NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

small pendants Instructions for Making
a Quilled Birch Bark

  1. Cut a small disk or other simple shape out of birch bark.
  2. Draw your pattern on the bark - make sure the decoration will be on the pinkish/orange or brown side of the bark (the inner-most layer).
  3. Make two perforations for the first quill using a triangular awl from the surface to be decorated through to the underside of the bark. The hole on the decorated side will appear somewhat large (don't worry - it's actually hard to get your adjacent holes too close together.), while the hole on the underside will appear as a pin prick or a small slit.
  4. Insert one end of the quill through one hole from the top (decorated side) through to the underside of the bark.
  5. Use your fingers, tweezers, or pliers to pull the quill through the hole so that about ¼ inch is left visible on the bottom side.
  6. Making a staple shape, bend the quill back down and insert the tip of the quill through the second hole and use pliers to pull it through to the underside so the quill is taught (but don't stretch it too much).
  7. If the quill is very long you might be able to use it to go through the next pair of holes. If the ends of the quill are too long even when they are bent over, you can trim them to 1/8 inch. (Be REALLY careful what happens to those nasty little barbs you trim off - you REALLY don't want to get them in your foot or in your food!!)
  8. Continue making pairs of holes and inserting each quill as in steps 4-7. If you are clever you can use the dark ends of the quill to your advantage, incorporate them into your design and get a 'shaded' effect.
  9. With the quilling complete you have to make the backing for the pendant. Trace the decorated piece against a new (preferably a little thinner) piece of bark with the 'good sides' together, (inner-bark sides pressed together).
  10. Cut out the new bark backing and press it firmly against the underside of the quilled piece. (With your third hand) hold a little bundle of grass against the seam on the edge of the pendant and whip stitch every 1/8" to ¼". Stitch around the coil and through the layers of bark until the bundle is stitched on all the way around the perimeter of the pendant.
  11. Cut a hole (using a drill or an awl) for the pendant, or for a more contemporary option, glue on a pin backing.

Materials & Tools for Decorating Bark with Quills
Quill Decorated Boxes and Other Bark Objects
Designs used in Quilling on Birch Bark
Techniques and Patterns to Attach Quills to Birch Bark

Return to Porcupine Quillwork on Birchbark

Porcupine Quillwork Bibliography and Books to Buy On-Line

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© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.