button blankets - an Indigenous tradition from the NorthWest Coast

Today we made button blankets - kindergarten style.

Paper instead of felt and glue instead of needle and thread.

According to the Office for Aboriginal Peoples at Simon Fraser University:

A button blanket is a wool wearing blanket embellished with mother-of pearl buttons, created by Northwest Coast First Peoples. Rather than used as sleeping equipment, the blankets are used as 
capes and gifts at ceremonial dances and potlatches.

Blankets that were initially transformed into button blankets were acquired from Hudson's Bay Company traders in the mid-19th century. The trade blankets were typically dark blue duffle and were thereafter decorated with buttons made from abalone or dentalium shells. The central crest typically portrayed a symbol of the wearer's family heritage. 

source: virtual museum
Modern button blankets are typically black and red with white buttons.
We worked with our aboriginal support worker and first nations cultural teacher.

We used die cut images for our central crest.  We are super fortunate that our school district Aboriginal Education department made a number of "stamps" from work created by local artists.  They are absolutely beautiful.  And I did not have to cut them out.

We used animal images.

These were some of my favourites  - but not the kidlets'.  They loved the wolf and  thunderbird; not a single child chose either the salmon or the bear paw and only 2 chose the raven.

Spray glue made attaching the black images to the red paper so much easier.  No glue stick marks, no liquid glue everywhere.  Quick and easy. As I was spraying, Mr. Daniel our cultural teacher, was helping the kids practice the hul'qumi'num name of the animal they chose.

Time to add the buttons and the bling.

We used cricut made white circles. 
And then added some bling with iridescent sequins.

They looked pretty good.

Button blankets with no threading needles or pricking fingers.  A way for us to be part of our school button blanket project.

There are a couple of books that are appropriate for older students, or  for teachers.

Enjoy this clip about the cultural tradition and artistry of button blankets.



  1. These are beautiful, made me a bit homesick. Love the way you adapted the techniques for the kids but stayed true to the tradition.

  2. Hi,
    I am linking after you from Share it Saturday. What a great craft! And so much history and culture add to it.
    Janis www.janiscox. Author of Tadeo Turtle

  3. What a great activity! And thanks for the book recommendations to go along with it.

  4. I love how you have adapted this for younger children! Looks like a lot of fun, and they are just beautiful. And you are so lucky that you have so much support to teach children about aboriginal culture. I'm jealous! Thanks for sharing at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop!

  5. I love how you have adapted this for younger children! Looks like a lot of fun, and they are just beautiful. And I am jealous you have so much support for teaching about aboriginal cultures. Thanks for sharing at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop!

  6. These turned out beautifully and I love how you adapted the project for younger kids. Thank you for linking up to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop and for teaching me a little about button blankets!

  7. What an awesome idea to use paper and glue for the button blankets! Easy enough for the kids to do, and they came out quite lovely. Thanks for linking up at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #4!

  8. This is a great way to do it.
    I got to this page through the search engine as I am trying to do something similar with my grade 3 class. I am wondering where you got those cut outs for using on the paper button blankets? I would be very greatful!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kelsey. The cutouts were made with die cuts commissioned by my school district. I have mentioned to them a number of times, that they could easily sell them to other school districts. Our Aboriginal Education department is intentional about sharing the resources they create. So, although the die cuts available, you can print the shapes. They are also happy for the images to be resized and used in other projects that honour where the images came from. http://abed.sd79.bc.ca/curriculum-resourcess/coast-salish-image-library/


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