Published on August 22, 2014 by Amy
The American Indian powwow dancers are known to all of us, but the traditions behind them are too often less familiar. The colorful clothing adorned with feathers and beads are more than simply attractive. Each element, each step of construction had a specific meaning. The crow bustle, with it’s spray of feathers and decorated tail was worn with honor by a select few. While the construction and components of today’s crow bustles are more lenient, the true crow bustle has specific guidelines that must be honored and respected.
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1. Cut the leather into a rectangle approximately 10-inches wide and 20-inches long, measuring out the 10 inches along the bottom.
2. Flip the leather over. Draw a centered 8-inch circle as a guide around the bottom half. Mark evenly spaced dots about 1/2-inch apart along the circle. Cut a small hole at each dot just large enough to insert the feather quills.
3. Wrap each wing feather quill with the brightly colored cord, leaving the first 1/2 inch exposed.
4. Prepare the feather arrangement. Select the longest feathers for the top holes, reducing in size towards the bottom of the circle. Insert the exposed 1/2 inch of one wing feather in each hole, resulting in a circular fan of feathers that stick out almost perpendicular from the leather at an angle that, once all feathers are assembled, results in a bowl shape with feather sides and a leather base (see image below). To help hold the feathers in position, glue each feather in place on the back side of the leather, where the glue will be hidden from view.
5. Fold the leather in half resulting in a 10-by-10 inch double layer. Place the dowel inside along this fold, creating a pillow effect with the dowel hidden inside and supporting the pillow from collapsing. Pass the rawhide cord or fabric strip through the fold along the dowel, leaving equal lengths exposed on either side to act as a sash for attaching the crow bustle around your waist.