Porcupine Quillwork Classes in June

Porcupine Quillwork Part 1: Colors of the Past
June 7, 2009 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Porcupine Quillwork Part 2: Stories in the Quills
June 7, 2009 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Pre-register for the classes by June 3, 2009

Download this pdf for more information and the registration form.

Plaiting porcupine quills. All the prickly ends get sniped off when the braiding is done.

Plaiting porcupine quills. All the prickly ends get sniped off when the braiding is done.

The Museum of Indian Culture will be hosting me on June 7, 2009, to teach two Porcupine Quillwork classes. You can join me for one class, although you get a 15% discount if you attend both classes, plus an additional discount if you’re a Museum member. You can become a member of the Museum of Indian Culture when you sign up for the classes. The pdf contains more information about pricing and how to sign up. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through e-mail or at 610-905-8399.

A feather quilled on a leather pouch using the stitches taught in the Porcupine Quillwork Part 2 Class.

A feather quilled on a leather pouch using the zigzag stitch. This stitch is taught in the Porcupine Quillwork Part 2 Class.

It’s been a while since I taught a quillwork class, but I just demonstrated at the Museum’s latest powwow. I meet a surprising number of people at the powwow who have an appreciation for porcupine quillwork, since this art is often overlooked in favor of beadwork.

Porcupine quillwork pre-dates the beadwork we often associate with Native American Indians. Using available resources, Native Peoples developed a technique for embroidering porcupine quills onto leather or wrapping quills around rawhide and sinew to make intricate patterns.

This was the pre-1500s, when steel needles, cotton thread and glass beads weren’t yet developed in the Americas. Native women harvested the quills from porcupines, clean them and dyed them using local plants such as blueberries, sassafras and sunflowers. The women placed the quills (very carefully!) in their mouths to soften them to a pliable state, then pulled the quills through their teeth to flatten them. Flattened quills were embroidered onto brain-tanned leather using sinew (that’s tendon from deer, elk or buffalo). The quills were also wrapped around rawhide.  Natives adept at this art could embellish nearly anything: war shirts and moccasins, pipes and tobacco bags, feathers and hair pieces.

(Don’t worry: in our classes we use dishes of water and spoons to flatten quills and artificial sinew to sew the quills).

The porcupine quill plait, taught in Porcupine Quillwork Part 1, is wrapped around this feather.

The porcupine quill plait, taught in Porcupine Quillwork Part 1, is wrapped around this feather.

Not every tribe practiced this art. The Plains Indians are best know for their exquisite quillwork, but quillwork is also common among the Athabaskan and Metis peoples. Debate still goes on over whether eastern woodland peoples, like the Lenape, practiced quillwork since our humid eastern conditions would not allowed samples of this work to survive at archaeological sites.

The Micmac people practice quillwork on birchbark, which is a different type of quillwork that is equally intricate, but a different set of skills than embroidery. (I don’t teach quillwork on birch bark).

Come out and join us for a day of delving deep into history as you learn the dying art of Porcupine Quillwork. When you sign up for the class, you’ll also gain entry into the museum during our breaks. The Museum of Indian Culture just unveiled its beautiful new Plains Indian exhibit. Bring your lunch and make a day of the two classes.

Hope to see you there!

Weekend Recovery

My treasure hunters trying out their new cargo-pants-turned-field-bags.

My treasure hunters trying out their new cargo-pants-turned-field-bags.

What better way to recover from a weekend than a creativity binge?

Instead of cleaning my studio and re-shelving all my props from the Powwow this weekend, I’ve been sewing up a storm. At last count I had 2 field bags, 6 bibs and a bunch of cloth napkins.

The Powwow was a good time, despite the weather. Saturday the sun showed up, and therefore, so did the crowds. I demonstrated porcupine quill, wrapping a rawhide medicine wheel with dyed quills.

Sunday saw a stead rain ALL day. Honestly, in the 5 years I’ve done this festival (3 times a year, at that) this is the first time it rained for an entire day. Rather than be miffed by the fact that rain keeps the crowds away, I took it as a vacation day. It’s all in the attitude, right?

I sat under a dry tent, worked on an easy quillwork project and listened to the rain. No kids to entertain, no laundry or cleaning to distract me. Just drinking coffee, listening to the drums and the music of the weather, enjoying my craft. During the especially slow afternoon, my neighbor the flintknapper and I traded secrets; I showed him some quillwork, he let me bang rocks together.

Although the spectators were few, the Native dancers were still out there dancing in the rain. In a day and age where rain equals holing up in front of the TV, it’s great to see people who aren’t scared off by a bit of weather.

Come Monday morning I didn’t record my sales for taxes or put away quills. Instead, I set to work on some treasure-hunting field bags for the kids. I saw this idea on some one’s blog (if it was you, let me know so I can give you credit!) to turn turn old cargo pants into a kid bag with lots of pockets. I cut off the legs, sewed up the bottoms and added new fabric to make the strap and flap. The kids were so excited. A great place to stash all their dandelions and rocks from neighborhood walks. My pockets will be so empty!

Bibs and napkins will keep everyone clean!

Bibs and napkins will keep everyone clean!

The studio is still a mess, maybe even a bigger mess. But the way I look at it, I am cleaning up my studio by using the fabric crowding the space. It’s all in the attitude, right?

The Weekend in the Lehigh Valley

Susan of Heart to Hearth sorting beans at the fall 2008 Powwow.

Susan of Heart to Hearth sorting beans at the fall 2008 Powwow.

It one of those weekends in the Lehigh Valley when everything is happening at once and unfortunately, I can’t be at everywhere at the same time. Damn!

Guess what they were roasting over the fire at the Powwow?

Guess what they were roasting over the fire at the Powwow?

I’m preparing the the Museum of Indian Culture’s May Powwow, the Planting Corn Festival. Look for me demonstrating quillwork in the Lifeways area of the Powwow.  Kids can make drums and rainsticks in the childrens area. Learn more about Native living in the past and present through demonstrations and watching Native American Indians in regalia dancing to the beat of the drum. The Powwow has representatives from Native tribes across North America, dancing, singing and having a good time.

The swearing is because it’s also the opening weekend for the Easton Farmer’s Market. I’ve been craving a good, fresh salad. And this year’s vendors include a winery, cheese monger, soap and salsa, along with the fresh produce. A little vino and cheese with that salad?

Okay, so maybe I should save the swearing because the Farmer’s Market runs until October, so there’s always next Saturday. Check out this interesting article about the new crop of farmers (pun intended) at the Farm Market this year.

May 2 is also the Easton House Tour. That’s where you to go inside the interesting old houses and the historical buildings in the Easton. This tour has been going on for years and I’ve been missing it for years.

One of these days…

Box o’ Birds


There is a woman up north, in New Hampshire to be exact, who is about to pop.

She’s tall and slender, so at this point, as she patiently awaits the arrival of child #3, she probably looks like a lollipop– long, thin legs and a very round belly on top.

Her due date is not far off, which means the phone calls will start. If you’ve ever been pregnant and made it to your due date, you know what I’m talking about. When folks call up and say, “Did you have the baby yet?” or “How are you feeling?” Both my kids were late, so I got a lot of these phone calls. I had the urge to be sarcastic: “Yeah, I had the baby three weeks ago and just didn’t tell you” or “Hey, strap on a 30 pounds cat food and tell me how you feel.” But I was never that rude, even though I secretly wanted to be.

So rather than call with inane questions, I decided to send her a box of birds. She loves these birds (as do I!). I sewed up all colors and patterns, stuck ’em in a box and mailed them north. Hopefully a box of birds will bring a little sanctuary to the days of waiting for baby while chasing around two other little ones.


Who would you send a box of birds to?

But wait…there’s more for me to give away! That’s right, it’s April 1, and I have some prizes to give away from the March Happy Birthday Giveaway!

Thanks to all who left comments over the last month. I wish I could send all of you prizes! But the random number generator picked #2 and #12. The lucky winners are…

Gina will be getting the adjustable horse hair bracelet and…

Kristi will get the art journal.

Congrats, ladies. Your prizes will be in the mail shortly!

A Seuss-ish Celebration


The Whacky Waffle Cake

It was a whacky day, a whacky day, indeed,
As we celebrated the 6 years of life of our little prodigy.

A birthday, yes, a birthday for a girl learning to read,
Who discovered the magic of Dr. Seuss’s rhyming scheme.

So her Momma decide this day could not be ordinary,
But needed flair and fun and something quite extraordinary.

While papa sat reading Happy Birthday To You! at the family breakfast table,
Momma was in the kitchen baking waffles and getting syrup of the maple.

And while Papa read these silly, funny words of the Seuss,
Momma was preparing a cake quite obtuse.

Because a Seuss-ish celebration deserved more than a cake,
It deserved a whacky, wonderful waffle cake
That only a whacky wonderful Momma could make.

Okay, enough rhyming already!

Yes, it was birthday time at the Newquist household..yet again. We’d been celebrating since Sunday with dinners and gifts. My 6-year-old, who is learning how to read, has taken a liking to Dr. Seuss, so I thought a Seuss-ish celebration in order.

Side view of the Whacky Waffle Cake

Side view of the Whacky Waffle Cake. The image is blurry because the cake is probably falling.

The best part was the Whacky Waffle cake I conceived–not well, I might add, because it kept falling over. But no one cared. It was made with frozen waffles (cooked, of course), whipped cream (from a can!), plus strawberries and pomegranates.


My read husband his childhood copy of  Happy Birthday To You! by Dr. Seuss.

The Great Birthday Bird came by…

The Great Birthday Bird has quite the hooked beak, you know.

The Great Birthday Bird has quite the hooked beak, you know.

And delivered a few gifts, such as a new pet. We didn’t have time to go to the Official Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation. Plus, with dogs and cats and fish and turtles, I really didn’t think we had the room to house a pet from the Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation, not the smallest nor the tallest. So instead we went for a new Littlest Pet Shop horse.


We didn’t make it through the whole story because the cake kept falling over and the kids really just wanted the whipped cream out of the can (I never buy that).

My 6-year-old thought the Seuss theme, plus her own digital camera (which is now making a living record of our lives) made it the “Best birthday ever!”

Honestly, though, I can probably save myself a lot of time and effort next year by giving her some gifts and a spray can of whipped cream to eat on everything!

Whacky Waffle Cake


20 frozen waffles (yes, frozen. Save yourself the trouble of making them.)

4-8 wooden skewers

1 can whipped cream

fruit, such a s strawberries, blueberries or bananas (as garnish and to claim this breakfast is actually nutritious)


Bake waffles according to package directions.

Stack a few waffles haphazardly.

Plunge in wooden skewers in different directions.

Pile fruit on top of waffles.

Slide more waffles onto skewers haphazardly.

Embellish with more whipped cream than necessary.

Quick! To the table! Before it falls over! Don’t impale yourself on skewers trying to save the cake. Better yet, trim the skewers if you have time.

Watch the whole thing topple over.

Eat off the table with hands like heathens (more whipped cream, of course)

Serves: A bunch o’ whacky waffle eaters from Katroo or Easton or Macungie.

*****And remember: Just a few more days for you to leave a comment to be entered to win prizes from Red-Tail Designs!*****


Fun prizes you can win!

There is still time to enter the Birthday Giveaway! Just a leave a comment between now and March 31, 2009, and you’re automatically entered to win one of these Red-Tail Designs creations.

My newest product: adjustable horse hair bracelet

1. Adjustable Horse Hair Bracelet: Brown and white horse hair are braided together to create a swirled effect. Copper rings accent the bracelet and make it adjustable so it will fit any size wrist.


This horse hair bracelet is my newest product and I’m hoping to make some more of these this spring.


2. Galloping Horses Art Journal: Horses on the outside and pencils, paper and stickers on the inside. Take along art supplies where ever you go. My son and I were drawning while waiting at the DMV the other day.


The watercolor pencils, plus a paint brush, let you scribble away or add some water to create watercolor effects. The journal closes with a leather strap and magnetic clasp.

prize1Good luck!

Impressionism in 8 minutes

The kids re-create Monet's waterlillies using felt board and felt cutouts.

The kids re-create Monet's waterlillies using felt board and felt cutouts.

Here’s the art history class I wish I had in college:

..and now on to Impressionism. There’s a girl dancing…a field of hay…a vase of pretty flowers…some waves…and…we’re done. Now let’s go paint something.

The horse sculpture outside the Allentown Art Museum.

The horse sculpture outside the Allentown Art Museum.

That was the art history lesson I had Sunday with my kids when we went to see Monet to Matisse: French Masterworks from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens at the Allentown Art Museum. Just like me, they didn’t feel the need to know exactly who painted what in exactly what year. They just knew if they liked it or not.

My daughter wanted to see Degas’ paintings (girl = ballerinas!), and she recognized the waterlilies of Monet that were featured in the Artways gallery. A few weeks ago serendipity led me to borrow The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt from our local library. We’ve since read storybooks about Matisse and Degas from the same author. They were a great set up to the exhibit.

To my 2-year-old son, they were all rather ordinary pictures until we got to the 3oth Juried Show exhibit and Steve Scheuring‘s oil painting “Crash” spoked to his little tiny car-lovin’, truck-drivin’ soul. An entire painting of bright Hot Wheels! Does it get any better than that when you’re 2?

Considering my kids are so young, I think they held out pretty long exploring Impressionism. Mind you, I wasn’t expecting to stand about with them discussing use of color or contemplating brush strokes. But my 5-year-old would have enjoyed the paintings a little longer if she wasn’t so focused on getting to the children’s interactive gallery. That’s what they enjoyed the most, though: painting scarves, using felt to make water lily gardens like Monet and painting with scissors like Matisse.

I’m hoping to go back to the Allentown Art Museum and actually look at the paintings before the Impressionist exhibit leaves on May 3. Maybe I’ll even get to read about the paintings and relearn all that art history shelved in the back of my brain.

Happy Birthday!


An art journal I made for my niece.


The outside of my niece's journal. I hope this funny dog fabric makes her laugh, because it just cracks me up.

Birthday season has arrived!

From February 11 through June 26, 75% of the people I know celebrate their birthdays. Much of spring I’m buying, making, sending, planning or celebrating birthdays and birthday gifts.

For  Hannah Montana fan I had to conjure a little bling. Silver speckled denim married to some pinkness seemed to do the trick.

For a Hannah Montana fan I had to conjure a little bling. Silver speckled denim married to some pinkness seemed to do the trick. The little sis got the floral motif.

This year I’ve been cranking out the art journals as birthday gifts for all the kids we know. By year’s end I need to come up with a new idea for birthday gifts.

The inside of the flower journal

The inside of the flower journal

We kicked off birthday season early this year on February 7 with two birthday shindigs on the same day: a rollerskating party and a gymnastics party. I had one tired kid at the end of that day.

Bling on the outside and busy on the inside. My daughter insisted on the flower and fruit background.

Bling on the outside and busy on the inside. My daughter insisted on the flower and fruit background.

Red-Tail Designs is also celebrating: One year of of blogging! Yeah, me! I was a little hesitant to start blogging, but it’s been an exciting year of sharing all the craftiness I whipped up this last year.  

To celebrate, I’m giving you gifts. Leave a comment between now and March 31, 2009, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win one of two prizes: an adjustable horse hair bracelet and an artist journal.

I’ll post pictures of them soon. My computer cord fizzled out so I grabbed the pictures above off my laptop before the battery ran dead. Hopefully Mr. Postman will deliver my new cord this week. 

Happy Birthday!

Spring Fever

If horses could talk, he'd say: "Less petting, more carrots."

If horses could talk, he'd say: "Less petting, more carrots."

Seems like I took a little break from blogging, didn’t I? Not purposeful, but deserved. My Christmas season was busier than ever, in a good way. I made many, many pieces of custom horse hair jewelry that people in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Nevada are now wearing (you can view some of them over at Flickr).

vanilla2hotchocolatemix12maddiechocolate1I also whipped up a few Christmas gifts for family and friends.  Family got bottles of the vanilla extract I’ve been working on for months. The hand-drawn labels at a special touch.

Instant hot chocolate mix was also a favorite, since my 5-year-old could help make it. My dog thought one jar pf hot chocolate under the Christmas tree was for her and she tried to open it. Or maybe she was just auditioning for the new reality show “When Dogs Attack.”

Last week was c-c-c-cold here in Pennsylvania. I know that 6 degrees F is nothing compared to what folks in North Dakota and Alaska see, but for us thin-skinned types, it’s just too much. We rush inside to hunker down under fuzzy blankets and barely move. That leads to a little cabin fever.

We relieved those symptoms by heading to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The kids had a blast.

Little people meeting little chickens.

Little people meeting little chickens.

They petted horses and saw chickens hatch.

Ducklings scoot up the ramp and then slide down the other side.

Ducklings scoot up the ramp and then slide down the other side.

They watched baby ducks slide down their duck slide and saw all sorts of handmade items like Gingerbread houses and quilts and honey.

We even saw a tractor square dance. I’m not a vehicle aficionado (I like that things with wheels get me places faster and that’s about as far as I my love goes), but I was very impressed with their precision tractor driving. It was worth seeing.

We also visited “our farm” last week and signed up for our CSA (community sustained agriculture). All this agri-minded-ness has me thinking about spring and wanting to buy seeds and flower. We still have a long way to go until Spring, but one can dream!

New Designs

Gold and silver beads are braided into the horse hair.

Aren’t fall leaves just the best background for photos?

The neighbors probably thought I was nutty the other morning. After dropping my husband off at work, I stopped the car numerous times to pick up leaves. Who drives to pick up leaves? I was in a time crunch, folks.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The leaves made for great props in my photos. Above are some new designs I’ve been working on. The adjustable bracelet was inspired by a recent request. I loved making these delicate bracelets with the tiny beads woven with the horse hair.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and adjustable bracelet.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and an adjustable bracelet.

All of these designs will be available for purchase next weekend at the Lehigh Valley Crafter’s Guild show at Swain School in Allentown, PA. Click here for more info and $1 off admission to the show. Stop on by to see us and bring your horse hair if you need a custom piece done.

I also snapped some quick pics of the custom horse hair jewelry I’d just finished. By now, these bracelets are on the arms of some very happy horsepeople.

Honoring Jack Frost

Honoring Jack Frost

Just a reminder: Horse hair for custom Christmas gifts needs to be in my hands before November 26 to avoid rush fees.