How to Fringe a Native American Shawl

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Fringed shawls add to the drama of Native American dance.
Fringed shawls add to the drama of Native American dance. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The ladies of Native American tribes that live along the northern part of the United States and in Canada use shawls as part of their dance costume. The shawls are draped loosely over their shoulders and arms so that they flare out or create an effect of graceful movement when the women twirl or jump. The addition of fringe to the shawls enhances the effect by adding fluidity to the movement. Fringe can be made of ribbons of taffeta, strips of leather, sinew or feathers, and can be decorated for weight with beads, bells, shells or left plain.

Things You'll Need

  • Shawl
  • Fringe material
  • Awl, crochet hook or small knife
  • Bias tape

Prepare the material that you are going to use as fringe. Measure the ends of the shawl to get an idea of how much fringe you will need. Fringe looks best when it is placed very close together, with no spaces between each piece, so you will need the same width of fringe as the length of the two ends of shawl.

Decide what length you want your fringe to be. If you are just looking for a decorative finish to a shawl, you can use as little as 3 to 5 inches in length. For a dramatic dance shawl, you may opt for a longer fringe. Chainette fringe, which is a pre-made fringe, usually comes in lengths of between 3 inches and 18 inches long. The width is sold by the yard.

Reinforce the back of the shawl, if it is of a delicate material, to prevent it from tearing or stretching when it holds the fringe. This is especially important if the shawl is of lightweight material that is used in some Native American dance. Sew a bias tape using hemstitch to the underside of the shawl.

Attach prepared chainette fringe to the underside of the shawl, with the front facing out. Use a hemstitch.

Apply taffeta or polyester crepe ribbons to your shawl individually. Use a pen of disappearing ink to mark the end of the underside of your shawl above the bias tape at intervals of the same width as your fringe is wide. For example, if your ribbon is 1/2-inch wide, mark each half-inch along the entire end of the shawl. Using an awl, small sharp knife or a crochet hook, punch holes in the dots you made.

Fold the ribbon in half and feed it through the first hole at the front of the shawl. Pull the fold of the ribbon downward to about 1/4 inch past the edge of the shawl. Pass the two ribbon ends through the loop. Knot them at the edge of the shawl if the ribbon material seems as though it may not stay in place, even after pressing. Proceed to the next hole and repeat until all of the ribbons are attached.

Press, using a cool iron.

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