Velma retired from
Oklahoma for Indians Opportunity, O.I.O in 1986. At that time she began a
new career at seventy-three and that was as a seamstress sewing Native
American regalia for pow-wow dress. The articles of clothing she created
were for men and women. Women's dress included the intricate ribbon work
you see in this picture. Her designs usually go to the woodland style when
she sews her own creation. If someone requests their own clan's design she
draws and cuts the pattern to suit them.
In the last few
years Velma has branched out from the Ponca to sew dresses for other
tribes. This lovely dress cut from a cotton fabric is the one Cherokee
women wear. Their ribbon work design runs around the tiered skirt and is
on the bodice, too.
Men's article of
clothing she puts together are for the whole outfit if she is asked. There
are: leggings, breechcloth, vest, shirts and scarves she makes for the
Shawls have been her
trademark. It would be hard to know how many women's shawls she has
fringed and decorated with ribbon work. She makes these individually or
with a dress. When the whole outfit is sewn to match, the unity of the
design and colors are striking, especially when worn in competition at the
arena where the overhead night lighting shows the satin fabric up in such
a beautiful way.
Velma has taught her
craft to many people and has driven as far as Tahlequah to teach a class
there, this when she was around 86. She is presently putting a class
together to be taught. Her shawls and designs are worn by Native Americans
all over the U.S. from New York to California Florida, Montana, Dakotas
and other states as well. Every tribe's members do covet her shawls.
The shawl has a
significance going back to as far as anyone can remember. It was an
important, necessary part of the women's ensemble. It is used for gifting
to people who attend funerals of their family members, as a give away
object to show appreciation for good deeds and in a general way as an
expression of friendship. Sometimes the shawl is given to a man as a
symbol of respect. At this time the woman will tie it around his waist
when he receives it. Velma's desire to hold to the traditions of her
ancestors has , in fact, helped to keep her old ways alive.
Often a garment will
return to Velma that is years old for her to repair or alter the size.
Sometimes it is to add another part of a regalia to match the one that
person already has. This will be an effort to record the works we have