Native Americans and other cultures around the world have utilized the hides of animals for their clothing for thousands of years. But taking the hide off a dead animal and making it into soft, supple clothing that has the ability to last for hundreds of years is a true art, and is no simple task. Clothing made of buckskin is luxurious and outrageously expensive--rightfully so, as the steps to make this wearable art are complex and take a lot of work. This article will give you the most basic steps involved in creating buckskin clothing.
Things You'll Need
- Deer hide
- Sinew or thread
- Beads and other decorative material
Begin by finding a supplier of top quality buckskin. This is harder than you might think. There are many companies out there that process hides, but hides that are of the quality and suppleness you want for clothing need to be top of the line. For truly authentic clothes, you should use hides you have hunted yourself and sent in for processing. You will pay through the nose for top quality buckskin tanning, but it will be well worth your money.
Choose your design and pattern of the clothing you will be making, then match them to your materials. For example, a standard shirt will need a minimum of three deer hides, or one large elk hide. Leggings or trousers will need at least one, possibly two deer hides per leg, or one large elk hide. These hides must be absolutely tanned to perfection, butter soft and golden yellow in hue.
Measure your body for the materials. Depending on what type of garment and what style of clothing you are making, the amount of material you use will vary greatly, but the measurements of how they fit to your body will remain the same regardless. Always allow some space over your measurements for the room to move about and be comfortable in your buckskin clothes. It is also critical that you make sure your hides have been treated so they will not shrink when wet. In the old days, they did this with smoking. Now it is a chemical process.
Using the awl, and applying pressure against the pointed end, mark your pattern on the hides. Check and double check your measurements! You cannot afford to mess up and ruin the buckskin you have worked so hard to attain. Cut out the pattern and align your garments. Remember to allow plenty of extra room on the edges for beautiful fringe work.
Sew your clothes according to the pattern. Authentic looks use sinew or simulated sinew thread. But you can use heavy duty sewing thread. Make sure you do a good job, and that you make clean punctures with your awl. Do not tear your buckskin; if you do, you will need to surround the hole with stitches to prevent further tearing. Buckskin is SKIN, and once a tear starts, it is likely to continue unless you use preventative measures.
Decorate your clothes. Authentic buckskin clothes almost always had some fringe, so take the time and create as much or as little fringework as you want. You may also add beadwork, bells, feathers, horsehair and any other materials you choose. This is also the step where you would use your colored dyes to create patterns on the buckskin.