NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

Porcupine Quillwork
The Parallel or
Band Technique

contributed by Nancy Fonicello

Quilled Rosette made by Nancy using the Single-quill Parallel-fold or Band Technique.

The single band technique is another type of quillwork technique that is easily mastered. It is similar to the zig-zag technique except for the fact that the quills on the top row are folded away from you rather than toward you. This technique is also is the foundation for more advanced quillwork stitches, including the multiquill plaiting and single line work. And by the way, I did not originate the method of twisting quills with the thread as described below. The first reference I ever found to it was in Jean Heinbuch's book "A Quillwork Companion", for which I am very grateful. And if you are just beginning, you may want to take a look at the discussion of tools and materials:

Click Here for Information About
Tools and Materials

Sewing Techniques

As in the zig-zag technique, prepare your quills by snipping off both ends and soaking the quills in water to soften them. Again draw two lines on your leather where you want the embroidery to be. The distance between the lines will be determined by the design, but keep in mind that this type of quillwork tends to be a little more fragile than the zig-zag stitch, and keeping the lines 1/4" to 3/8" apart will help keep the work tight to the leather and less likely to get caught on something and tear out when your work is done.

Again knot the thread on top of the work by taking a few close stitches on top of the leather. Bring the threads up to the beginning of your line where you want your first quill to be. Do this for both top and bottom lines. This picture shows both needles in position ready to take a back stitch (for more information on the back stitch see the diagram under Zig-Zag Technique

Flatten the quill and insert one end under the stitch on the bottom line. Pull the stitch tight to hold the quill in place. Remember to be sure that your quill is very flat and has no wrinkles in it, as these are difficult to remove later.

Now comes the tricky part! Bend the quill up towards the top line as you would in the zig-zag technique, but instead of just taking a straight stitch across the quill as before, this time loop the thread around the quill as shown. As you pull the thread tight, the quill will flip away from you and point down towards the bottom line. Adjust the fold by pulling the thread and the quill opposite one another (gently!) so that the fold sits on the drawn line. You should now have something that looks like the following picture. An alternative way of bending the quill is by folding it over the needle before you take the stitch.

Take another stitch across the quill with the bottom thread. Remember, the bottom stitch is just a simple straight back stitch. Only the top line in this technique requires the twisting thread loop.

Continue on in this manner until you come to the end of the quill. Unlike the zig-zag technique, there is no need to end the quill at the bottom. Snip off any remaining quill after you have made your last stitch on the top line. To start a new quill, take a new stitch in the bottom line and work it the same way as you did before

Continue along adding quills as you go. Occasionally stop and run your tablespoon across the top of your work, adding a little pressure to help flatten it. When you get to the end of your row, simply tuck the last little quill end under the work.

Variations on the Parallel Band Technique

As mentioned above, the parallel band technique is the basis for some of the more complicated quillwork stitches, such as multiquill plaiting. The only difference here is that you are working with 10 or more quills at a time instead of one. The stitching techniques are exactly the same. You will also find that the band technique lends itself well to small intricate designs and curving patterns such as pictoral and rosette work.

Quill Embroidery Techniques
The Zig-Zag Technique
The Single-quill Line Technique
Plaiting Techniques
a small quilled elk made by Nancy
using the Band Technique and all natural dyes

© 1997 - Nancy Fonicello.

Porcupine Quillwork Bibliography and Books to Buy On-Line

Return to NativeTech's Main Porcupine Quillwork Menu

NativeTech Home Page
Text and Graphics
© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.