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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Cas City Historical Society  |  The Old Fashioned Way (Moderators: St. George, Delmonico)  |  Topic: The Making of a Parfleche 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: The Making of a Parfleche  (Read 18388 times)
Mogorilla
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« on: October 03, 2005, 12:24:00 pm »


Stealing the Dogs toys, or the making of a Parfleche.
I posted this over at TFS, but in its demise, I moved over here.

Well, for background, I like any and all things Native American.   In the last few months of leather research, I came across an interesting item used by the plains tribes, a parfleche.  It was their all purpose carrier, native version of Tupperware if you will.  It was named by the French and references the fact that parfleches are made of rawhide, not leather.  Rawhide, excellent in the use of shields was called parfleche for its ability to turn an arrow, (parry fletching).   Their were a couple of varieties of parfleches, folded ones, used to carry pemmican, bag type, sewn box type as a carry all, and a round variety, looking like a quiver used to carry the bonnets.   Most were decorated with paint, some were incised and later others were decorated with beading/quilling.   I opted for paint.  I had just purchased a plains arrow kit from Native Way (http://nativeway.safewebshop.com/index.html).  Along with the arrow kit, I purchased the natural pigments as well.  The pigments come complete with hide glue for mixing.   Next, I needed to obtain rawhide, here begins the adventure.

1.   First and foremost, warn your significant other of what you are about to do, especially if they do not have the same interests in old west leather goods.
2.   I opted to purchase a large rawhide bone from our pet supply store.  From some of what I have read, I really don’t recommend giving these to dogs due to possible contamination from oversea suppliers.  The bone I bought was $8.99 and was ~13” long, knotted at both ends.

1.   Soak bone in water overnight.   (Note, being a typical male, I ignored the directions, even though I wrote them and forgot step 1.  When soaking a large rawhide bone in the kitchen sink, do not omit step 1!!!!!)  (Addition, my first attempt at a parfleche failed due to the second soaking resulting in a rotten hide that I poked my fingers through.  In looking at the problem, 1-- the temptation to use warm/hot water is great to hasten the project.  Unless you are making hide glue, avoid anything above room temp.  2-- I found that the sink did not give the best soak.  A 5 gallon plastic bucket with lid worked perfect.  I filled the bucket completely, pushed the bone in, which has a tendency to float and put on the lid.  This resulted in an even and thorough soak and no need to warn wife when she is thirsty)
2.   After soaking for ~12 hours, the rawhide is very soft and flexible.  Untie the bone and roll out the rawhide.  I am finding you will have one large outer piece that covers numerous inner pieces of various sizes.   I had a 14x36 that had a weird bend (I hesitate to say “dogleg”), piece of rawhide with 3 smaller pieces.  The smaller pieces work well for lacing.  The large piece was cut into two semi-straight pieces.
3.   Stretch the rawhide by tacking it to a piece of wood.  An extra pair of hands come in handy at this point one set to hammer the nails and the other to pull and stretch the hide, omitting step one can eliminate/alienate the most readily available source of extra hands.   (Take great care to pull the piece tight and pull out as many ripples as possible.  It can take a lot of abuse and don’t worry if during the drying it pulls out a nail or two, as the rawhide will shrink, which will eliminate minimal wrinkles.)
4.   After drying, the rawhide will be hard and hopefully flat.   I used a piece of charcoal to very lightly lay out the design of the parfleche. (charcoal in thin pieces can be found in art stores, or broken from briquettes-Do this on the side that will not be painted, it can be tricky to wipe off otherwise.) 
5.   Using strong, sharp scissors, cut out the design. 
6.   Fold the piece, it shouldn’t break.  I folded mine then placed between 2 boards and clamped them for ~1 hour.   It will keep this shape now.   An added note, for both the stretching and clamping, I used western cedar and kept some eastern cedar with the rawhide while being stored.  I love the smell of both eastern and western cedar.  This imparted a cedar aroma to the rawhide, which I find pleasing. (better than the smell of the rawhide)
7.   Now that the shape of your parfleche is set, use a wooden skewer or a nail to “burn” the holes for the ties.  I used a skewer and lit it on a candle, blew it out and burned through with the ember, then repeated for each hole needed.   If it won’t burn through in one coal heating, (which mine didn’t), switch to a nail.
8.   You are now ready to paint the parfleche.  I laid out my design with the charcoal again.  There are numerous pictures on the web to use as references.  It seems each tribe had its own preferred designs many geometric. The ones I made are Kiowa and Wichita in origin and were made for a friend of mine who is of Kiowa origin. (one theory is that the original parfleches were incised designs.  These designs were layed out on the hide and the hide soaked again, the cuts were made into the hide, but not all the way through.  When dried, the designs show through because originally many of the parfleches used buffalo hide with the dark epidermis left on, the cuts went into the white hide and showed through.  Also, if going with the pouch design, paint before putting in the lacing, I didn’t on one and it would have been easier.)
9.   Before painting, wet the rawhide again, just to dampen, not to soften, a spritzer bottle would work well.   Mix the paint according to directions and paint.    (if you can find natural pigments, but not the hide glue, use unflavored gelatin and mix about 1 tablespoon gelatin to 2 tablespoons warm water, it really is about the same thing)
10.   After drying, seal the parfleche with a prickly pear cactus (this is traditional, I have also read about bees wax being used).  Snip the cactus in half and carefully run the cut edge over the entire outside of the parfleche.   Once the cactus slime dries, pack with jerky and take to your next shoot.  Bees wax can also be used to seal the parfleche.  The paints are definitely water soluble, so take care to keep it dry, but the cactus/wax go a long way to protect it.    (Wife’s comment was looks cool, you’re a little weird and don’t put that stuff in the kitchen sink again!). 
11.   All told, it cost me ~$45 total for the two parfleches shown.   They are smaller than the originals, but as authentic as I could make them.  I still have a load of paint left for many future projects, so the $45 is not a truly accurate accounting.   


12.   References:
      The American Indian Parfleche by Gaylord Torrence
      Indian Rawhide by Mable Morrow
      Plains Indian Parfleche Design by Leslie Spier
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Forty Rod
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2005, 03:22:34 pm »

What kind of paint did you use?  What for lacing?

Those are great.  Gave me an idea for a knife sheath.

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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2005, 03:44:26 pm »

Excellent post!

Just before TFS went down - I'd seen it and thought to ask you to re-post it here and then I got sidetracked.

I'm glad you did - and I'm sure others are as well.

Thanks,

Scouts Out!
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2005, 08:08:08 pm »

Howdy Mogorilla,

I thinks it's both great and hysterically funny that such a nice thing can be made from soaking a dog's rawhide chewbone in water. They came out great. I will file away the usefull information on soaking and flattening out rawhide bones for use as hides again. Thanks . . .
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2005, 06:59:02 am »

The paint was Primitive Paints and Pigments Kit from Nativeway (link in original post).  They are ochre and mineral pigments ground into a fine powder(I have seen similar paint in dedicated art stores, not probably craft stores with an art section, but a store catering strictly to art students, etc.).  The kit contains hide glue in pellets.   I mixed 50-50 hide glue and warm water and let it sit.  Then when I wanted to use it, I put the container in some very hot water.  This allowed the hide glue to melt.  Then I mixed in the pigments.   An alternative to hid glue is to use unflavored gelatin, in the same proportions.  Gelatin really is nearly the same thing.  If you really want to go totally authentic (which is what I attempted), hide gle can be made from items purchased at the pet store as well.  Get some of those pigs feet-hooves they sell and toss in rawhide scraps.  Put them in a pan with water and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for hours (do this outside, the smell is well not good).  Watch that you don't burn it, when it gets real thick, strain it and allow to dry.  rehydrate as needed.   The lacing on the one with short ties is rahide cut from the bone as well and tied when wet.  The other lacing is buckskin lacing I had sitting around. 
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2005, 01:07:07 pm »

Thank you.  Now I'm off shopping.  If my project turns out anywhere near acceptable I'll post pics...otherwise it goes back to being a chew toy.
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« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2006, 04:47:06 am »

Mogorilla,  Great post and pictures!  Thanks for posting.

I, too, saw it on TFS, and hoped I'd see it again.
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Mogorilla
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2006, 07:58:16 am »

Thanks for the compliments.  I haven't touched any leather in a while, plan to do some over the holidays.  My henry needs a fringed sheath to reside in.
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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2006, 03:29:26 pm »

Great report, and good looking project, Mogorilla!

You've given me food for thought for using up some of the big rawhide dog bones I've got left over -
  the rawhide I used for lashing the joints and wheel rims on my "Metis Red River Cart" guncart came from the same source ...

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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Cas City Historical Society  |  The Old Fashioned Way (Moderators: St. George, Delmonico)  |  Topic: The Making of a Parfleche « previous next »
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