Continue Sewing: Once you have sewn to the end of the row, flip your mat over and
sew the back convex pairs the same way.
Once you've finished sewing the other side of the mat, the cord ends
can be knotted together or attached to side sticks
used for standing the mat up. Next,
you'll want to do the same thing about 7 inches down from the row you just
did. Mats at the Milwaukee Public Museum all had rows sewn at different
intervals, but 7 inches was about the average. If you use this
interval, you may be able to get seven rows on a four foot tall
mat. Other mats, perhaps more ornate, could be sewn at much smaller
intervals, such as every 5 inches.
When you start sewing rows closer to the bottom of the mat, you
will notice that the top leaf of the pair becomes too thin to sew
through. When that happens,
twist the pair so that the leaf layers are reversed, top to bottom, and
you will be able to sew once again.
Finishing the Ends:
You don't want to sew a row
at the very bottom of the mat. The lower end of the cattail
mat was usually left free because it was easier to stand the mat on
the ground. Sometimes for the
last row the cord was simply passed over and under about every five pairs or so,
loosely binding the ends of leaves. The
ends of the leaves could also be braided or woven to finish the edges, as
you can see in the picture of the mat below, which was also sewn extremely
well. The ends of mats could also be braided to another finished mat in order to create a double
mat for extra thickness.
(Milwaukee Public Museum)
Done! Once completed, mats were
attached to the frame of wigwams using basswood fiber.
Several mats usually made up the bottom layers of the wigwam
siding, but could also be used on the roof or to cover the entire structure. In
that case, the mats were placed so that a square hole was left at the
center for a smoke hole. Mats
were attached so that the edges overlapped to better shed the elements. If the poles and siding were ready, a winter wigwam could easily be set up in a few
hours. When a
camp was abandoned, the mats were taken down, rolled up, and carried away
to the next camp.
this study I was able to learn just a little part of how people lived hundreds of years ago and
how they used the environment around them. Obviously, the ways we do
things today are not the only ways they can or have been done. Humans
are remarkably creative and unique, meaning that there will always be
something new, useful, interesting, and enlightening to be learned by studying other cultures of today and cultures
of the past.
hope you enjoyed learning about sewn cattail mats and the people who made
them. If you are going to attempt any
parts of the process, I wish you the best of luck!