by Ron Clanton
published as CIHA Indian Craft Series No. 1015
Many times I have been asked what a dancer
should carry in his hands besides a pipebag. Old pipebags are very expensive
and most hobbyists seem to be afraid of making one because the bead work
looks very extensive, and most hobbyists don’t know how to do quill work.
Not all pipebags need quill work to be good and the beading is no more than
a pair of cuffs. The pipebag is an essential article owned by all men in
pre-reservation days. The pipebag held his pipe, pipe tamp, tobacco and
articles for igniting the tobacco.
The construction of a pipebag is simple and
not too expensive. The average pipebag was 6” wide and 24” or more long, and
was divided into three or four areas (depending on if you have a quilled
area). The top area is skin with bead trim, a beaded area, a quilled area,
Starting at the top area, it has a strip of
bead work which completely encircles the mouth of the pipebag. Only
one-half of this strip is visible on the finished pipebag, as the top edge
of the strip is folded into the bag and stitched down giving an appearance
similar to a rope with beads (See figure I).
Along each side of the pipebag is a
vertical strip of bead work connecting the bead work around the mouth of the
pipebag with the main beaded section. These strips are usually composed of
one, three, or five lanes of bead work. The middle lane on one side of the
bag conceals the seam. The strip on the side without the seam appears to be
optional. I have seen as many bags without this strip as with it. The
majority of these bags tend to consist of designs of crosses or stylized
crosses. These strips of bead work are always done in the lazy stitch
The designs on the main beaded section are
usually different on front and back. By far the majority are done in lazy
stitch method, but some with pictographs or flags, have small sections
running in different directions, looking like applique. For designs and
colors see Indian Craft Series number 1003, Traditional Sioux Beaded Cuffs.
The body of the quilled section is composed
of a piece of rawhide which is split into narrow strips 1/3” to 1/4” wide.
These strips are not completely separated from the main piece of rawhide. As
the slits stop approximately 1/3” from the top of the piece of rawhid& (See
Figure II). The porcupine quills are attached to the rawhide section by the
The strips are separated at the bottom by
single beads (ed: “seed beads”) inserted sideways between the strips and
secured by a single thread passing through both rawhide strip and bead, (See
Figure II). The quilled section is then inserted approximately 1/3” between
the front and back side of the beaded section. The two sections are then
The fringe at the bottom of the bag is
twice as wide as the bag itself for the fringe will be folded in half, in
effect causing the fringe to double in thickness. The bottom of the quilled
section is inserted approximately 1/3” between the fold at the top of the
fringe and the two sections are stitched together. There are a few
variations in design and construction, however, before making these
variations research the article making sure that you are doing it right.