Sewing & Beading Terms

The vintage treadle sewing machine shown here has little in common with the high-tech, digital equipment being used these days for ribbon appliquée and all kinds of other fancy work. Fortunately, we’re more interested in words!

Here’s a collection of nearly 300 sewing terms, gathered from the itwêwina online dictionary (, but also from Solomon Ratt, and from a project belonging to Andrea Custer and Belinda Daniels. The dictionary is surprisingly rich in sewing and beading vocabulary.

I began by looking up “sewing” then searched whatever other words I could think of (in English) related to clothing construction. You might have fun doing the same, especially since the dictionary also includes audio links with pronunciation for some of these terms (just click on the audio-speaker icon).

To supplement my list, Andrea and Belinda sent the following notes, offered as a family-based language activity. The terms they collected have been incorporated into the longer table, below.

This list is far too long to accompany with a single audio file, but if you look up individual words in  (or copy and paste them into the search field) you may be impressed as I am how many of them now include the little speaker icon indicating an audio link. Some have recordings of several elders pronouncing the same word form.

Beading is an ancient form of art. Traditionally, artisans would use natural materials that were available to them. Materials such as stones, shells, bones, copper and other natural materials. It is an art that demands hours of meticulous work that requires knowledge of art and design. Today, many people do beadwork, and it is a sign of resilience and pride in one’s culture. Children learn first by observing and then by doing. Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can pass on an ancient art while they teach patience and perseverance. 
1. One by one show each item and ask them to repeat in Cree after you.
2. Demonstrate each step slowly and say the words as you do them
3. Offer praise and encourage them to keep trying.
4. Tell them to think good thoughts as they work. Bad thoughts could lead them to make mistakes or hurt themselves.

The following table of terms displays only ten lines at a time, so you’ll need to hit “Next” (at the bottom of the table) to look further. On the other hand, you can enter Cree or English sewing terms into the search box to see what comes up. You might even find a word for “treadle”!

Cree: kaskikwâsowin itwêwinaSewing & Beading Terms
tâniwê paskwahamâtowinwhere are the scissors
nîso âpacihtâ sâponikana; pêyak ohci mîkisak êkwa pêyak ohci ta-sakâstahwacik mîkisakuse two needles: one for the beads and one for tacking the beads down
tâpwê miyonâkwan (ni)truly, it is beautiful!
tâpwê miywâsin! (ni sg.)truly, it is beautiful!
tâpwê miywâsinwa (n pl.) truly, it is beautiful!
nahiyikohkto the proper degree, to the proper extent, just enough, just right, fittingly, appropriately; exact quantity, exact number; evenly; better 
tahkopita kisipanohktie at the end
misicihcânathumbs (of mittens)
tâpisasathread sinew
tâpisiminê ((vai)thread beads
asapâp (na)thread
kâ-wâposâwisicik mîkisakthose yellow beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-wâpiskisicik mîkisakthose white beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-mihkosicik mîkisakthose red beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-nîpâmâyâtisicik mîkisak those purple beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-wâpikwanîwicîkosicik mîkisakthose pink beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-osâwisicik mîkisakthose orange beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-askihtakosick mîkisakthose green beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-sîpihkosicik mîkisak those blue beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
kâ-kaskitêsicik mîkisakthose black beads (animate colour term with animate “bead”)
sihtapêh (vta) tack down the beads.
êsawêhkwaksquare needle for sewing leather 
isawêhkwaksquare needle for sewing leather 
yôsk-ayânis soft cloth (e.g., lining)
êsawêhkwakossmall square needle for sewing leather 
isawêhkwakossmall square needle for sewing leather 
sâponikanissmall needle 
ayiwinisissmall article of clothing; [plural:] children’s clothes; child’s clothing, child’s apparel 
wanakwaysleeve; his/her sleeve 
astinwân (ni)sinew
cîstatêyâpiy (ni)sinew
ocîkwahikansewing rod for pleating moccasins 
kaskikwâcikansewing machine; item being sewn 
kaskikwâsopayihcikanissewing machine 
kaskikwâsopayîssewing machine 
kaskikwâswâkansewing machine 
kaskikwâtasew thumbs
pihtawêkin (vta)sew onto lining with sinew
pihtawêkina (vti) sew onto lining with sinew
pihtawêkwâcikêsew lining (i.e., put the lining in the leather part)
kaskikwâta (vti)sew leather
wâskâkwâcikê (vai)sew all the way around
tâpiskâkanscarf, necktie; necklace; handkerchief 
sakâskwahonsafety-pin; button; brooch; buckle; clasp 
masinistahikâkêws/he uses s.t. for embroidering 
kocihtâws/he tries s.t., s/he tries to do s.t.; s/he fits s.t. in 
kocîhtâws/he tries s.t., s/he tries to do s.t.; s/he fits s.t. in 
masinihtatâws/he traces s.t., s/he uses s.t. as a pattern 
tâpisahams/he threads s.t. (e.g. needle) 
kâskiskinikêws/he tears seams, s/he rips seams, s/he detaches things in sewing 
nîmikwâsows/he takes his/her own sewing along 
mâtisikêws/he starts to cut (as a pattern) 
kaskikwâsows/he sews, s/he does his/her own sewing; s/he sews s.t. 
kaskikwâswâkêws/he sews with something, s/he uses something in sewing 
nihtâwikwâsows/he sews well, s/he is a good seamstress; s/he does fancy sewing 
miyokwâsows/he sews well 
akokwâsows/he sews trimming (e.g. on a dress) 
kaskikwâcikâkêws/he sews things with something, s/he uses something to sew things 
mâwasakokwâcikêstamawêws/he sews things together for s.o. 
mâwasakokwâcikêstamâkêws/he sews things together for people 
mâwasakokwâcikêws/he sews things together 
kipostahikêws/he sews things shut 
itistahikêws/he sews things on thus 
kaskikwâcikêws/he sews things CW; He sews by hand, giving attention to detail.
kipokwâcikêws/he sews things closed or together; s/he sews things shut; s/he closes things up by sewing 
miyokwâtams/he sews s.t. well 
nihtâwikwâtams/he sews s.t. well 
sîpostahams/he sews s.t. up (as a rip in his/her own clothes) 
wiyikwâtams/he sews s.t. together, s/he sews s.t. up 
mâmawokwâtams/he sews s.t. together into one, s/he pieces s.t. together in sewing 
mâwasakokwâtams/he sews s.t. together 
mâwasakostahams/he sews s.t. together 
isikwâtams/he sews s.t. thus 
kispakikwâtams/he sews s.t. thickly 
kipostahams/he sews s.t. shut 
kîpikwâtams/he sews s.t. quickly 
itistahams/he sews s.t. on thus 
âniskokwâtams/he sews s.t. on as an extension 
akostahams/he sews s.t. on (as trimming) 
akokwâtams/he sews s.t. on 
nanâtohkokwâtams/he sews s.t. into quilts 
wâwiyêkwâtams/he sews s.t. into a circle 
titipikwanahams/he sews s.t. in overcast stitch (e.g. the spiral loops around the vamp of a moccasin) 
pîmikwâtams/he sews s.t. crooked 
kipokwâtâws/he sews s.t. closed or together; s/he sews s.t. shut; s/he closes s.t. up by sewing 
kipokwâtams/he sews s.t. closed or together 
pîhtawêkwâtams/he sews s.t. as lining into a garment; s/he sews s.t. in between covers, s/he sews covers on s.t. 
kaskikwâtams/he sews s.t. 
nihtâwikwâtêws/he sews s.o. well; s/he sews well for s.o. 
miyokwâtêws/he sews s.o. well 
sîpostahwêws/he sews s.o. up 
mâwasakokwâtêws/he sews s.o. together (e.g. pants) 
mâwasakostahwêws/he sews s.o. together 
isikwâtêws/he sews s.o. thus (e.g. pants) 
kipostahwêws/he sews s.o. shut 
kîpikwâtêws/he sews s.o. quickly 
akostahwêws/he sews s.o. on (as trimming) 
akokwâtêws/he sews s.o. on 
wâwiyêkwâtêws/he sews s.o. into a circle 
pîmikwâtêws/he sews s.o. crooked 
kipokwâtêws/he sews s.o. closed or together 
pîhtawêkwâtêws/he sews s.o. as lining into a garment; s/he sews s.o. in between covers, s/he sews covers on s.o. 
itistahwêws/he sews s.o. (e.g. porcupine-quills) on thus 
kaskikwâtêws/he sews s.o. (e.g. pants); s/he sews for s.o. 
kaskikwâswêws/he sews s.o. 
nanâtohkokwâsiwêws/he sews quilts for people 
nanâtohkokwâcikêws/he sews quilts 
kîpikwâsows/he sews quickly 
nanâtohkokwâsows/he sews patchwork blankets 
kaskikwâtisows/he sews for him/herself 
moscikwâsows/he sews by hand 
mâyikwâsows/he sews badly 
piskihcikwâtams/he sews an extension on s.t. (e.g. canvas) 
piskihcikwâtêws/he sews an extension on s.o. (e.g. pants) 
nanâtohkokwâtêws/he sews a quilt for s.o. 
sîpostahamawêws/he sews (it/him) up for s.o. 
akostahamawêws/he sews (it/him) on for s.o. 
kaskikwâtamawêws/he sews (it/him) for s.o. 
kaskikwâtamâsows/he sews (it/him) for him/herself 
kipokwâtamawêws/he sews (it/him) closed or together for s.o.; s/he sews (it/him) shut for s.o.; s/he closes (it/him) up for s.o. by sewing 
kipokwâtamâkêws/he sews (it/him) closed or together for people; s/he sews (it/him) shut for people; s/he closes (it/him) up for people by sewing 
moscikwâtams/he sew s.t. by hand 
moscikwâtêws/he sew s.o. by hand 
tâpiskahêws/he puts a necklace or collar on s.o. 
sîpâpitêws/he pulls s.o. under; s/he pulls thread under the sewing machine 
cîstahwêws/he pricks s.o., s/he pierces s.o., s/he jabs s.o., s/he spears s.o. with a pointed object; s/he give s.o. an injection, s/he injects s.o., s/he vaccinates s.o. 
sakâskwahams/he pins s.t.; s/he buttons s.t. up; s/he fastens s.t. 
sakâskwahamawêws/he pins (it/him) for s.o.; s/he buttons (it/him) for s.o.; s/he fastens (it/him) for s.o. 
sâpostahams/he pierces s.t. through with a needle 
cîstahêws/he pierces s.o.; s/he gives s.o. an injection, needle; s/he pricks s.o. with an awl or pin 
sâpostahwêws/he pierces s.o. through with a needle 
wâskânams/he makes s.t. go around, s/he turns s.t. (e.g. treadle), s/he cranks s.t. 
miyohtâws/he makes s.t. fit well 
kaskikwâsohêws/he makes s.o. sew 
kaskikwâsohiwêws/he makes people sew 
maskisinihkêws/he makes moccasins
nahisins/he lies properly, comfortably; s/he fits well in something 
nahisimêws/he lays s.o. to fit properly, s/he lays s.o. down comfortably 
nahisimiwêws/he lays people to fit properly, s/he lays people down comfortably 
nôtisins/he is too big (to enter an opening); s/he fails to fit in 
sîhcisiws/he is tightly packed, s/he fits tightly (as in a box) 
masinisins/he is pictured, s/he is represented in embroidery 
nihtâwiminakinikêws/he is good at sewing on beads 
âyîtawisins/he is firmly in place on both sides, s/he fits in on both sides 
tipikwâtams/he hems s.t. 
tipikwâtêws/he hems s.o. 
wanakwâws/he has sleeves 
nahiskams/he has s.t. fit well, s/he fits s.t. well; s/he looks nice in s.t.; s/he looks nicely dressed; s/he wears s.t. becomingly 
nahiskawêws/he has s.o. fit well, s/he fits s.o. well; s/he looks nice in s.o. (e.g. pants); s/he looks nicely dressed; s/he wears s.o. becomingly (e.g. pants); s/he looks good with s.o. 
osâponikaniws/he has a needle 
miyoskams/he has a good fit of s.t., s/he fits s.t. well 
sîhtiskams/he fits s.t. tightly; s/he wears s.t. tight fitting; s/he wears s.t. too small 
sîhtwamohtâws/he fits s.t. on tightly 
pîhtamohtâws/he fits s.t. inside another part 
tâpihtitâws/he fits s.t. in; s/he puts a handle on s.t. 
têpiskams/he fits s.t. (e.g. coat) 
tâpisimêws/he fits s.o. in 
sîhtiskawêws/he fits s.o. (e.g. pants) tightly; s/he wears s.o. tight fitting 
têpiskawêws/he fits s.o. (e.g. pants) 
miyoskawêws/he fits s.o. (e.g. clothing) nicely; s/he is well­suited to s.o. 
kîsikwâtams/he finishes sewing s.t. 
kîsikwâtêws/he finishes sewing s.o. 
kîsikwâsows/he finishes his/her own sewing 
sakwâskwahams/he fastens s.t.; s/he zippers s.t. up 
kikamohêws/he fastens s.o. on, s/he attaches s.o.; s/he puts s.o. (e.g. yarn, ribbon) on something 
nôtiskams/he fails to fit s.t. as it is too small 
nôtiskawêws/he fails to fit s.o. (e.g. pants) as it is too small 
pîmikitams/he embroiders s.t. with quill-work 
tihtipawêkahams/he embroiders s.t. around 
masinistahams/he embroiders s.t. 
tihtipawêkahwêws/he embroiders s.o. around 
masinistahwêws/he embroiders s.o. 
masinistahamawêws/he embroiders (it) for s.o. 
masinistahamâkêws/he embroiders (it) for people 
masinistahowêws/he embroiders (animate) things 
masinistahikêws/he embroiders 
postayiwinisahiwêws/he dresses people, s/he puts clothes on people, s/he makes people put clothes on; s/he clothes people, s/he makes clothes for people, s/he fits people out with clothing 
wiyisams/he cuts s.t. out, s/he cuts s.t. to a pattern 
wiyiswêws/he cuts s.o. out (e.g. a figure in a picture book), s/he cuts s.o. to a pattern 
wiyisamawêws/he cuts a pattern for s.o. 
wiyisamâsows/he cuts a pattern for him/herself, s/he cuts his/her own pattern 
manisowêws/he cuts (animate) things (e.g. with scissors or knife) 
cîstahâskwatêws/he crucifies s.o.; s/he nails or pins s.o. down 
masinihkocikêws/he carves things, s/he carves patterns 
âniskamâcikêws/he buttons things up 
sakipâtams/he buttons s.t. 
sakâskwahwêws/he buttons s.o. up; s/he pins s.o.; s/he fastens s.o. 
âniskamâtêws/he buttons s.o. up 
sakipâtêws/he buttons s.o. (e.g. pants) 
âniskamâsiwêws/he buttons people up 
sakâpâtams/he attaches s.t. by sewing, s/he sews s.t. on 
miyomohcikêws/he adjusts things properly, s/he makes things fit well 
miyomohtâws/he adjusts s.t. properly, s/he makes s.t. fit well 
miyomohêws/he adjusts s.o. properly, s/he makes it fit well 
wâposwayân (na)rabbit fur
âhi asapâp sâponikanihkput your thread on/through your needle
sîpâ ohci astâ kisâponikanput your needle under your hide
sâpostaha pâhkêkinput your needle through your hide
asona (vti) put the good sides together
tahkohc astâ kipâhkêkanimihkput on your hide
asiwacikanpouch, pocket; purse, suitcase; storage container, receptacle; can, jar, vessel 
otinik kimîkisimak sâponikan ohcipick up your beads with your needle
tâpasah (vta)pick up beads (with a needle)
pîwâpiskospenny, cent; coin; wire; needle 
aspisâwâcikanpattern, thing used as a pattern for cutting; a print model 
môswâkanpair of scissors 
omîkiwahpihkêwone who sews tipis, one who makes tipis 
omîkiwâhpihkêwone who sews tipis, one who makes tipis 
sâponikan (ni)needle 
sênipânisnarrow ribbon, piece of silk 
astisak (na)mitts
moccasins (ni)maskisina
maskisinihkêmake moccasins (vai)
astisihkêmake mitts (vai)
misi-sâponikanlarge needle 
asikanihkâkanknitting needle 
kikihtinit mixes into something, it fits well 
tâpisinit lies fit in or strung 
têpastêwit is placed within reach; it has enough room to fit in place 
tihtipawêkahikâtêwit is embroidered round the top (e.g. moccasin) 
miyoskâkowit goes through s.o.’s body with good affect, it does s.o. good (e.g. animate food as actor); it fits s.o. well (e.g. pants) 
nahipayiwit fits well (e.g. a door on a frame) 
miyomonit fits well (as a window in a frame) 
nahihtinit fits well 
sîhtwamowit fits very tightly 
sîhtwamonit fits tightly, it is on tight 
sîhcihtinit fits tightly (as in a box) 
âyîtawihtinit fits on both sides 
têpihtinit fits inside, it has room to fit in 
pîhcihtinit fits inside 
tâpiskopayiwit fits in, s/he falls into place 
tâpipayiwit fits all around 
pîhtawêkwâcikaninside pocket 
sakâskwahonishook and eye; small button, small clasp 
âniskamânhitch, clasp; button 
pâhkêkanhide (i.e., leather)
pahkêkin (ni)hide
cîstaha (vti) go down (through the material beside the bead)
ahtay (na)fur
miyohowinfine apparel
nihtâwikwâsowinfancy sewing 
masinistahikêwinembroidery, embroidered work 
pîmikitêwayiwinisaembroidered clothing 
masinistahikanembroidered article 
tapasinaha masinisâwin tahkohc masinahikanihkdraw the pattern on paper
kaskikwâsowindoing one’s sewing, the art of sewing 
masinisâwâcikancut-out pattern 
kîskis ana asapâpcut the thread
manis (vta)cut s.o.
manisâwâs (vta)cut rabbit (or beaver) fur
manisa (vti-1)cut fur
kispisoncuff; wristband 
pê-sâpona (vti)come up (through the material beside the bead with the needle)
nahiskamowinbefitting, fitting well; being adaptable 
amiskwayân (na)beaver fur
mîkisak (na)beads
mîkisihkahkcikêwin beading
mîkisihkahkcikêwin (ni)beading
mîkisihkahcikê (vai)bead
mîkisihkahkcikê (vai)bead
sîpêyihtabe patient
mâyikwâsowinbad sewing, poorly done sewing 
wayiwinarticle of clothing; [plural:] clothing, apparel 
wawêsîhowinadornment with ribbon and flowers (fine apparel; elegant adornment. MD)

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