The Story of Dream Catchers: How to Make Your Own

Design Idea E11S Necklace and Earrings
by Jamie Smedley, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

The story of dream catchers is enchanting, including the origin, symbolism and legend of dream catchers, and the traditional beads and materials used to make dream catchers. In some Native American cultures, a dreamcatcher, the inanimate form of the word for "spider," is an intricately knotted, spider-like web woven in a rounded hoop with sacred items such as symbolic charms and feathers dangling from the center of the web or hoop. These traditional Native American dreamcatchers were often hung over cradles as protection. Let's discover how dream catchers came to be, how they work and how to make your own dream catcher patterns and designs.

Design Idea D87C Dream Catcher The Dream Catcher

If you research dream catchers, you will find as many individual tales of the dream catcher's origin as there are individual tribal nations. The Sioux Nation of the plains region is thought to be the first to use the dream catcher, but the dream catcher is now widely seen throughout the world. Dreamcatchers are commonly used as home décor and also found in jewelry designs including elaborate necklaces and dangle earrings.

Dreamcatcher History

The most prevalent dream catcher legend tells of a shaman suffering from nightmarish dreams that began to plague his health. In an effort to heal himself, he hung a medicine wheel above his head where he slept hoping it would relieve him. After many days of no relief, a benevolent Grandmother Spider and a wise Grandfather Owl, seeing the medicine wheel hanging there above the shaman, devised a plan to trap the nightmare dreams that were making him ill. Grandmother Spider toiled, using her silk to spin an intricate web within the wheel, leaving a small hole in the very center. Then, Grandfather Owl flew by and dropped a large feather. The feather floated down and gently landed at center of the web, catching beside the tiny center hole.

Design Idea BC1E Home Décor Design Idea A945 Dream Catcher

As the shaman slept that first night, the nightmare dreams that came again to inflict him were ensnared in Grandmother Spider's webbing. They struggled and thrashed to escape in vain, becoming hopelessly entangled in the web, yet the peaceful dreams were easily able to find their way through the small center hole and floated down the feather to the sleeping shaman. When the sun rose that next morning, the nightmare dreams evaporated away like dew. The shaman awoke from a restful sleep feeling surprisingly at peace and well. When he stretched a big morning stretch, he glanced up and was astonished to see the medicine wheel he had hung above him transformed into a dream catcher by Grandmother Spider and Grandfather Owl. Saying a word of appreciation for the healing he knew he had received, he shared wisdom of the dream catcher with his people. The dream catcher has been used from that day to filter dreams and protect those who slumber from menace.

The Dream Catcher
Dreamcatcher Materials

The materials used to make each dream catcher are symbolically important and specific to the age and personality of the owner. For instance, a child's dream catcher is traditionally made using a fresh cut willow branch that is looped and tied into a teardrop shape and then knotted with an intricate web and the smallest center hole possible. This tiny hole ensures that only the best of dreams can travel down the feather. A child's dream catcher is meant to represent the fleeting years of youth because as the willow branch dries, the webbing becomes loose and the dream catcher eventually collapses.

It is also traditional to put a feather in the center of a child's dream catcher to represent the living breath that is considered essential for life. The feather has multiple functions, from entertaining a child with delightful movement in the breeze to teaching the wisdom and importance of having good air. Four owl or eagle feathers were often used to represent the four winds in dream catchers. Since the use of eagle and owl feathers is restricted, the use of other bird feathers from more common, large-feathered birds and gemstones with metaphysical properties are now used. Discover the meaning of different gemstones, including their history and background, and metaphysical and healing properties in Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' FREE Gem Notes Resource.

An adult dream catcher is made with a rigid ring and woven materials that reflect the personality and nature of the owner. Adult dream catchers don't always have feathers, and often include metal feather fetish charms and fringed beads in lieu of real feathers.

The Dream Catcher The Dream Catcher

Make Your Own Dreamcatcher

All dream catchers begin with a round or teardrop frame that can be made of branches, metal, bone or willow boughs with a web that is hand-knotted. The web can be of sinew or other various stringing material as preference and availability dictate.

Various beads and feathers, although not required, can be dangled from the edges of the ring or from the center hole. It is thought that adding beads and feathers to accent the center hole helped camouflage the center hole and confuse nightmares as well as add decorative interest.

Sinew is a primitive thread that is made by drying and separating the tendons of deer, elk or other large game animals. Once it is completely dry, the tendon looks like a twig and it is pounded to break it up into very small fibrous threads. This very strong material was traditionally used by Native Americans as thread for sewing, binding and other things. Woven grasses and bark twines have also been used to web dream catchers.

You can make beautiful and meaningful frames from looped tree branches, metal hoops or anything else that is sturdy and can be lashed onto. For the webbing, synthetic sinew, hemp cord, silk thread, leather laces or wire can be used.

Item Number B5248FN Charm Item Number 3115GE Leopardskin Jasper Bead Item Number 2791BS Feathers Item Number 6039NB Turquoise Embellishment

Personalize your dream catcher using pressed and fire-polished glass, Swarovski crystal and designer gemstone beads in beautiful natural and dyed colors. For instance a round, teardrop, fish, octagon, marquise, oval or any other shape you imagine. There have even been innovators who have created double-circle dream catchers, also known as figure eight dream catchers, which are intensely web-knotted around two overlapping round frames.

The Dream Catcher The Dream Catcher

Dreamcatchers in Weddings

Keep the bad vibes out and only the good coming in with dreamcatcher jewelry, décor, backdrops, designs on your cake and more. Dreamcatchers are often used in weddings of those with Native American descent, and those looking to create a more nature-inspired, Boho atmosphere to their wedding.

The materials used in dreamcatchers varies greatly, and can be completely customized to fit the color of your wedding. That's right, it isn't just about white for wedding dreamcatchers. While gemstone beads such as turquoise still reign as a favorite, feel free to add in other beads, including birthstones of you and your betrothed or sparkly Swarovski crystals. String colorful thread, lace, feathers and more. It's not just the spider-web like patterns we've seen either. Some hoops are almost completely open, with one or two sticks dividing the circle, and others have the entire hoop filled with intricate macramé designs. Branch out from the circular design as well by creating heart, oval, crescent moon or triangle shapes, too.

Altar
Hang an oversized (4- to 6-foot) dream catcher wrapped in twine, greenery, flowers, feathers, lace, tassels and beadwork where you'll be saying "I do" for visual interest. Another option is to hang two large dreamcatchers on either side with floor-length dangles to frame the ceremony.

Backdrops
Dangle a dozen or so dreamcatchers of various sizes and designs from trees or a gazebo for the perfect background in your sunset photos. If there's a breeze at your venue, long gauzy strips of fabric, thin leather, macramé and feathers create a whimsical scene. This scene is also perfect for setting up behind the gift table, around the bar area, dessert table and, of course, the dance floor with added cascades of fairy lights or antique light bulbs.

Seating Chart
Hang dreamcatchers in a pattern that matches your table layout so your guests can discover what table is theirs by finding their name written on a feather. Providing small individual dreamcatchers is another option with a feather or tag denoting the name and table number of each guest. And lastly, we've seen a giant dreamcatcher that contains each table's list of names for guests to find their spot. If you're into a more free-spirited seating plan, small dreamcatchers work as favors for helping make your "dream wedding" come true.

Jewelry
Of course, we have to cover dreamcatcher jewelry. Small dreamcatchers can be created from beadable hoops or circles formed out of wire. Wire-wrap beads along the frame, dangle beaded dangles from the bottom, add a charm in the webbed design and more. There is no right or wrong dreamcatcher design, so it can be completely customized. Dreamcatchers work not only for women's jewelry as pendants (bridesmaids) and bib-style necklaces (the bride), but also as unique boutonnieres pinned standalone or with a flower.

Extra Details
Add the words "Hers" and "His" inside two dreamcatchers to hang from the bride and groom's chairs during the reception. Have your florist insert a dreamcatcher into your bouquet with trailing tulle and ribbon. Ask for dreamcatcher designs on your cake, add them into tablescape centerpieces and so much more!

The Dream Catcher

Recently, dream catcher-styled jewelry has become more prominent in everyday fashion. Seen in miniature proportions dangling from earwires, as charms from purses and bracelets and as necklace pendants, these versions are often made with metal hoops tied with fine sterling silver wire webbing and tiny turquoise chips beads or metal feather fetish charms. Find a FREE dream catcher earring project to get started today.

However you choose to personalize and use your dream catcher, incorporating quality materials that hold a special or symbolic meaning to you will give your dream catcher a deeper and more powerful meaning. Once completed, enjoy displaying your example of this beautiful Native American tradition.

Happy dreaming!

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Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, "The Dream Catcher," featured in the a newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"This is one of the best descriptions of Dream Catcher lore that I have seen in quite some time. Thank you for that. Now, if we could get people to recognize that there are First Nations all over the country and not just in the southwest! Perhaps you could find Seminole designs or Mohawk. We always hope for more recognition...."
- Karen

"This article did everything but tell us how to weave a dreamcatcher. I lost one of a pair of earrings years ago and have kept the remaining one hoping I could reconstruct it someday. I'd love to have directions for how to weave the ''web.''"
- Dinah

"I was intrigued with the details of the Dream Catcher, I had made a large one making all the circles in the middle with a wooden tool and stitching with Perle crochet thread so tightly the circles were almost rigid, it is in shades of midnight blue to aqua and beaded around each large circle with a fishing line spinner between each dropping circle and a tassel of beads at the base. (sorry no feather). It is about 5ft in length and made with circumference of metal rings with the hand-made circles joined up filling the centre. Thanks for the story of the origin and will try to replicate the earrings."
- Hilary

"As per the dreamcatchers, for one thing, we NEVER use the word 'shaman'. It's a medicine person. We fight against this all the time, such words are used by new age fluffy bunnies who are stealing our ways."
- Tsa-La-Gi


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