Aboriginal American Weaving
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Aboriginal American Weaving

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Project Gutenberg's Aboriginal American Weaving, by Mary Lois KissellThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: Aboriginal American WeavingAuthor: Mary Lois KissellRelease Date: February 11, 2008 [EBook #24568]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ABORIGINAL AMERICAN WEAVING ***Produced by Irma Spehar and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file wasproduced from images generously made available by TheInternet Archive/American Libraries.)Aboriginal American Weaving—— BY ——MISS MARY LOIS KISSELL,American Museum of Natural History,NEW YORK CITY.A Paper Read before The National Association of Cotton Manufacturersat their Eighty-eighth Meeting at Mechanics Fair Building,Boston, Mass., April 27th, 1910.titlepagedecorationABORIGINAL AMERICAN WEAVING.Miss Mary Lois Kissell, American Museum of Natural History, New York City.Wonderful as is the development of modern machinery for the manufacture of American textiles—machinery which seems almost human in the way it converts raw materials into finished cloth; just assurprising are the most primitive looms of the American aborigines, who without the aid of machinerymake interesting weavings with only a bar upon which to suspend the warp threads ...

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Published 08 December 2010
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Project Gutenberg's Aboriginal American Weaving, byMary Lois KissellThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at nocost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project GutenbergLicense includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: Aboriginal American WeavingAuthor: Mary Lois KissellRelease Date: February 11, 2008 [EBook #24568]Language: English*A*B* OSRTIAGRITN AOLF  ATMHIESR IPCRAONJ EWCETA VGIUNTGE *N**BERG EBOOKProduced by Irma Spehar and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This filesawproduced from images generously made available byehT
TehInternet Archive/American Libraries.)Aboriginal AmericanWeaving—— BY ——MISS MARY LOIS KISSELL,American Museum of Natural History,NEW YORK CITY.A Paper Read before The National Association ofCotton Manufacturersat their Eighty-eighth Meeting at Mechanics FairBuilding,Boston, Mass., April 27th, 1910.titlepage decorationABORIGINAL AMERICAN WEAVING.Miss Mary Lois Kissell, American Museum of NaturalHistory, New York City.Wonderful as is the development of modern
machinery for the manufacture of American textiles—machinery which seems almost human in the way itconverts raw materials into finished cloth; just assurprising are the most primitive looms of theAmerican aborigines, who without the aid of machinerymake interesting weavings with only a bar upon whichto suspend the warp threads while the human handcompletes all the processes of manufacture. Modernman's inventive genius in the textile art has beenexpended upon perfecting the machinery, whileprimitive man's ingenuity has resulted in making abeautiful weaving with very simple means.No doubt could we know the history of primitive loomwork in America prior to the coming of the white man,we would find an extended distribution of weaving, butall early textiles have been lost owing to thedestructability of the material and the lack of climaticand other conditions suitable for their preservation—conditions such as are present in the hot desert landsof the Southwest and the coast region of Peru.However, so many impressions of weavings havebeen found on early pottery as to assure us thatbeautiful work of this kind was made in eastern, middleand southern United States. In western BritishColumbia at the present time there are tribes carryingon certain forms of weaving which show fourinteresting types.Kwakiutl squaw, weawingFIGURE 1.—KWAKIUTL SQUAW, WEAVING.The simplest type is the cedar bark mat woven of flat
strips in horizontal and vertical lines. In beginning widestrips of the inner bark are hung from their centre overa crossbar of wood which is supported at either end byan upright beam. The halves of the strips hanging infront are then split into strands of the desired widthand a line of fine twining woven across to hold themsecurely. The checker weaving of the mat is nowbegun at the left edge by doubling the weft elementover the last warp and then weaving with the doubledelement over and under one warp until the right edgeis reached where it is turned back and slipped underan inch of the weaving just completed. Figure 1 showsa squaw at work on such a mat, and when she hascompleted this half of the mat the second half will beundertaken. She finishes the edge by turning up thewarp ends below the last line of weft and binds themwith a row of twining just above this last weft.Mat with checked designFIGURE 2.—MAT WITH CHECKED DESIGN.In their industries, primitive people always utilize thematerials found in their environment, because nomeans is afforded them, as in modern life, for thetransportation of materials from a distance. BritishColumbia is rich in cedar trees, so it is not strange thatmaterial from this tree enters so largely into theweaving of this region. Cedar bark lends itself verydelightfully to the technic of these mats, and its goldenbrown checked surface is at times crossed by blacklines or broken by a group of black checks in simpledesigns. These vary greatly, but only one example(Figure 2) can be shown here.
Primitive loom with plaited matFIGURE 3.—PRIMITIVE LOOM WITH PLAITED MAT.The second type of weaving, also of cedar bark, isbegun like the last mat, but the elements are soplaced as to cross the surface diagonally—alternatestrips passing diagonally downward to the right and leftas in Figure 3. These strips are not woven but plaitedover and under each other without the addition of aweft element as in weaving. When the side edge isreached the strips turn over at right angles andcontinue to plait in the changed oblique direction. Thelower edges are finished by bending the elements atright angles and plaiting them obliquely back for aninch into the completed surface. Checked weaving andplaiting is employed in a variety of ways, for asidefrom mattings it enter into the construction of baskets,pouches, bags, sails, raincoats, baby's hoods, and anumber of other articles.Another type of loomFIGURE 4.—ANOTHER TYPE OF LOOM.Cedar bark which has been softened and shreddedplays an important part in the clothing of this region,especially in blankets like that in Figure 4. The blankethere, however, is not of cedar bark but of goat's hairfor a number of materials are made use of by thistechnic. In this weaving the warps are not thrown overthe crossbeam as in the other loom but are supportedon a cord which itself is bound to the beam by anothercord. Neither are the warps united by a strip of weft
running over and under but by a two strand weftelement which twines about the warps. To myknowledge this form of weaving has never beenreproduced by machinery as no machine can makethreads twine. The blankets of cedar bark areundecorated, but those of wool frequently havestrands of another color passed across the surfaceand caught into the weaving from time to time,producing similar designs to that in Figure 4. Asobserved in the illustration the lines of weft are notdriven home but are set some distance apart, thespace between varying on different garments. At thelower edge, however, there is frequently found a bandof closely woven twining, at other times a band of fur,or a long fringe may complete the edge.Unfinished Chilkat blanketFIGURE 5.—UNFINISHED CHILKAT BLANKET.The most beautiful weaving of western BritishColumbia is the Chilkat blanket, Figures 5 and 6, aweaving which is unique in technic and design, both inprimitive and modern textile art. It is a ceremonialgarment and the gorgeous designs in white, blue,yellow and black are of totemic significance and relateto the ceremonial life of the Indian. In earliest timesthis blanket was undecorated, a plain field of white;then color was introduced on the white field in stripesof herring-bone pattern typifying raven's tail, becausesimilar to the vanes of the tail feathers; and later theelaborate geometric designs of present day blanketsdeveloped. These designs are first painted upon apattern board the size and shape of those which are to
appear upon the blanket, and it is from this patternboard that the squaw weaves her pattern. Butalthough the woman (Figure 7) does weave theblanket, the man also has his part in the process ashe furnishes the loom, the pattern board and the skinof the goat. The squaw prepares all the materials andcollects the bark, for the warp is of shredded two-plycedar bark wrapped with a thread of wool, while theweft is entirely of the soft wool of the mountain goat.Old Chilkat blanketSquaw weaving Chilkat blanketFLIKGAUT RBEL A6.NKOETL.D CHIFGI GCUHIRLEK A7.T BSLQAUNAKEWT .WEAVINLieut. G. T. Emmons tells us that the goat of thisregion abounds in the rugged coast mountains fromPuget Sound to Cook's Inlet, but is unknown on theoutlying islands. Its preference is the glacial belt andsnow-fields of the most broken country and theterraced sides of the precipitous cliffs. It is gregariousin habit being found in bands of from ten to fifty ormore. From September until April the skin is in primecondition with an abundance of soft wool under aheavy covering of long coarse hair; but the hunting isonly done in the autumn. To prepare for the plucking,the skin must be kept wet on the underside so it ismoistened and rolled up for several days, thusloosening the hold of the fleece. With thumb andfingers of both hands the squaw, seated upon theground, pushes the fleece from her, procuring by thisprocess great patches of wool and hair. Then the hairs
are plucked out and thrown away and the wool isready to be spun. During the spinning the woman alsosits upon the ground with legs outstretched, with thecrude wool by her left side within easy reach. This shedraws out with her left hand and feeds to her right, inthe amount necessary to form the required size ofthread. As it is received between the palm of the righthand and the right thigh, it is rolled from the body andfalls to the side in loose, connected thread. This softthread is next spun between the palm of the hand andthe thigh to form a single tightly twisted strand; and bythe same process two of these strands are rolledtogether to form the weft thread for the blanket. Intechnic the blanket is related to the last one describedfor it is a twine weaving, but a twilled twine as the twostrand weft encloses two warps at a move and witheach succeeding line of weft advances one warpgiving the surface a twilled effect. It is interesting thatthe small blocks of design are woven separatelysomething as a tapestry, and later the blocks aresewed together with a thread of sinew from thecaribou or whale.A third type of loomNavajo loomFIGURE 8.—A THIRD TYPE FIGURE 9.—NAVAJO OF LOOM.LOOM.The weaving from this region which most nearlyapproaches machine work in process of making is thedog-hair and goat's wool blanket. It is woven upon aloom of two revolving cylindrical beams, supported by
upright posts at either end (Figure 8). The end of thewarp thread is attached to a staying cord stretchedfrom post to post about midway between the revolvingbeams. The warp then encircles the loom, catchesunder the staying cord, then turns and travels back toits starting point, there to catch under the staying cordand repeat the operation. The weft moves across thewarps as in twilled cloth, over two, under two, with anadvance of one warp at each line of weft. Dog's hair,duck down and goat's wool are the materials used,especially the latter. These materials are spun in two-ply thread twisted partly upon the thigh of the weaverand finished on a spindle.Leaving this weaving area in western British Columbiawe pass to the other locality of note in North Americawhere primitive weaving is practised,—in southwesternUnited States and northern Mexico. Here the loomwork is at a more advanced stage of developmentthan that of the northern area, the weavers makinguse of a loom frame, sheds, healds, batten and animprovised shuttle. The Navajo Indians are the mostskilled weavers north of Mexico and a description oftheir weaving is fairly typical of this area. As the warpsare of soft pliable threads they must of necessity bestretched between two beams. These are suspendedvertically if the weaving is to be of any great size, thedistance between them being that of the proposedlength of the blanket (Figure 9). The warp threads arenot stretched across the beams with an ovalmovement but are laced over them, forming twosheds, the upper of which is held intact by means ofthe shed-rod, and the lower by a set of healds passingover a heald-rod. A wooden fork serves as a reed and
a slender twig as a shuttle. Upon this twig is looselywound from end to end the weft thread. The shuttle atone move crosses less than half of the warps as thebatten—a flat stick of hard oak—is too short to openmore than that length of the shed for the passage ofthe shuttle.Hopi blanketHopi weavingFIGURE 10.—HOPI BLANFIGURE 11.—HOPI WEAKET.VING.Mexican serapeFIGURE 12.—MEXICAN SERAPE.In Figure 10 only a portion of a blanket from the HopiIndians is shown, that the delicate design may bebetter seen. A number of Hopi patterns have this finewhite line of tracery upon the dark background and itis this play of the fine line pattern on the fabric which isone of the chief beauties of Hopi weavings. Thesparkle of white is even more brilliant in Figure 11,another smaller weaving from the same people. Theymake constant use of the diagonal or twilled technic, aweave which requires that the warps be divided intofour sheds, the upper supplied with a shed stick, thethree lower with healds. The sheds are shifted in avariety of orders for the construction of differentpatterns.Huichol weaving