capes and mantles

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    Hope I don’t sound too dense, but what’s “Oceanic?” Is that as in Pacific Rim? What are you seeing that’s important?


    Linda , hello everyone , Oceanic is hawaiian, polynesian, maorian etc. “Ya’ know Islanders man”!

    What is important is the fact that there is connections between the great lakes and the southeast. These capes from this magazine are very important items that broaden the view of what we know of Aboriginal feather work and probably we can draw similarities between them and what was done in the south.

    Therefore if we look at impressions on clay sherds and compare them to the fabrics from the reverse side of these objects (capes)the methods used are probably very simalar to woven bags and netted capes , chances are that it was probably a wide spread method of producing a feather mantle. So personally this is very exciting for a material culture fanatic.

    Best to all Tom.


    Tom, I have been enjoying your posts on eastern regalia styles. I live in Oregon, so the only styles I am familiar with are from the Columbia River and NW coast, and I wear the local style when dancing at powwows. I hope to eventually make a SE style outfit.

    I’m looking for pictures and descriptions of feather mantles (same thing as a cape?), as I have decided to undertake such an endeavor. The pictures on this thread won’t open. Could they be reposted?

    I am not trying to recreate a historic piece, but would like something in the SE Siouan or Powhatan style (I am descended from both) that I could dance with. A friend of mine with roots from the SE is making a short turkey feather cape on netting. She had heard only high ranking people could wear long capes. I have seen a picture of women in long feather capes from the Delaware Indians at a museum, and was told that anyone could wear long capes. Also saw a picture from a few years back from a Haliwa Saponi powwow of a woman with a whole turkey skin draped over her shoulders. Anyone seen any contemporary feather capes, long or short? Are these worn at powwows, or only for certain occasions by certain people? I don’t want to be investing my time in something that would be inappropriate to wear.

    I am familiar with Hawaiian and other Polynesian feather work, and figure that the same methods would be used for a SE coast Indian style cape. I’m not such a purist as to do it on netting, I was thinking some kind of cloth that wouldn’t stretch to much or be to hot, maybe felt or a thin Pendleton wool, or canvas? I usually do feather work on felt, but I haven’t tried a full sized cape yet. Then I would back the stitching with cotton so they wouldn’t come lose.

    Also am trying to figure out how it would be shaped, just a rectangular cape (like a NW button blanket), or flared at the bottom (like a Hawaiian cape)?

    As for feathers, I was thinking turkey body feathers, and tail feathers on the bottom. But turkey feathers here are scarce, and Oregon turkeys have white tipped feathers. But I do have an abundance of white and gray Canada goose feathers, and mallard feathers.




    Mallard feathers were used by the Saponi especially the green head feathers.

    I wonder if it would be possible to take the skins with the feathers still attached of mallard heads or whole skins and sew them together ends to ends like a patchwork until you get the length and width of a mantle? Then to take 2 whole wings with feathers still attached, extended and then the upper edges of the wings sewn to the top portion. The tips of the wings would point outward. I know this probably isn’t traditional, but just an idea.


    Tom Said: I have a diagram of a ‘mountain Cherokee’ upright loom, would you like a copy of this anyone?”

    I would ove one Tom since beadwork is my thing. 🙂

    I was reading in a book the other night and they made a very slight hint about Cherokee Beadwork. It was in Horrace Goodhue’s book on beadworkn “Indian Bead-Weaving Patterns”. All it said was, ” Among the Eastern Cherokee (North Carolina) all the beaded belts that I saw were made with the Peyote weave (13 bead wide) using large ‘Pony’ beads. “

    That’s all there is mentioned in the book about Cherokee as far as I can tell. I have had the book for years and years but never really read it until the other night.

    I might start doing some research on Cherokee beadwork some time this year. Since I am such a novice about all this Saponitown stuff, is there a certain geographical area that I should research? Or should I just research Cherokee beadwork or what do you suggest? I am still trying to learn about this Saponitown concept so please do cut me some slack if I sound rather ignorant about the whole thing. 🙂

    I’m trying to read the back posts as much as I can to get the concept. 🙂

    Let me know what I should concentrate on. 🙂

    Barb G



    Well the feather capes is a huge undertaking since the little facts about them reamin scattered, but netting was used rather thatn a base , or atleast that the theory, but it makes sence because of the heat and wieght of a cape. The amllard heads are really a great idea since there is doc’s re. this topic, aswell the western Sioux recognize the mallard as the herald of spring, the green head the element.

    The beadwork of the southeast is every where in museums etc, I’ll try and post some links to this, and try and help every way possible… have to run now….


    Yep, looks like a small cape on netting it will be. I thought about the Mallard heads, I had been saving a bunch for a California Indian elder that uses them in their outfits. Unfortionately the things disintigrate after about a year from bugs, all the green feathers come right of the skin, and we haven’t yet figured out how to stop it. Salting and freezing doesn’t work. I’m going try and use flea shampoo to see if that will kill em.

    Something I found on feather capes from a Pequot website.

    “Consider the extraordinary turkey feather mantle made by Nanticoke artist Courtney Anderson, on display in the gallery on Daily Life. Early English writers frequently remarked on the mantles worn by high-status Native men in southern New England, and described them as having been woven so tightly that no light would seep through if they were held up. The feathers, they wrote, were recognizable as turkey feathers. A textile expert found archaeological fragments and a crafts tradition of using turkey feathers to make clothing in the southeast, but the southeastern technique–stripping the veins from turkey feathers, wrapping them around a twine base, and making a kind of feather yarn from which textiles could be woven–made it unlikely that the turkey feathers would have been recognizable as such. Instead, Anderson, drawing on his skill, imagination, and experience, along with his own reading of the documents, determined how he believed the mantles must have been made: he used plant fibers to weave a backing, then attached overlapping rows of feathers. Is this an exact reproduction of the turkey feather mantles worn in southern New England in the early contact period? Maybe not, but it feels right, and it adds much to our understanding.”


    I to have been messing with amllard heads and need to do some research etc, but I think that I may just remove the feathers, I made a pheasant neck bag years ago, like 20 and it’s still fine , I used fullers earth to draw out the oils etc, aswell these may ahve been just a stiff rim on the garment, I’d like to see an image of the new england stuff.

    I have seen feathered yarn from the ozark dry caves, very musc like what was being used by the ancestral Hopi people.

    I think that we should search for this info, and postas much as we can here.

    I’d like to even make a small one for a doll-figure etc.

    Thanx for the post,


    Anyone been to the new Indian museum in Washington DC? Was just in DC 2 months ago visiting my cousin, spent a day there. The Pamunkey tribe has an exibit. The have a pair of turkey feather covered moccasins. Can’t see the moccassins, just feathers, and the they are in every which direction. Then they have a picture of a fellow wearing a grey and white goose feather necklace. Its real thick, and again the feathers stick out all over, not smooth.


    I thought it was just my AOL doing its thing again. But I can’t get the pics of the capes to show up or open for me either. 🙁 I’m having a lot of trouble getting pics to open with aol.

    It’s interesting that you talk about the Island peoples and their capes. When I was reading this string I was reminded of the time I went to Hawaii several years ago. They had capes too but I can’t remember if they were made with feathers or other natural things. I was going to suggest it might be worth checking into to see if they are similar or not.


    This topic of feathered capes is a tough one to research,very little has actually been retained so it takes some digging, but the digging pays off.

    In the British Museum is a cape that is very close to several others that were featured in “Tribal Arts” mag. 2002. (search the british museum.. go to compass on thier home page and type in feathered capes).

    Theere appears to be several styles of these capes, those on netting, those on fabric and possibly those that were woven directly into the fabric as it was being woven and the garment shaped.

    The netted ones I would guess are most correct for the NC/VA area.

    As a side note these last ones would be very light wieght have a movement not found in other article and were the original formof cape worn that later developed into the dance capes, different from the shawls used today.

    lastly it could be that all 3 or more types of feather capes that we know of may have been used in the southern areas.


    The British museums cape.

    next click on compass, on the top right in the seacrh window type “feather cape” it shows as number 7.!


    Tom and all,

    Thank you. That cape is most beautiful. I was wondering, about the turkeys, I’ve had guys up here give me their skins so I can use the feathers for this sort of thing. Generally it is a trade of elk meat or recipes for the skin with feathers. I usually pluck all the feathers. It seems though, in my brain, couldn’t the skins be conditioned and tanned so they are still pliable like any finished hide? Then one could use the entire bird, not waisting anything. Swatches could be sewn on to a thin lining fabric or light weight cotton one with sinew or heavy duty thread. I forget who said it earlier on, but yes Hobby Lobby, I think Michaels and Wal-mart all cary the feathers already sewn into a satin binding and you purchase it by the yard. Though, I have never gotten Turkey feathers that way, only Pheasant, Guinnea Hen and then those yellow and brown hackles. Also, I get Pheasant skins at Fly Tying shops, you know, for fly fishing. They sell a lot of that type of thing at those places. If I come across some of these type of things on-line I’ll let you all know the links.

    As far as the beading goes, I was saddened, I spent the entire weekend shopping for just the right color of velvet, or satin to bead a panel for my mocs and could not find any of the right color. I was going to combine beadwork and embroidery on them. Now I’m thinking I’ll probably get out the loom and attack it with just beads. I thought fabric would add a texture that would be awsome, but I just couldn’t find anything to my liking. Well, any way, THANK YOU ALL, AGAIN! Lynella.


    I’ve been trying to find a net backing for a small practice cape. I got a nylon mesh landry bag from Walmart, don’t know if that will work. It does stretch a bit, but I figure I could back it with cotton to keep the shape. But its big enough to use for a whole small cape. They also had landry bags made out of a breathable material, real thin with tiny holes everywhere.

    Haven’t found any other netlike materials yet, and I have never made one. Don’t know yet what material I would use to make one, and I do not plan on making bark twine. I could find someone to teach me to make a fish net out of fishing line, but the holes would have to be mighty small for what I’m thinking of doing.

    That leads to how I would attach the feathers. I am used to sewing feathers firmly onto a backing with a needle and thread, to attach feathers to a netting, I suppose that would take one individual very well tied knot per feather. Just thinking out loud. I can see thise will take a lot of experimentation.

    Thanks for all the ideas folks.


    I’ll try and answer all the question here;

    Lynella, try looking for some used clothing at second hand stores for good velvet, etc, I have found great stuff old wollen jackets that are very similar to trade wool, nice 100% cotton velvet.

    Spilleddi; The capes and mantles should be done on a frame I’d sday, I cannot see it done any other way, a net would be made inside of a strong strand frame inside of a fame like used for traditional tanning, that is 4 poles tied into a square and then heavy thread or string to form the shape of the garment and the nest would be woven in the thread frame once the ten is done start at the bottom of the net tying the feathers into place, at every knot a feather would be tyed using a seperate thread , the quill end of the feather may be softened in warm water to bend the quill and then tyed into place, ????makes sence to me…

    here is a link to making nets

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