Mini American Indian Parfleche Made From Dog Chew




Introduction: Mini American Indian Parfleche Made From Dog Chew

According to Wikipedia:

"A parfleche is a Native American rawhide bag, typically used for holding dried meats and pemmican.

The word was originally used by French fur traders (it was not a word used by the Native Americans). It derives from the French "parer" meaning "parry" or "defend", and "flèche" meaning "arrow", so called because the hide was tough enough to be used as a shield. The original bags had graphics that were actually maps, general geographical depictions of the surrounding land. The river as a circle of life and mountains were the most common features."

Parfleche can also be described as American Indian Luggage. They made all sorts of storage boxes, pouches, envelopes, and tubes out of rawhide and carried their things in them. Plains Indians were the main producers of these things. Tribes like the Sioux were nomadic so having "luggage" was useful.

In this Instructable, you will learn how to make a very simple, envelope style rawhide parfleche from a rawhide dog bone. It is a neat little project that when finished, gives you a little insight into the crafts of the American Indian.

Good Luck!

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Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed


  1. Hammer
  2. Small Nails
  3. Leather Scissors
  4. Leather Hand Punch
  5. Pencil
  6. Sharpie
  7. Various Colors of Paint Pens
  8. Ruler
  9. Small Plastic Tub


  1. Large Dog Chew Bones
  2. Nice Light Colored Buckskin for Fringe ( I used HIGH quality German Smoked Buckskin)
  3. Red or Blue Felt
  4. Water
  5. Some Wood/Plywood to Nail to

Step 2: Appease the Hounds

My first step was to keep my pups distracted from the fact that the project I was working on included something they usually get as a treat. So my simple solution was to buy more than one chewy, and two give them each one.

They were quite excited.

Step 3: Soak and Undo Rawhide Bone

  • To kick off this project, fill a small plastic tub with room temperature water.
  • Submerge the bone.
  • Place something on it to keep it submerged as it will float.
  • After a couple hours of soaking, carefully unroll the bone and separate all of the layers of rawhide. (this one had an unusable inner core, a light weight middle layer, and the thick outer layer. I ended up using the lighter weight second layer of rawhide.)
  • Let it soak for at least another hour or two.

Step 4: Select, Stretch, and Nail Down Rawhide

First Round
  1. Select the piece of rawhide you want to use, and complete the following while it is still wet.
  2. Cut it to a more useable length.
  3. With the hammer and nails, beginning at one corner, nail down and stretch out the rawhide as you work your way down one long side.
  4. When you reach the bottom, stretch and nail the bottom down.
  5. Work your way up the other long side and finish the top edge.
  6. Go back around and pull up nails where you feel you can stretch more and really make sure it is good and tight nailing them back in.
  7. Let it dry most of the way.

Second Round

  1. Pull all of the nails once it has dried most of the way and flip it over so the other side can dry.
  2. Nail it back down and let it do so.

Step 5: Mark Dimensions

  1. Remove all over your nails once the rawhide is all the way dry.
  2. The two sides of the rawhide are different in texture.
    • One side will be clean and more smooth.
    • The other side, or backside, is more rough and "fleshy."
    • The side you want facing out is the clean side.
  3. With your pencil and straightedge, Draw your straight line on one short side of the rawhide. This is the beginning of the rectangle.
  4. Using this line as something to square your straight edge against, draw lines on the long sides.
  5. Draw your last short side line to complete the rectangle.

Step 6: Trims to Marked Dimensions

  1. Using your leather scissors, cut out the rectangle on the lines you drew.

Step 7: Fold Rawhide and Cut Out Pouch Flap

  1. Fold the rawhide over so that the smooth side is on the outside, and the fleshy side will be on the inside of the final envelope. Make sure to fold it in a way to leave a flap to fold over.
    • That is a key point. The shape of this pouch is really a simple envelope.
  2. Mark the center point on the inside of the flap. Use this point to draw the flap's triangle shape.
  3. Cut the shape with the leather scissors.
  4. Fold the flap over to complete folds on the parfleche envelope.

Step 8: Measure Sides and Mark for Hole Placement

  1. On both sides of the envelope, mark an consistent set of hatch marks with a pencil. These marks will be covered later. I made one mark every centimeter.
  2. Mark two dots on the flap for the closure later.

Step 9: Sketch Out Design

  1. This step is fairly subjective.
    • You can do research on Parfleche to see how others decorate them. Feel free to decorate however you want. I chose a simple, traditional geometric pattern.
  2. First thing, using the straight edge, mark the four lines on the outside of your pattern. Parfleche's geometric patterns are usually always boxed in like this. Also, the outer lines and all of the inner shapes are outlined traditionally with black lines.
  3. Sketch the interior pattern and make sure to also decorate the flap to correspond with the design on the body of the envelope.
  4. All of these lines are pencil drawn.

Step 10: Fill in Design With Paint Pens

  1. Begin to add color with oil-based Paint Pens.
    • Traditionally this would have been down with earthen paints and hide glue but that is messy and paint pens are cheap, easy, and work really well.
  2. Do all of the colors first. Don't forget the flap.
    • I tried to stay a bit away from the lines as they will be outlined in black.
  3. After you let the colors dry some, go back with a sharpie or fine tipped black paint pen and trace your pencil lines to finish the decoration stage.
  4. Blacking the lines to meet the color will give it the nice finished look.

Step 11: Punch All the Holes

  1. Using a hand leather punch, punch holes through both layers of the body of the envelope: one hole on each hatch mark from earlier.
    • Do this just outside the color but not too close to the edge.
  2. Do the other side.
  3. Punch the marked spots on the flap. Then using the pencil, mark the location of these holes on the body.
    • Punch these holes only in the painted layer of the envelope body. These will function as the closure holes.
  4. Punch four holes in the back layer only as shown in the picture above. These will be for the belt loops.

Step 12: Cut and Punch Felt Side Ribbons

  1. Cut two felt strips that are wide enough to fold around the left and right edge of the Parfleche.
    • They only need to reach around enough to meet the edge of the painted design.
  2. Let them be slightly longer than the body of the parfleche.
  3. Cut a triangle notch in the bottom of each ribbon.
  4. Fold the over, and while holding them next to each row of punched holes, mark the location on the felt with the sharpie.
  5. Using the leather punch again, punch the felt while folded in half.
    • Keep track of which side both ribbons are marked for so the holes will line up just right.

Step 13: Cut Leather Strips & Lace Up Belt Loops & Closure

  1. Cut 21 long thin strips of buckskin for the lacing and closing of the parfleche. each should be about 6"-8" long.
  2. Start by using two of the strips to make the belt loops.
    • You must do these steps before the sides, otherwise it will be too difficult to complete.
  3. Do both loops as shown in the pictures.
  4. Next, starting inside the body of the parfleche, use one strip coming up through the two holes in the face and finish this part by poking them through the corresponding holes in the flap. This will be your closure.

Step 14: Lace Up & Tie the Parfleche

  1. Do one side at a time here.
  2. With the felt folded over the outside edges of the parfleche, use one strip of leather at a time and thread it through felt/leather/leather/felt in that order.
  3. Pull the strip halfway through.
  4. Complete this for all 9 holes on the first side.
  5. At this point, tie one overhand knot on each strip.
    • Make sure to do the same overhand knot each time. (i.e. Right over Left)
  6. You now have one side fully assembled.

Step 15: Repeat on Second Side and Enjoy!

  1. Do the exact same thing to the other side of the parfleche.
  2. Trim the them all at the same time to hang to the length of the felt ribbon. This way they all hang down to the same length.
  3. Tie the closure on the flap with a simple bow.
  4. Tie your belt loops the same way on the back.
    • You can tie this too a belt, bag or whatever. Or you can keep the loops tied and thread it onto a belt.
    • You have created a Mini Parfleche!

Enjoy your Parfleche made out of a Dog's Rawhide Bone!

As always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Thanks for Reading!

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    2 Discussions

    Cats Dragon
    Cats Dragon

    3 years ago

    Very good instructable, I liked it very much and it was easy for me to understand.Could you tell me how large a piece of rawhide comes from a rawhide bone (large one). Would it be enough to cover a book?

    Oh yes, I VOTED!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Hey there! Thank you so much for the vote!

    In regards to your question,the rawhide outer piece was probably 5-6" wide and surprisingly long. Probably 3 feet. To cover a book, you may want to experiment with different rawhide chew toys. Some are just cylinders without the knots on the ends. These may have larger surface areas for projects you are looking to complete. I would suggest trying a few out.. Hope this helps