I made my first dreamcatcher 10 years ago when I was studying classes with Dr. Nancy Turner. Check her out she is an amazing resource of ethnobotanical and traditional uses of local plants in BC. If you use the classic Pojar and MacKinnon guidebook: Plants of Coastal British Columbia (which I definitely recommend that you do!) then you will see she is one of the major contributing authors (as well as a best selling author herself).
Materials you need:
-several gathered stems of Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
-feathers (either gathered or bought)
-string (bought or made from plant material)
Where to find Red Osier Dogwood:
Find this native shrub growing on water edges around lakes, ponds, or streams, or in moist soils. The shrubs can form thick clusters on waters edge, dominating much of the growth in an area. It grows 1.5-4 meters tall and spreads by underground stolons.
How to Identify:
Leaves of red osier dogwood are opposite, 5-12 cm long and have obvious veins along their ovate to oblong shape, they change color in the fall to bright red to purple. Flowers are in summer and are small, white and grow in clusters 3-6 cm in diameter. The berries are white and also grow in clusters in the late summer to fall. One defining feature of the red osier dogwood are the branches and twigs being bright red, (although some more aged branches may appear brown and the colour can depend on the time of year that you harvest, stems are deepest red in late summer and fall).
Use scissors or a knife to cut the desired branches, take care not to damage the plant or tear the stems. You want to take branches that are as long and straight as possible without forks in them and not too thick or too thin. Getting branches of the right width and length make the frame more uniform and easy to make while bending the fresh stem into shape.
Make the frame right away
The red osier dogwood is used because it will not break (if bent properly), but it has to be gently formed into shape right away before the plant loses moisture. Begin at the base of the stem (thickest part) and gently start to work and bend the stem in a rounded shape to introduce the contours of the round frame. As you bend parts of the stem, move your hands along so that more of its length is introduced to the bending flexibility and after you have loosened it up then you can start to more tightly form the stem into a round shape. Play with the shape to get the desired roundness and consider adding a second or third stem into the frame for added thickness. Once you have the shape you want, you must set this aside for at least 7 days so that it can dry into form. After it has dried you can cut away any uneven ends if they did not take the shape you wanted.
Make the web:
The web of the dreamcatcher is the part that catches negative energies or bad dreams and keeps them caught until day break when the sun melts them away. The bead(s) in the web symbolize the spider that monitors and tends to the web. Use a string that is not too thin (you need to pull tight and not have it snap) and not too thick (that you cannot pull it tight enough). Follow the pattern in the picture to do the weave in a clockwise direction around the frame and continue inwards until you reach the point you like. Remember to add your bead during this stage before you finish the weave.
Add feathers or other decore:
The feathers are on the dreamcatcher to allow a “slide” for the well-intentioned or positive energies to reach down to the dreamer. The idea is that the positive things don’t get tangled in the web only the negatively intended energies do, so the feather ensures that you still get the good things sent to you. I constantly am aware of feathers when I am out hiking and like to collect eagle, hawk, stellar-jay and northern flicker feathers, but any feather will do. Make sure if you gather from wild that you clean them off by picking at them (then wash hands) and place them in the freezer for at least 3 days to ensure there aren’t any insects or mites. Tie the feathers to the frame however you would like, you can use beads, or do the feather like you would “dress it” and add that to it. Be creative!