- Straight pins
- Small weights
- Leather shears
- Sewing machine
- Leather needle
- Leather foot
- Waxed needle
- Hand sewing punch
- Glue or thread
Identified by its pioneer patterns, flowing hemlines and intricate embellishments, Native American clothing is a classic look that dates back to before the time when Christopher Columbus discovered North America in the 1400s. Buying your own set of Native American clothing can be quite pricey. However, you can learn to make Native American clothing and, when you use authentic fabric, still enjoy a quality product.
Choose a Native American sewing pattern like a Cherokee tear dress, a ribbon shirt or a mountain man’s work shirt (see Resources below).
Determine the material you will use to make Native American clothing. Many Native American garments are made of suede. However, that’s not your only option if you want to make Native American clothing. Broadfall dropfront breeches were typically made of linen or broadcloth and you can make the caped woodmen’s frock from any type of leather or fabric. Look at the information included with your pattern to determine the amount of fabric necessary to complete the project.
Lay the fabric onto a large workspace, such as a table, and lay the pattern over your fabric. Use straight pins to attach the pattern to the fabric, and then cut the fabric and the pattern out together using a sharp pair of scissors. If you decide to work with leather or suede, do not pin the pattern to the fabric. Instead, use small weights to hold the pattern on the fabric. If your fabric is thick, like leather or suede, consider cutting the fabric with leather shears instead of scissors.
Sew the Native American clothing items together as directed by your pattern. If you use a sewing machine, and you’re sewing leather, make sure you have a leather needle and a leather foot. In addition, lengthen your stitch distance, which will prevent the fabric from bunching up as you sew. If you decide to sew it by hand, use a heavy, waxed needle and find a tool to puncture the leather before you sew. A hand sewing punch can help you puncture the leather.
Embellish your Native American clothes with unique accessories like beadwork, shells, coins, ribbon and trade cloth. If the fabric you used allows, you can sew the embellishments on. However, for thicker materials like suede or leather, you might have better luck by gluing embellishments on. Native American clothing used for everyday wear went without these embellishments. However, clothing saved for nice occasions were embellished with lots of color and intricate designs.