are Native made, or Indian made.

People make Dream Catchers pretty much everywhere; around almost every Indian reservation in the US and Canada. You can also find them at Pow Wow’s (Native American Get Together), and near a lot of the Tourist areas in the Southwestern States.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization. (Information from the Department of Interior)

The term “Indian” as used under the Act includes its market synonym “Native American.” If you are concerned that your Dream Catcher or any other Indian Art is not made in China or anywhere else, ask! In order to be an “authentic Indian made” piece find out who created it. Many Internet sites sell mass produced pieces, so be careful if this is of concern to you.

Making Contemporary and Popular Dreamcatcher Art

How to make duct tape dreamcatchers and a dreamcatcher pendant

Dreamcatcher art and designs made out of duct tape, a popular craft item. These aren’t traditional Native American Indian crafts, but they are contemporary crafts.I wouldn’t suggest these for younger children as the exacto knives are quite sharp.

How to make a Duct tape dreamcatcher
by Ducttapestuff | video info
97 ratings | 25,503 views

Mandalas coloring book

Mandalas Stained Glass Coloring Book

Mandalas are symmetrical like a Dream Catcher and these

beautiful pages once colored make beautiful displays in

your window, just like the Dreamcatcher ones.  Fun and

relaxing activity that rewards you with a decoration for

your room or other area of your home.

dreamcatcher coloring book

Dreamcatcher Coloring Book

Color your own Dreamcatcher, or give this gorgeous

coloring book as a gift. Many people enjoy coloring

pages and these Dreamcatcher designs might also

give you some motivation or ideas to be used when

designing your own dream catcher.

Native Links that might be of interest to you

Native Art, Coloring Pages, Food, and Symbols

Getting a Native American Tattoo: The Trouble With Tribal Designs
Advice for young people about using tribal tattoo art to honor American Indian ancestors. With links to old
tattoo pictures and native designs.
Native American Coloring Pages
First Nations / Native American coloring book pages you can print and color.
Native American Recipes
Native American Recipes, Apache Acorn Soup, Blue Corn Dumplings, Fry Bread Pudding, Cured Venison (for pemmican)
Kiva’s American Indian Symbol Dictionary
American Indian Symbols Dictionary- various symbols and what they mean.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is the national Inuit organization in Canada, representing four Inuit regions-

Migwetch, or Thank you, in the Ojibe Language for visiting.  Making a Dreamcatcher is a fun camping activity for kids.

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