Moose Hair False Embroidery

A purse decorated with ‘false moose hair embroidery’ and moose hair tassels, 1760's. A purse decorated with ‘false moose hair embroidery’ and moose hair tassels, 1760's. ©Trustees of the British Museum, acc. no. Am,SLMisc.203.

Moose hair false embroidery is a weaving technique often used by the Northeast Indians of North America to decorate objects such as pouches or straps. The technique is called ‘false embroidery’, because the moose hair is not applied to the finished woven item. Instead it is used as part of the weaving process. This technique was especially popular among the Huron and Iroquois peoples.

The moose hair was dyed in a variety of colours before being spun, with the aim of using the coloured threads to heighten the geometric patterns on the surface of the woven cloth. Both the warp and weft threads of the intended cloth were made from native flora, probably Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum). The plain and coloured moose hair threads were wrapped tightly three or more times around one of the wefts as it passed over a warp end. The weaving method used was two-strand twining. The technique of false embroidery was also employed by tribes to the west of the Eastern Woodlands, such as the Tlingit, who used grass instead of moose hair.


  • TURNER, Geoffrey (1955). Hair Embroidery in Siberia and North America, Occasional papers on technology: 7. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, p. 38: fig. 22, pl. XV.
  • WILLOUGHBY, Charles C. (1905). 'Textile Fabrics of the New England Indians', American Anthropologist, vol. 7. no. 1, pp. 85-93. Also available online on JSTOR (accessed September 2014).

British Museum online catalogue (retrieved 8 May 2016)


Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2017 17:08