Bandolier Bags

Lesson submitted by Kris Dirksen (4th grade teacher) of South Ridge School.

Bandolier bags are large, heavily beaded pouches with a slit at the top. They have a beaded strap worn diagonally over the shoulder, thus resting the bag at hip level. The design is created using glass beads, a European trade good that replaced the traditional porcupine quills. The bags themselves are typically constructed from trade cloth, such as cotton, wool, velvet, or leather, and were traditionally worn by men.

Students will create a version of the bandolier bag for use throughout the school year to collect and keep their resources and materials from our Native American Studies project.

See related lesson plans: Floral Motifs in Ojibwe Cultures and Beading with Community Artists

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


Share images or examples of beaded woodland patterns with students, whether they're electronic examples provided in the resource materials section or real samples you bring in.


Show your bag design and talk about the motif, and the influences of woodland patterns for the regional tribes of the Great Lakes.Demonstrate the process you would like the students to use, based on the approach you took with your bag design.


  1. Students design a woodland motif with inspiration from traditional and contemporary beaded objects and bags using colored pencils on graph paper.
  2. Once their motif is designed, students need to transfer the design to the shoulder and/or pocket part of their bag. They can either staple the graph paper plan directly on the tote and bead on top of the graph paper or they can draw with pencil into their bags, based on their plan.
  3. For those drawing onto their bags, students use a fabric or permanent marker to create the outline of their designs, then paint the interior of their designs.
  4. Students thread their needle and proceed with beading over their designs.
  5. Students will use their bags to keep their books and projects for the remainder of the year as we continue to focus on Ojibwe art and cultural content. Names should be written inside the bag with permanent marker.


Students showcase their bags to the class and talk about their design motif inspirations.


Students used traditional and historical bag and beading motifs to research design and create their version of a bandolier bag for classroom use.

Vocabulary Words


The bag can be guided in many ways. It is best for the teacher to first design their bag and from that experience plan the route they will ask students to create bags. The type of bag, size and materials used create various challenges and benefits when decorating.

Grade Levels

Primary Content Areas

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts


Social Studies