Velma studied sewing at
Chilocco when she was a girl. While she was there, part of her training
included the sewing of uniforms for the students. These sewing classes
were geared for teaching a girl to become a seamstress. Every thing about
putting a garment together was taught whether making bound button holes,
studying different fabrics, cutting patterns and so much more. The sewing
machines at Chilocco were upstairs at Leupp Hall. The room was quite large
with machines placed around the room and lined up through the middle of
the room. Many of the girls were home economic students in the 1930's.
In this photograph
Velma stands holding a Ponca dress. The collar is like the sailor's middy.
Fabric is satin, or some fabric to catch the lights while the dancing in
the arena. Behind Velma is a man's ribbon shirt. In the background are two
pillows with Native American designs on them. Very often people will make
a request for something like this or maybe towels, sheets for whatever
other place they can be used. These are used for showers and honor dance
give-aways as well as other celebrations.
Ribbon work is
difficult and tedious to do and takes a special dedication for sewing
these garments. The fabric is slippery and slides around while the
seamstress tries to work with it. Very much thought has to given to the
blending of the colors because one is upon another. Actually ribbon work
can be called applique. The Ponca and Osage differ in craftmanship but is
similar, too. Ponca work is applique and Osage is a folding of the ribbon
to get a design and pattern in this way. Ponca designs are usually quite
large but often the Osage has smaller design, but then, of course, not
always. There are pictures of designs on honor blankets that show a larger
design by the Osage.
At 92 Velma's vision is
limited. Sometimes she has to feel the fabric and design on the machine as
she sews because she cannot see. Regardless, she continues to work with
an attitude toward a labor of love more than great monetary gains.