Documenting My Ojibwe Wool Strap Dress

After discovering Eastman Johnson's paintings and the dress he used in his famous "Hiawatha" painting were housed at the Depot Museum in Duluth, MN, I made an appointment with the head of Ojibway Studies and was given full access to this garment pictured in the painting to the right.

I took many pictures, counted every stitch and was even allowed to tape the entire proceedings.

I was very impressed by the delicate bead work done to this dress, especially the leggings, of which there were actually two pairs.

The dress was constructed of red and blue Stroud, or "List" wool, made in the town of the same name in England.

The wool had a white edging caused by the dyeing process and was favored by Native Americans for this reason.

The only resource I know of for this material today is Crazy Crow Trading Post and I have provided the link here.

All of the ribbon work on the sleeves and leggings were done in silk ribbon, and the leggings lined with a calico cotton fabric at the cuff.

The dress was ribboned with cotton twill tape and decorated with number 10 seed beads in white.

There were also legging ties, (garters), and a sash, all worked in wool blanket that had been unravelled, the beads being woven in but strung on sinew thread.

Examining this garment was the highlight of my life at the time, and with the knowledge gained I was able to faithfully recreate two wool strap dresses of my own based on this research.

I could not afford stroud wool at this time, so had to settle for lesser grade suit and blanket wool, but the results have been most satisfying and I look forward to eventually obtaining stroud wool and completing this project properly.

Back showing the all important red placard that gives structure to the garment.

Also note the ribboning is colored cotton twill tape.
Detail of front bodice beading in white no 10 seed beads in thunder bird pattern

Leggings showing silk ribboning and note small ribbon trailers at the edge of the cuff


  1. I sell hand sewn saved list 100% wool cloth also. I use an indigo vat for blue. Acid dyes just don't work for blue saved list cloth. My wool is plain weave English wool 56" wide.

    Indigo is $125 a yard. Takes a half day of dying to get the color the medium blue and a bit more to go near black.

    I can do madder dying for scarlet or Turkey Red acid dye. I use dock root for yellow. Sumac leaves for black.

  2. Also cloth is a plain weave rather than twill. I have seen some twills done in saved list, but not too common.

    1. I really would like to know more about your wool, I have to remake my wool strap dress with the proper wool cloth and will need a good source, have not heard many good things about the wool that is commercially offered.

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