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Preparation of Materials

Before the plant or sinew fibers could be made into cordage they needed to be prepared. Preparing the materials was done using several different methods.

Rubbing With Hands

Rubbing the plant fibers between the hands broke down the fibers and allowed short fibers to fall away. Sagebrush bark was rubbed for this reason.

Rubbing also softened the plant fibers, making them easier to twist into cordage.


Hackling is the preparation of
the plant fibers by shredding.
The hackling of cattail leaves
was necessary before the
leaves could be turned into
fine cordage.

Cattail leaves were gathered in the late fall and allowed to dry. Before hackling, the cattail leaves were briefly soaked. After the leaves were damp,a pointed tool, like an awl, was used to comb, and separate the cattail leaf fibers. The cattail leaves were also simply twisted into cordage by two people, but hackling produced a finer cordage.


Retting was the soaking of the plant materials and sinew in water to help prepare the fibers for cordage. Soaking materials such as sagebrush and sinew weakened the unnecessary fibers and glue (in the case of sinew) so that the cordage could be more easily produced. Done over a period of several days, retting needed to be checked every two days to make sure that the cordage fibers were not also weakened. Retting was a stinky process and not kept near the shelters and lodges.


Dogbane and milkweed needed to be scraped before releasing the fibers. A sharp scraping tool was used to peel away the outer "bark" of the plant so that the pith underneath could be broken and the fibers released. Scraping of the inner pith with the fingernails was also done to clean the pith from the fibers.


Lightly pounding the plant or sinew fibers helped release the fibers. Gently pounding milkweed or sinew helped make the fibers easier to twist into cordage. Pounding the sinew broke the fibers so that they could be stripped apart more easily.