Saturday, June 1, 2013

History Hop

inspired by Beaded Laughter:

A list of fearless bead lovers have signed up to go on an odyssey into the past, our wise and beautiful leader is Leah Curtis from the Beady Eyed Bunny.  Yes, it's the HISTORY HOP.  I had great fun seeing what everyone made in the last history hop, so this time I decided to join in.

I have been interested in Native American culture, beading and jewelry for a long time.  Contemplating this blog hop, I wondered about how far back in history I could reach, specifically could I go back before the introduction of glass beads into North America?  A few glass seed beads might have come to North America as early as the 1700's, but it seems like they started to be widely used by the mid 1800's.  So what was used for decoration before glass beads?  Well, beads were carved out of stones, shells, wood, animal bones, claws, teeth and antlers.  Of course there was also porcupine quills.  Quill work is probably the oldest form of embroidery used by Native Americans, it is completely unique to North America.  For my project I decided I wanted to reach back in time, before the introduction of glass seed beads, and use porcupine quills.  Here begins my adventure.

I guess I could have ordered some quills from an on-line store.  But, on the internet there are numerous sites that indicate you can harvest them yourself.  Hmmmmmmmm.  Tempting.  I remembered seeing a road killed porcupine not too far from where I lived.  Should I?  Could I?  Would I?  Well, why not.  Blog hops make you want to do the craziest things.  Off I went on my bicycle with a pair of gloves and large Ziploc bag in search of a dead porcupine.  About half an hour later I had a bag with some quills and hair.  I left the remainder of the porcupine to rest in peace.  Poor guy.

Here are the quills being washed

Something that didn't exist in the 1800's but I decided to use anyway was a little bleach.  It did not change the color of the quills, but definitely made me feel a little better about getting rid of germs.

And here are the nice clean quills drying

Next you have to snip the pointy end off, they are sharp!  Then I was ready to go.  Sounds easy but I really had no idea what I was going to do with these things.  They are nice enough looking with an attractive ivory color and brown/black ends, but they are not really like beads.  I did a little research on how traditional quill embroidery was done.  Sometimes quills were dyed.  Often quills were flattened.  They were then sewn in a line, a band, zig-zag, wrapped, plaited or loom woven.  Here is a picture of a traditional plaited piece (combination of braiding and wrapping)  in progress.

For more info please see 

Well, even though I was using a very old traditional material I kind of wanted to see what happened if I just did my own thing.   This is what I made.  I started with a necklace.  I liked the pointy quill feel and wanted to keep it intact as much as possible.  The quills are quite light weight and want to stick up sometimes so this is not a very practical piece of jewelry. 

Next I wanted to try some embroidery I decided to run my needle down the middle of the shaft, instead of flatten the quill.  The embroidered piece ended up on the large side, over 5 inches across in diameter.  I used coral and small shell heishie beads along with the quills.

An extremely HUGE thank you to Leah for all her hard work.  I just love the button she choose for the hop.  I'm excited to go check out all the other History Hop participants, here is the list so keep on hoppin!

Leah Curtis - Indus Valley -
Laney Mead - Māori -
Becca - Art Nouveau -
Melissa - English Romanticism and Mourning Jewelry -
Tracy Stillman - Native American -
Gerda - English Romanticism and Mourning Jewelry -
you are here ------>         Liz E - Native North American -
Ahowin - Māori (New Zealand) -
Jasvanti - Indus Valley -
Lizzie - Art Nouveau -
Julia Hay - Merovingian -
Dini - Celtic -
Caroline - Art Nouveau -
Charlie - Moche of Peru -
Karin - China -
Niky Sayers - Rome -
Marcia Dunne - Celctic and Mourning Jewelry -
anafiassa - Mesopotamia -
Kokopelli - Native American -
Christa - Native American -
Clair - Roman -
Susan Bowie - Native American -
Gloria Allen - English Romanticism -
Sheila Garrett - Early Russia - 


  1. Wow that's fantastic, the second piece is especial amazing with all that work.

  2. Lovely work - you were so adventurous to go get those quills! They really added an authenticity to the piece though, and a great story.

  3. Harvesting quills off a dead porcupine!?! You have a serious dedication to your art !
    ;-) *cheeky grin* Great work with very authentic materials!!

  4. Hi again, thanks for following my blog - I tried to follow yours but it won't let me! So looks like I'll have to stick with popping over to read!

    1. There is something wacky about my follow button, sorry about that. Somehow I clicked on something that turned it "private" which I can't figure out how to un-do. Argh! I have gotten so frustrated with it I just kind of (temporarily) have gavin up.

  5. Wow, you went above and beyond! The quills are so interesting, and it'a great you gave them new life. I love that embroidery piece. It makes me want to find out more about their use. Thank you for joining!

  6. Stunning, Fantastic, Unique, Authentic and what an adventure around this creation. Thanks for the is so good to learn everyday.

  7. These pieces are so cool! I am so extremely impressed that you "harvested" the quills yourself... Wonderful work! :)

  8. Wow Liz, you were right, this was very time consuming, but as usual you did a fantastic job, I like the necklace a lot.

  9. Your designs are amazing! I'm really impressed with your dedication too! ;) My favourite would have to be the embroidery, I haven't seen it done with heishi beads before, it has a lovely rustic feel about it!

  10. Oh Liza how clever - I too love embroidery and what a trouper for harvesting your own quills! Brilliant work x

  11. So, um, wow! You just blew me away with your inventive projects! They are truly amazing and so unique. Thanks so much for sharing them with us (along with your methods.) So inspirational :)

  12. I am wowed by the fact that you harvested your own quills! And I love the two pieces you made with them, lovely!

  13. I love that you used authentic materials and both of your pieces are simply amazing.

  14. Woooow, this is, what is in my imagination, when thinking of this kind of jewellery... your work is very expressive!I love it.

  15. *LOL* Love Indiana Jones even more now! And your quillwork is great. Lovely new interpretations on a traditional material!

  16. OMG that is the coolest post I've ever read! you harvested your own quills? and then did bead embroidery with them?! you rock!

  17. You are... brilliant! Well, and maybe a little crazy, too. I love it!


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