The Story of the Wearing Blanket

Lesson Plan


The materials and artistry used to create the Osage Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket provide the basis for students to develop an understanding of the process of how it was made, and build related vocabulary.

Intended Age Group

Early childhood (ages 3-5)

Length of Lesson

One 35 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts


Students will be able to:

  • listen to and comprehend information about the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket;
  • use oral skills to reference the information in the lesson; and
  • use an orderly list of words to develop instructions for creating a wearing blanket


  1. Using information from the About the Art section, begin with a story-like description of how the Osage traded goods (and in recent years purchased goods) with other cultural groups. To make the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket they were selective in choosing beautiful materials. The blanket was created for a certain person and worn by this person on special occasions. During your description, display or hand out the image of the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket. Ask children what they notice about the blanket. What shapes do they see? What do they like about the blanket? Ask what kinds of clothes they wear on special occasions.
  2. Talk about the symbolism or the uniqueness of this blanket. Bring attention to the horses as a meaning of prosperity. Give examples of when and how the wearing blankets were worn. Refer to the About the Art section for this information.
  3. Using the props (blanket, ribbons, and horse cutouts) show and explain the steps taken to put the blanket together. Explain that various parts of the blanket were sewn together. (A needle and thread demonstration is a nice addition.)
  4. With help from the students, illustrate and label the step-by-step process (3–5 steps) that may have been used to make the blanket on the board. Your list might look like the following: 1. Purchase materials; 2. Place ribbon and other shapes onto blanket; 3. Sew materials onto blanket; 4. Wear to special occasion. Then, walk through each step again and write one coinciding vocabulary word on the board for each step (For example, “ribbon”). Help students add more words for each step (words like trade, money, fabric, thread, needle, etc.) Check that they know what each word means.


  • White board and markers
  • Props: blanket, ribbon, and horse cutouts to replicate how the blanket was put together (needle and thread would be a nice touch)
  • About the Art section on the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket (included with the lesson plan)
  • One color copy of the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Invent and Discover to Create
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Writing and Composition
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket

Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket

early 1900s

Artist not known, Osage

Who Made It?

A woman from the Osage tribe sewed this blanket in the early 1900s for a special dance called the I-loⁿ-shka [ee-LONSH-kah]. European explorers entered the Osage territory in the early 1600s and the Osage began trading with the French for things like wool cloth and silk ribbon—materials that were used in the making of this blanket. Ribbonworkers are female and the art form is learned from female relatives. Each Osage ribbonworker creates her own patterns. To make the silk decorations, the artist used a template to trace a design on colored ribbon, then she cut and folded the ribbon to form stylized arrowhead shapes and horses. She then stitched each shape onto a second colored ribbon, which she sewed by hand onto the wool blanket. Once complete, the blanket would have been worn by an Osage woman over her shoulders or as a skirt. Today, artists continue to produce ribbonwork, but they might use sewing machines to construct the patterns. These blankets are still worn today on ceremonial occasions.

What Inspired It?

Every Osage who dances the I-loⁿ-shka, both male and female, wears clothing decorated with ribbonwork. Blankets like this one are often given as gifts at the dance. When worn during the I-loⁿ-shka dance, the blanket moves and sways with the dancer, surrounding him or her with a sense of history and tradition. Symbols and use of colors may vary between clans or even families. Horses, like those on this blanket, often symbolize prosperity and may also indicate a family’s name.

I-loⁿ-shka means “playground of the eldest son.” An eldest son is chosen keeper of the drum for a year or more. The drum-keeper chooses committee members who are knowledgeable in tribal traditions to plan the dance. His family gives gifts to committee members, pays for the dance, and prepares food for participants. Dances are held outdoors and dancers circle around a drum, moving in a counterclockwise direction. In the early days, only warriors danced the I-loⁿ-shka. Today all men and boys, and some women, dance around the singers and the drum.



The horses and border are made from silk ribbons. After the French Revolution of 1789, silk had become unpopular in Europe and the French silk industry turned to America as a market for the unwanted ribbons.

Wool Cloth
Wool Cloth

The Osage acquired wool cloth through trade with Europeans. Wool came in different colors including red, black, navy, and white.


Horses symbolize prosperity and can also indicate family names. Notice the tiny yellow beads that outline the silk horses.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.