Northwest coastal Indians lived in a place where it often rained, and they needed clothing that would help keep them warm and dry. These Indians often wove blankets out of ever-abundant cedar bark, mountain-goat wool, feathers, and even dog hair. The blankets were worn as capes to help keep them warm. The blankets served as bed coverings and were sometimes made to give away on special occasions.
After the Indians made contact with the Europeans, they were introduced to some of the fine items of European society. One such item was mother-of-pearl buttons.
By the 1890s many of the woven blankets displayed these buttons. The buttons were sewn on to follow the shape of the Indians’ family crests. The blankets became important in ceremonial occasions and allowed the coastal Indians a way to display their family crests.
Make a Button Blanket
- 8 ½ by 11 piece of fabric
- Enough buttons to outline your crest figure
- Glue (older children can use hot glue)
- Marker to trace crest design onto the material
- Needle and thread for those who want to sew on the buttons
- Other decorative material
- Find out whether your family has a crest or design one yourself.
- Trace this crest onto the fabric with a marker.
- Sew or glue the buttons on the outline of your crest.
- Add any additional decorative items you would like to see on your button blanket.