QUILLWORK (a form of embroidery)

  • Quills were used to decorate clothing, mocassins, bags, and baskets.
  • Only certain women were trained to collect and decorate with quills.
  • They got the quills by throwing a blanket over a porcupine and could then pick the quills out of the blanket.
  • Different sizes of quills were used for different types of embroidery.
  • The quills were dyed different colors.
  • After the quills were flattened then sewn to make designs.
  • Quills were soaked in water to soften.
  • Birchbark baskets were decorated with quills. An awl was used to poke holes in the bark. Quills were placed in the holes to make designs.


  • Glass beads replaced quills - the beads were brighter and easier to work with.
  • Various tribes made different designs and used different colors.
  • Beaded clothing and items were used for special occasions.


  • bison robes, tipi covers, parfleches, and other objects of hide or skin were painted
  • colors came from minerals, clay soils, berries and roots of plants
    • iron ore - reddish color
    • other minerals - green, blue, yellow, orange, purple
    • coal, charcoal, soot - black

| index | introduction | words | beliefs | food | clothing | tipi | bison |
| decoration | family & daily life | tools | transportation | links |

credits for graphics and information

J.Giannetta, June 2002
(updated July 2011)

Web Pages for Students

Site Meter