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How do you make a buckskin dress??

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  • #61
    Originally posted by buckskinlady View Post
    Hi again! Thanks for your very kind words Friend of Bear..if you really want to make a dress, I wouldn't wait that long!!!
    Your hands and back and eyes might be worn out by then!!!
    Aaaayyyy! Seriously, I feel very fortunate that I do what I love for a living and I do thank God every day. Of course, I don't get a steady paycheck or perks and I drive an NDN car and don't get to take cool vacations (except if you call workng at Pow-Wows in different states a vacation) like I would get to have if I had a real job...but I guess I need to be my own boss. My own idiocy is the only one that I can tolerate. Aaaayyy!
    But what I really wanted to say was that I did not realize at first that our friend mofi48 was from the Netehrlands, and I didn't mean to be so harsh about usuing the "g" word (glue), but there really is no place for that in a Buckskin. She did say she uses only glass beads and no plastic, so I appalud you, mofi48, for that and please continue to give us your input because every one who is serious about something has something valuable to share.
    Uh, just don't use glue! :D Or a sewing machine!! Yuck!! No!!!

    I guess I also wanted to add more info. When I first read the original post by Ayita16 I thought, "Oh no! Such a huge can you answer it without going on for a year!!!" But I guess, just like step at a time. If everyone wants to continue this and we all add our two cents...we can make this a v-e-r-y long "thread"!!!
    About the hand stitches...just in case someone doesn't know....they are not the flat stitches that machines a basting or a running stitch. It is called a WHIP stitch and it is done over the top (edge) of the two (or 3) pieces of buckskin that you are holding together. You just go over the top and don't make them too long...about less than a 1/4 of an inch from the top and continue along trying to space them pretty closely and evenly but not right on top of each other. Spacing is hugely important, it is the first thing critical people will look at.
    Pull it firmly, but not too tight and it will make a perfect seam, with no stiching showing on the "good" side. Uh, we use the "suede" side out here, never the slick side (on commercial hides). Many reasons, number 1 being that is traditional and number 2 being that your beads will nestle nicely in the rough nap. They will slide if you bead on the slick side. I really don't know of any tribe that uses the slick side for ceremonial or contest dresses, but please let me know if you know of any.
    If you pull too tightly it will pucker and if your stitches are too loose or if they are too far will not have a tight seam and you might even see some "air" in there.
    One other thing that I still struggle with..when you hold the skins in your non stitching hand, try to too pull too hard, because you will stretch the bottom skin and then you will wind up with skin longer on the bottom piece when you get to the end.
    Well, there are most of my secrets about stiching. Anyone else?
    Wow, thats great! I make moccasins and dance outfits for younger dancers (mostly the grandkids), lately I just want to do that but I have to work and all that stuff, but I have been wanting to do a buckskin dress for my youngest takoja who has just turned two and I dont want to miss making this for her, but your instructions were great I read all the posts you had here, just wondered about the pattern, I know about the tops and bottoms for regular size buckskin dress, she is a little skinny girl and I have a light thin piece of buckskin but I may just look for some different pieces for her. but I was wondering if I should make it two piece with a little tank top under the top part? I am not sure about that part - how can it be cut and I've sewn with buckskin before, of course and deerhide I just dont want it to be bulky for her. She is Northern Cheyenne/Oglala/Oneida (like me) and I will probably do the Cheyenne beaded style on top for her. Her Great Grandma on her Grandpa's side was Southern Cheyenne, so she can go just about anywhere! aye but anyway if you could give me suggestions I would appreciate it.


    • #62
      at first you need tools and materials ; there is what do you need :

      A fleshing beam.
      A Fleshing knife.
      Plastic, glass or ceramic vessel to soak hide in.
      Fels Naphta Soap (1 bar).
      Neatsfoot Oil compound.
      Household Lye (sodium hydroxide)
      Rubber Gloves.
      Protective clothing and eyewear.
      Stretching Frame.
      Strong cord.
      then , the steps are :
      The first step is to wash the hide in fresh water. This steps simply cleans the hide of loose dirt, blood, insects, etc. Prepare the dehairing solution by adding 1/4 cup of lye to each ten gallons of cool water. CAUTION- Lye is extremely caustic. It burns if it gets on your hand or any exposed skin so wear rubber gloves and protective clothing. It can do serious damage if a drop was to get in your eye so wear protective eyewear. If it does get on you, wash it off immediately with running water.

      Add the deer hide to the lye solution. Make sure the hide is completely submerged, especially the fur side. Periodically (every 6-12 hrs) mix the hide in the solution to ensure the lye is working under the hair. After one day, test the hide by trying to pull the hair out. When the hide is ready the hair should come out easily. Don’t leave it in so long that the hair comes off without pulling. Two to three days should be sufficient. Any more than that may deteriorate the leather.

      While still in the dehairing solution, and while wearing your body protection, pull as much of the hair off as you can by hand. At the same time, pull off as much as you can of the large deposits of fat and muscle from the other side of the hide. How much of this there is will depend upon how well the hide was initially skinned.

      Remove the nearly-hairless skin from the lye solution and rinse it in clean water. I do this three times. It makes the hide safe to handle without gloves and makes it less slippery. Place the hide, hair side up, on a fleshing beam. I use a board, six-inches wide by two-inches thick laid against a wooden horse. Tack the board to the horse so it doesn't slip off. Tack the hide to the board at the top with a finish nail to hold it on the beam.

      Begin by drawing the knife against the hair side to remove any residual fur. When this side is clean of hair, flip the skin over and scrape the side to remove all muscle and fatty tissue.

      I prepare the tanning solution in my kitchen. Take a clean 5 gallon pail and fill it approximately halfway with lukewarm water. Into this ‘shave’ the bar of Fels Naphta soap. By shaving, I mean to use a sharp knife and cut off thin slices into the warm water in a manner similar to whittling a piece of wood. Using your hands, squeeze the soap shavings until most have dissolved into the liquid. Add about one-half gallon of Neatsfoot Oil to the solution and stir.
      Place the dehaired hide into a clean bucket and cover with the tanning solution. Add enough cool water to completely cover the hide and stir the hide to completely cover it with the oil solution. Leave it to tan for 3 (warm) to 5 (cold) days.

      The next step is to place the hide in a stretching frame. This pulls the hide in all directions, opening up the skin pores and is the first step in making a soft finished product.

      I made my stretching frame out of four pieces of 2"x2"x10’ boards. I screwed steel angle brackets at each corner for reinforcements. Begin by making a lateral cut in the hide at an edge along the long axis of the hide (the long axis would be that portion of the hide that was the deer’s backbone). Through this slit, tie a piece of the twine. Now lift the hide by this string and tie it around the center of one of the sides of the stretching frame. Rotate the frame ninety-degrees and repeat the procedure, slitting the hide about halfway (in the midsection) and 1" in from the edge. Again, tie it to the middle of the adjacent frame side. Repeat for the remaining two sides. At this point the entire hide should be suspended by the four strings. Now continue the same procedure, fastening the hide every one to two feet around the frame.

      When finished it should look like this. Rotate the frame initially three to six times a day so the tanning solution does not pool at the bottom edge of the hide. You want the hide to begin drying with a uniform covering of the tanning licquor.

      Now comes the hard work- stretching the hide by hand. If you were to leave the hide in the stretcher for, say, a week, it would soon dry into a hard, flat object resembling a large piece of cardboard. In order to get a supple piece of buckskin it must be rigorously worked so that the skin fibers break down as they dry.

      After a day or so in the stretcher you will begin to see spots where the hide is drying out. These appear first at the top edge and then show up in the thinner spots as translucent patches. As soon as you see these it is time to take the hide out of the stretcher and begin working it. I work it over the sharp edge of the fleshing beam, hair-side up. Grabbing the hide by one edge, pull it across the fleshing beam while applying a downwards pressure to maximize the stretching action. Then rotate the hide and do another location. Do this over and over again. I sometimes remove the hide from the beam and just tug at it with both hands, stretching across different grains. When you get tired, roll the hide up and place in a plastic bag until you are ready to continue working it. Do not leave it in the bag for more than a day, however, or it could start to mold in a warm environment.

      As the hide is worked two things happen: the hide becomes lighter in weight and also in color. The stretching process is complete when the buckskin is soft, dry and lightweight. I think it will be apparent when further stretching yields no improvements to the leather.

      If properly prepared, the hides will last many years without needing any special care. If desired, a light coat of neatsfoot oil can be applied to the hair side, the hide rolled up and stored in a container that provides air circulation (like a cloth bag).
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      Last edited by Dorota; 09-20-2012, 06:32 PM.


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