A dreamcatcher is one of the most recognizable talismans in the modern world. You may find representative specimens of this circular object with a knotted web of bed-laced thread and flowing feathers anywhere from real native pow-wows to roadside gas stations, and also in many homes and vehicles. It is possible to adhere to tradition while making a magical DIY dreamcatcher of your own.
Here, we’ll discuss the history of dreamcatchers, which have long been do-it-yourself (DIY) items in their creation. We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide on how to make a DIY dreamcatcher to display for yourself or offer as a meaningful, heartfelt gift.
What Is a Dreamcatcher?
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More than just a pretty addition to your home, a dreamcatcher has spiritual significance for many. The first examples were found and imitated in the very early 1900s. These native North American objects were used for very specific purposes by their makers and holders. Let’s dive into the history of the dreamcatcher and find out what spiritual meaning this talisman is believed to hold.
Dreamcatchers originated with the Native American Ojibwe people and later were adopted as worthy symbolic items by other indigenous North American peoples through the Pan-Indian movement. Legend has it that Asibikaashi, or Spider-Woman, the Ojibwe watcher of babies and children, created the first dreamcatcher to protect these most vulnerable humans at night. Originally, Ojibwe women handcrafted these small, circular objects from willow reed hoops and sinew, a flexible tissue that connects bone and muscle, which was obtained from wild game.
For some Native Americans, a dreamcatcher encompasses a collection of spiritually protective elements to guard sleeping children. The hoop represents the earth and the webbing traps nightmares and later releases them during daylight hours. The dangling feathers are a heavenly ladder from the spirit world to bring love and positivity to the dreamer.
In modern times, many people of all ages keep and display dreamcatchers for the same reasons. They are placed above beds to prevent nighttime distress and bring peaceful rest. Through the years, dreamcatchers have become much larger, more embellished, and stylized using a variety of synthetic accouterments to adorn them. Unlike the original designs, the webbing often looks less spider-like these days, but we’re sure that it’s just as useful in promoting peace and spirituality for the believer.
Supplies Needed for a DIY Dreamcatcher
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How you design your DIY Dreamcatcher will determine which supplies you’ll need. Start with a plan. What do you want your dream catcher to look like? Do you have a color scheme? Which size will you choose?
To align with more traditional sentiments of the talisman, we recommend sticking with natural materials rather than synthetic choices. Ultimately, these decisions for designing your DIY dreamcatcher are all yours, though. We’ve identified both the most authentic, natural materials and some clever, modern variations. If creating your DIY dreamcatcher without the help of animal tissue is preferable, there are many alternative supplies you can add to your list. Below are some ideas for materials needed to construct a dreamcatcher in the style of your choice.
The Ojibwe Traditional Dreamcatcher
If you want a traditional Ojibwe design, you’ll only need a flexible willow tree branch and strips of animal-based sinew to use as cord. From here you’ll craft the willow into a small circle and create a spiral spiderweb from the sinew to weave together within that circle.
Classic Modern Dreamcatchers
Classic modern dreamcatchers are those that are most often seen in the broader world today. Modern dreamcatchers come in a variety of sizes with different materials. They include a firm circular base shape, string for the webbing, beads, and feathers.
Supplies for Each Element
The options are limitless for designing a gorgeous, genuinely unique DIY dreamcatcher. Here we’ll list a few options to get you started on your creative journey.
Circular Base Shape Options
One crucial part of the dreamcatcher is the circular base shape. This is the element that holds the dreamcatcher together. When selecting a base, be sure it is sturdy enough to handle thread tension. It should have good flexibility but not bend or break easily. Many people find that using a ready-made hoop or ring provides the best structure for a DIY dreamcatcher.
Here are some prefabricated but naturally derived ring and hoop options:
- Wooden hoop
- Sewing hoop
- Metal hoop
- Macrame ring
- Oversized keyring
DIY dreamcatcher webbing is typically the most creative element of the design. The traditional webbing design looks like a spiderweb. Modern interpretations use a knot formation to interlock the threads. Some ultra-modern designs use crochet techniques, weaving, and specialty knotting to create one-of-a-kind, dream-snatching beauty.
After you’ve decided which method to use for your dreamcatcher, choose specific webbing material based on your decision. The material should match the style of your chosen design. More intricate designs require a more delicate thread. Woven or crocheted patterns may call for thicker strands.
Some ideas for dreamcatcher webbing are:
- Embroidery thread
- Thin strips of leather
Beads are one of the most popular embellishments on a dreamcatcher. They are sometimes laced into the interior webbing. Some designs leave off the traditional feathers and instead have long strings of beads flowing from the bottom of the circular hoop structure.
When choosing your beads, take note of the colors, shapes, and sizes. The beads will need to match or blend with the other materials used to complete the overall look of the dreamcatcher. Using natural materials works exceptionally well when making a dreamcatcher.
Some natural bead materials to try include:
Feathers are a classic inclusion in dreamcatcher design because they are said to draw positive energy downward to the sleeper. Putting a feather that has unique meaning to you on your dreamcatcher can intensify this effect for you.
Perhaps you’ve found beautiful feathers while out for a walk in the woods. Maybe you saw a feather in one of grandmother’s old hats. It doesn’t matter where you found it as long as the feather or feathers have meaning for you. If you found it outside, make sure to clean it up if necessary before affixing it to your dreamcatcher.
If you want to include feathers but don’t have any on hand, there is also the possibility of buying them from a craft store or online retailer. For the best good-night vibes, however, make sure the feather comes from an ethical, environmentally responsible source.
Feathers aren’t the only way you can create the spiritual staircase on your DIY dreamcatcher. Anything that flows from the bottom of the dreamcatcher toward the pillow can make a marvelous addition.
Here are our top picks for feather alternatives on a DIY dreamcatcher:
- Strings of beads
- Flowing threads or ribbon
- Braids of yarn
- Macrame feathers
- Dried eucalyptus leaves
For this DIY dreamcatcher guide, we’re building our creation with a six-inch wooden hoop. We’ve gathered three yards of suede lace, a skein of embroidery thread, four hematite beads, 27 chrysoprase beads, and three found feathers. Here are suggested steps for the process:
Measure and mark the suede lace to leave about five inches free at the end.
Carefully wrap your hoop with thin, tight layers of the suede lace until you reach the original five-inch free lace.
Inspect the hoop for any places the suede isn’t covering. If necessary, gently reposition any area with an exposed part of the hoop.
While holding the end of the wrapped portion in place, bring the first five-inch portion down to tie with another five-inch part of the lace. Make a tight and secure knot close to the hoop here.
Bring the two ends straight up and clip them to the same size. Tie these loose ends into a knot. This becomes your wall hanger.
At the top suede knot of the dreamcatcher, tie the embroidery thread.
Bring the embroidery thread down and wrap it around the hoop directly below the knot.
After the thread has made a full and complete rotation around the hoop, slide about a half-inch over and repeat the process. Make sure to leave slack in the thread because you’ll be wrapping more around it later.
Continue wrapping in one-half inch segments until you reach your first mark. You will have around 12-13 wraps.
To complete the web, repeat the process from the same starting points on the hoop, but wrap the thread around the slacked thread from the last rotation. Tighten the thread after you have wrapped it.
Continue this process through the last rotation. Beads can go on any thread in the dreamcatcher. They are most commonly found near the center. We placed one hematite bead and two chrysoprase beads two rows back from center.
When you have wrapped as much as you want, tie the end of the embroidery thread very tightly to the circle to close it. Snip the end with scissors.
Wrap embroidery thread around each feather stem and tie them with secure knots.
Cut the thread to the length you wish the feather to hang. Before cutting, make sure you have enough room for beads and to tie the threads to the hoop.
Knot the feather threads to the bottom of your DIY dreamcatcher. Make sure they are tight and evenly placed.
Dreamcatchers are a fun and creative addition to any bedroom or other selected peaceful spot. Making a DIY Dreamcatcher is even better than buying a beautiful one from someone else because you can pick materials, colors, and additions that are personally meaningful to you. Whether for a baby’s nursery or to guard your adult dreamscape, a modern dreamcatcher can keep your dreams sweet.
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