Sunday, September 13, 2009

Button Blanket

I completed this project in August. I bartered with a friend of mine. She did me a huge favor and I made this for the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow Chapter with which she is associated. It turned out to take a LOT more time than I anticipated, but I like it so much I think I'll make another (smaller) one to hang in my front entry. This is a picture of the whole piece.
Here's a closeup of the head and torso of the thunderbird design.
Here's a little closer shot of the wing and tail.

The red applique and black background are Pendleton Wool. If you haven't heard of Pendleton Wool, there's a whole history there- dating back to the early settlers of Oregon. I took a drawing of a Thunderbird, modified it, projected it onto a large paper, traced it and modified it a bit more. I then transferred that design onto the red wool and appliqued it onto the black wool. That was the easy part! I then hand sewed about 3000 buttons around the design. My original plan was to sew the buttons on by machine. My estimate was that it would take me a weekend to do that. HA! I soon discovered that it took longer by machine when the buttons were all different sizes. Some had 2 holes, some had 4 holes, some were thick, and some were thin. And they certainly didn't go in a straight line. I am pretty fast at hand sewing and it turned out to be faster to put the buttons on by hand than to keep messing with the machine with every button. I did discover self threading needles during this process.

The blanket is made to be worn. That's why there is a protective cotton piece at the top middle, where it will rub on the neck of the wearer. The person wearing it drapes it around himself, with the design showing on the back.

The First Nations People of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Region wear button blankets when participating in ceremonial dances. The designs have deep meaning to those who wear them. Masks and carved cedar headpieces are often worn along with the blankets, while a story teller brings the dance to life. The black and red artwork is typical of Pacific Northwest Native American art. Beautiful art in this style is found from Oregon to British Columbia. To see and learn more, check out The masks carved from cedar are awesome, as are the rattles, boxes, totem poles and other ceremonial and decorative pieces. As an aside, both of my sons did their Eagle Scout project for the Lelooska family. Paul led a group of volunteers to clear an acre of land to be used as a parking lot for visitors and Steve built a wood shed behind their ceremonial longhouse. The Lelooksa Family provide educational programs and they have a wonderful museum of Native American artifacts.

My blanket is far from authentic (me, being an Irish girl married to a German!), but I was pleased with how it turned out. It is about 5 ft high and about 6 ft. wide. Men and women wear the the blankets, but this one is large for most women. It took me about 250-300 hrs to make. I sewed most of the buttons on while riding in a car. It's amazing how much you can get done if you use every 20 minute block of time you can find. Many Boy Scout ceremonial teams respectfully use Native American themes, and this is why I made the blanket for the young men who participate in the Order of the Arrow, which is an honor camping and service organization within Scouting.


AnnMarie said...

Absolutely wonderful! Outstanding! There were teams being certified this weekend.

Diane's quilting said...

So much work but so beautiful. Can't wait to see what comes from the longer car trips! Enjoy the ride.

Carol said...

Absolutely beautiful!!!!! Well wortht he many hours of labor and to cherished for years.

Jackie D. said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful button blanket. I am helping out our OA Chapter and working on a killer whale, just wanted to get an idea and found your blog.

Sue said...


It was a labor of love!

I have a projector- I put a photo under it an projected it onto a wall where I had a large piece of heavy interfacing tape. I trace the projected picture onto the interfacing. Then I cut it out and used it as a pattern. The interfacing (or heavy stabilizer) are see-through and flexible yet strong.

I wish I had felted the wool first, and I probably could have done with less buttons in the high detail areas.

Let me know if you have any questions!