How to Make a Native American Cradleboard

Things You\’ll Need

  • One 27-inch long by 10-inch wide pine board

  • One yard of 36-inch wide cotton flannel fabric

  • One yard of 36-inch wide soft cotton

  • One yard of contrasting cotton fabric (optional)

  • One package of pillow stuffing

  • Sewing machine

  • Thread

  • Scissors

  • Measuring tape

  • Pins

  • Iron

... Cradleboards provide Native American mothers with an ingenious method of carrying their babies.

Cradleboards have played an important role in Native American cultures for generations and are currently used by many tribes. They allow parents to care for their children while still going about their daily work. Native American mothers use the cradleboards much like a baby backpack to carry infants primarily during their first year. The decorated cradleboards are traditional crafts that are functional and distinctive. Made of simple wooden planks and strong textiles decorated with beading, these cradleboards express cultural identity and diversity.

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Step 1

Sand the pine board to smooth off any rough corners or edges.

Step 2

Cut the flannel fabric to 11 inches by 29 inches to make the pillow. Place reverse sides together and make a one-half inch seam on both the long and short sides. Leave a portion of one side open for turning. Turn right side out and stuff with pillow stuffing. Close the opening with short stitches. This pillow is the same size as the board.

Step 3

Cut cotton material to 32 inches by 32 inches. Finish one side by stitching under about half of an inch. Place the right sides of material together and make the finished side a short side. Sew the edges of the long side together and then turn right side out. Place this casing over the board and pillow and put the remainder between the pillow and the board.

Step 4

Cut four pieces of fabric 10 inches by 12 inches. Place each of the pieces together wrong-side out and cut diagonally across the corners to create the tie pads.

Step 5

Cut four strips of fabric 45 inches by 5 inches. Fold over and sew wrong-side out, leaving one end open. Turn right-side out to make the ties. Take the tie pad material and turn the raw edges under three-fourths of an inch and iron down. Sew the two pieces together after inserting the ties into each of the short sides.

Step 6

Place the tie pad in the front and wrap the ties securely around the cradleboard once. Then bring the ties back to the front and tie in a bow.


Choose a solid color for the ties and pads to coordinate with the flannel material used for the pillow and casing.


Be careful not to put too much stuffing inside the pillow.