The Metis Flower Beadwork

The Metis Flower Beadwork
V. Elaine McIntosh
Social Studies
Aboriginal Culture and Traditional Metis Beadwork
Descriptive sentence
V. Elaine McIntosh demonstrates the flower beading technique that she learned from her grandmother.
Explore aspects of the Metis culture by learning the flower beadwork technique.
Curricular Outcomes or Expectations
Please see the lesson plan preview for the expectations/outcomes for your province.
Background Information
This beading is so unique to the Métis people, that they became known as the "Flower Beadwork
People”. Traditionally, the women would get together telling stories or discussing issues of the day as
they worked at the beading while children sat and watched and learned. The Métis are a mix of two
cultures. The name was used originally to describe the children mainly of North American Indian
mothers and European fathers. The Metis were also known by other names such as the Black Scot, Black
Irish, or Metis Anglaise. The Metis were known by the full-bloods as "they are their own boss".
The Métis flower beadwork is distinct with its flowing flower designs. Ideas from European wallpaper and
material patterns were incorporated into the designs. As more European traders arrived, glass beads
became available and the Métis women began to use them in their beadwork on moccasins, leggings, bags
and jackets. The colour and pattern of the beadwork often identified an individual family or clan. Some of
the beaded sashes were a mix of glass beads, silk and ribbon. They were finger woven and worn around
the waist with the colours identifying the family. The beaded designs on the leather bags identified the
different herbs and medicines, which the Métis learned from their native mothers.
• Felt pieces 10cmX10cm. Darker colours of red, blue and black work well.
• Container lids or paper plates to hold beads
• Beads of different colours
• Construction paper -10cmx10cm, and pencils (one per student)
• Thread
• Needles
• Embroidery thread usually white, black, red, yellow (optional)
Space Requirements
Getting Ready
Please take a moment to review
the “The Metis people” video
• Show pictures or samples of Métis floral beadwork. If possible, use the resource kit “Two Worlds Meet”
by The Gabriel Dumont Institute. It has wonderful pictures to use as examples.
• Read a story about the Metis people and their flower beadwork. “The Flower Beadwork People” by
Sherry Farrell-Racette is a good book to use.
Please take a moment to review the
“Traditional Metis Design” video
• Look at Metis beadwork samples and have the students brainstorm words that would describe what
they see in the beadwork. Notice the curling patterns, the floral designs and the use of colour.
• Discuss the difference between the Metis beadwork and the geometric patterns seen in other First
Nation’s beadwork or quilt work.
• Notice that some, but not all, of the flower beadwork designs are symmetrical. Discuss. What makes a
design symmetrical?
Please take a moment to review
the “Planning the Design on Paper”
• Give each student paper and pencil. After the students have had a chance to observe the flower
beadwork patterns and discuss them, give them the time to practice and create their own flower
pattern on a piece of paper. They may find ideas in designs they have observed or in clothing or
wallpaper. Encourage the students to make their design simple with long flowing lines for flowers,
leaves, vines and spirals.
• Explain and show examples of the concept of symmetry. Notice where symmetry occurs in the flower
beadwork. Many but not all designs would have one line of symmetry.
• The students could decide to make the pattern symmetrical or asymmetrical.
Please take a moment to review
the “The Colour in Beadwork”
• Once the students have completed their design on paper, they are ready to transfer it to the felt.
• Allow each student time to choose the 4 colours of beads they will use, and sort the chosen beads into
the paper plate containers. The choice of colour is important. Elaine uses her family colours of white,
yellow, red, and black. They signify the Ojibway side of her family as well as the four directions: white
is North, yellow is East, red is South, and black is West.
Please take a moment to review the
“Starting with the Centre Bead”
• The students may wish to transfer the design they have created onto the felt with a fine tipped
marker, or bead the pattern just by looking at their design.
• Hand out the needles and thread. Have the needles already threaded or show the students how to
thread a needle and knot the end. Use double thread.
• Start in the middle of the felt and put the needle from the back side of the felt to the front so that the
knot is at the back of the work. Choose a coloured bead for the centre of the flower. Thread the centre
bead onto the needle, push the needle to the back of the work, up again by the side of the bead,
through the bead, and one more time through to the back side of the felt, beside the bead. Bring the
needle to the front of the work beside the bead. Pull the thread firmly so that the work is secure.
Please take a moment to review
the “Circle Beading 1” video
• For the next row, thread a few beads (4 or 5) of the same colour onto the needle and fit them around
the centre bead. Hold the beads firmly in place. The needle is then put through the felt in front of the
first bead. Make a knot at the back of the felt by putting the needle through a loop of the thread and
pulling it firmly. Repeat. This will help to keep the beads secure. Push the needle back up through the
felt in front of the first bead, and back down between the first and second beads. Return the needle to
the front of the work beside the last bead.
Please take a moment to review
the “Circle Beading 2” video
• Working with 2 beads at a time of the same color, thread the beads and put the needle through the
felt and knot at the back of the work. Bring needle up to the front and through the last bead. Repeat
the circle until the centre of the flower is complete. Knot at the back of the work.
Please take a moment to review
the “Beading the Petal” video
• Choose another colour for the outline of the petal, again working 2 beads at a time.
• Using the same technique of securing the beads, start curving the beads in the outline of the petal
remembering to knot at the back of the work.
Please take a moment to review
the “Filling the Petal” video
• When the outline of the petal is completed, choose another colour of bead to fill the petal.
• Again working with 2 beads, bring the needle to the side of the last bead in the centre of the petal.
Using the same technique, fill the centre of the petal.
• You will find that the work begins to feel firmer as the beading progresses. Be careful to keep the
tension on the thread even.
• Continue beading until the design is complete. Relax, be patient, take your time and enjoy the
soothing quality of working with the beads.
• Put the beadwork samples on display with pictures of Métis floral beadwork.
• Using the resources that are listed below, discover more about the Metis, their traditional ways and
their history.
The Flower Beadwork People, Sherry Farrell-Racette
Riel’s People, Maria Campbell, 1978
Métis Development and the Canadian West, Five Booklet Series, Calvin Racette
The Métis, Donald Purich, 1988
Canada’s People: The Métis, Cardinal and Ripley, 1987