How to Make an Indian Breastplate

Updated April 17, 2017

In the past, breastplates were worn by important people or Indian chiefs in many Native American tribes. The breastplate was worn over the chest for religious ceremonies, protection from injury during battles and as a status symbol within the tribal group. The plates were often made of tough materials like leather, bronze, steel or iron. You do not need to use those materials to make a breastplate for yourself. Make an Indian breastplate as a craft project with materials you can find at a craft store.

Place cloth on a flat surface in a well-ventilated area to prepare to paint the straws. Painting is optional; most breastplates were made of bone, so painting may help your plate look closer to an original breastplate. Place the straws on top of the cloth.

Paint the straws. Shake the can of spray paint. Hold it at an angle above the straws and spray them with the paint. Allow the paint to dry. Roll the straws over and spray-paint the other sides. Allow them to dry.

Divide the 100 straws into two groups with 55 in one and 35 in the other. Use sharp scissors to cut the group with 55 straws in equal halves and the 35 straws into four equal pieces for each straw. Now you have 110 half-straws and 140 quarter-length straws.

Take a long piece of string and begin threading the beads and straws. Insert a bead on the string. Insert one end of the string into one end of a half-length straw and the other end of the string through the other end of the straw. Pull the string through the same way you would when lacing your shoes. The bead is on the outside of one end of the straw.

Slide another bead on the end of the string that is on the same side as the first bead. Insert that end through a half-length straw and pull. Insert the other end of the string through the other end of the straw and pull. Continue lacing and adding beads until you have 55 half-straws on the strip.

Make a second strip with 55 half-straws using the same procedures as step 4 and 5. Place the second strip next to the first.

Lace two more strips of straws. Use steps 4 and 5 to lace two separate strips of quarter-length straws with 40 straws in each strip.

Assemble the breastplate. Place the two half-length strips of straws side-by-side. Take one end of excess string at the top of each strip and tie them together in a knot to join the two columns of straws. Place one strip of the quarter-length straws on each side of the joined half-length straws. Take the end of excess string from the half-length straw strip and tie it together with the quarter-length strip. Repeat on the other side of the breastplate. Now, you have four columns of straws joined at the top, with the two centre strips longer than the two sides by 15 straws.

Connect the entire breastplate together. Cut 10 short pieces of string. From the top of the breastplate, count down to the fifth straw, and use one short string to tie together one end of the strip of half-length straws with the quarter-length next to it. Insert the short string through the loop of thread that hangs loosely at the end of the straw and tie a knot. Continue joining every fifth straw on both sides of the breastplate until the entire plate is one whole unit.

Add a few feathers to the outer edges and bottom of the centre strips of straws. Wrap a small piece of string around the stem of each feather and knot it. Wrap the other end of the strings around the loose strings on the sides and bottoms of the centre strips of straws. Keep adding feathers until you feel the plate is complete.


You may spray a sealer on the straws to preserve the paint longer.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 box white drinking straws, 100-count
  • 1 can bone-coloured acrylic spray paint (optional)
  • Old cloth
  • Scissors
  • 100 large beads
  • 1 roll string
  • Feathers
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About the Author

Since 2007, Jophiel Aurora has written articles on environmental issues, vegetarianism, travel and animal rights for Web sites like eHow, Answerbag and LIVESTRONG.COM. Aurora is also a writer for Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants, an online program. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration in computer information systems from Georgia State University.