Thursday, 10 April 2014

Stitch Your Way Around The World: West Coast Button Blankets

We continued to Stitch Our Way Around the World, with a stop on the West Coast of North America to take a look at button blankets. Native groups along the west coast from Washington and Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska have made button blankets to wear in a variety of ceremonial events.

The Northern Lights.
Once the Europeans came to North America, natives were able to trade for the materials required to make these button blankets. Red, black or blue fabrics similar to wool felt or melton cloth and two hole mother of pearl buttons are the main supplies required.

It was not easy to find how to make one, but a visit to ShannonThunderbird’s website gave us some great information. The main rules seem to be a rectangle of blue or black bordered on three sides by red with the central clan crest/spirit animal in one of the contrasting colours. 

The crest is often surrounded by the mother of pearl buttons and other abstract or realistic designs are made with buttons on other areas of the blanket.

As our time is limited in our Calgary Public library sessions, we interpreted our own version of the button blanket in the form of a bookmark.

It was interesting to see the variety of ways each person used their buttons and the meaning they gave to their piece.

Most of the participants had not heard of the button blanket and commented that it was fun to learn about a part of our Canadian heritage.

A Spirit Bear
dreams of salmon.

We have two stops left on our stitching journey so stay tuned for those blog posts.

Three interpretations of
Spirit Bear on a journey.


  1. How much fun is that!!!
    ......A history lesson and a creative craft all in one class.

  2. Thanks Sheila, We had fun with the class and I'm working on a Spirit Squirrel Button Blanket of my own and will pick up 260 Mother of Pearl buttons this weekend to get working on it. The squirrel is all done and he'll even have mother of pearl acron buttons!