How to make a simple, elegant and beautifully Bohemian dreamcatcher for your home, office or nursery in just 5 easy steps
Since I was a little girl I have loved dreamcatchers. They are beautiful, Bohemian, and give me a sense of free-spirited magic. Over the last few years with the growth of festival culture, they have exploded out everywhere from prints on vests and shirts to tattoos, but the history of this iconic symbol is often overlooked.
Surprisingly, against common belief, it wasn't until the Pan-Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, that they were adopted by Native Americans of a number of different nations. Before this, their origin is with the Ojibwe people and it was then later that they were adopted by some neighboring nations through intermarriage and trade.
Alot of Native Americans now see the dreamcatcher as over-commercialised and I can see why, but I still love the thought that as per their original use, at night they catch all the bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter our minds.
The old Ojibwe legend goes that the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi, took care of the children and the people of the land. Eventually, as the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America, it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants. Thus was born the "dream-catcher" which would be hung above the bed and used as a protective charm from nightmares, changing bad dreams and thoughts to happy ones. According to Konrad J. Kaweczynski:
"Only good dreams would be allowed to filter through... Bad dreams would stay in the net, disappearing with the light of day."
Nice dreams would be able to pass through the net and then slide down the feather streamers to the sleeper below. What a lovely idea no?! As a child and still into adulthood, I have suffered chronic nightmares, even full blown night terrors, and a dreamcatcher above my bed has always given me great comfort. The circular shape of the dreamcatcher represents how giizis – the sun, moon, month – travel each day across the sky. Indeed, traditional dreamcatchers have meaning in every part of their construct,
Here's my beautifully simple and easy DIY tutorial to make your very own.
You will need:
- metal/wooden embroidery hoop/flexible wire/willow - I used an upcycled lampshade hoop
- suede, ribbon, or fabric strips and off-cuts
- twine or string
- beads and charms to decorate
- large eye needle (optional)
Start by wrapping your suede/fabric around the hoop in a clockwise direction, slightly overlapping each time but leaving an 8" tail at the beginning - this will become the looped hanger later.
Your hoop can be any size you like, from a bangle right up to 30-40-50cm in diameter. It's totally up to you. this one is approx. 20cm in diameter.
Once you have completely wrapped the hoop, before cutting off, leave another 8 inch tail. You can then knot these two tails together tightly to seal the wrap and create your dreamcatcher's loop hanger.
Now you need to make your web... this can look a little tricky but once you get the hang of it you will zoom around the hoop like Asibikaashi herself.
Start by taking your twine or string, and making a knot right at the top of the hoop next to where you knotted the tails. Then wrap it around a few times like this...
To start the webbing, make looping knots at even intervals around the hoop until you get back around to the top.
Your hoop should now look like this:
To make the rest of the web, all you do is simply repeat this looping process; but each time making the loop in the middle of the straight taut cords. which creates the web.
Be sure to pull the thread taught to create a nice even tension across the hoop
After the second full revolution of loops your webbing needs beads! This is the part where you can make your dreamcatcher completely personal - add them wherever you like - singly or in twos and threes. This always reminds me of those awesome Spokey Dokeys we had in the 90s as kids to pop on our bike spokes.
Thread your beads on between the knots of your loops and as before make sure you pull the cord nice and taught so your web has a good sturdy tension across the hoop
Continue to loop and bead until you reach the middle and to create your little 'eye' of the web, all you need to do is double wrap the 'hole' by weaving in and out of the surrounding web. Seal it off at the back with a little knot.
Now your web is complete and already looking beautifully bohemian with beads, it's time to add the feathers. No dreamcatcher is complete without feathers.
For this simple dreamcatcher, I only used 3 sets of streamers, but you can add as many as you like. Some of the dreamcatchers in my Etsy shop are literally dripping in streamers of feathers and fabric strips.
To make the streamers, you will need a few varying lengths of your suede/ribbon/fabric that you used to wrap the hoop in. Measure out how long you would like them to hang and then double this measurement before snipping off as you will be attaching them with a simple loop & pull knot.
To attach the feathers to the strips, arrange a handful of varying colours, textures and sized feathers and pinch tightly together. Then tie with a knot using your suede strip.
To hide this unsightly knot, you need to threadle on a few beads and push them down over the knot and feather tips ensuring all ends are tucked in nicely. This will hold the ends of the feathers tightly together in place and also hide the knot.
As we are going to attach these streamers to the hoop using a loop & pull kind of knot, you need to do both ends of the streamer before attaching it to the hoop.So, before you attach the strips second lot of feathers, you already need to have pushed the beads on. I used two beads an end so as you can see in the pic, I then added another two for the opposite end of the strip before the second feather bundle. Once the feathers were tied on I just pushed them down over the knot as before.
Repeat for as many streamers as you wish to add. You should now have 3 (or more!) double ended feathery strips
Attach your longest streamer first at the centre bottom of the hoop using a loop & pull knot as in the picture below.
Pull it nice and tight and then repeat for the remaining streamer strips and you're almost done!
I also added some pretty pink fabric roses using a little dobble of fast drying glue to give the dreamcatcher a quirky summer festival boho vibe.
That cheeky little Skull bead gives it a touch of the Day of the Dead Mexicana too - I love to see a bunch of cultures coming together into one big awesome amalgamation. The world would be a kinder place for sure if everyone could learn to just mesh it all together into one great big pot of amazing culture, tradition and creativity. It would be like a world buffet of ideas, taking the best parts and learning from eachother.