Its been a little while since I've posted.  Lots of stuff going on such as work, prepping for grad school, my best friend's wedding... 

I've been mulling over a couple of topics to write about.  It has been a difficult coin toss as there are so many things which deserve attention.  Leggings (they need to have flaps!), paint, tools, guns, mocs, fingerweaving, & etc.  I ended up landing on fingerweaving because it is something almost every Native interpreter uses, but most do not understand. 

Like most everything in life, there were (are) trends in fashion, which means changes to styles.  There are some pretty substantial and important variations in weaving patterns seen in the 18th century.  Sadly, a heck of a lot of Native interpreters get it wrong.  The easiest patterns to weave, such as the chevron, diagonal stripe, lightning, and arrow patterns are the least appropriate for the majority of the 18th century. 

It is important to look at the original pieces in collections and period artwork to determine what styles are best for what area and era.  For the vast majority of the 18th century, the oblique style of weaving dominated.  The oblique pattern is typically single colored, or a single central color with borders of a different color.  Bead patterns were woven in, directly on the yarns. There are no pieces from the 18th century yet known with the beads sewn in after the weaving is completed. 

What does the oblique weave look like? 
The above is a detail of a garter collected in the Southeast in the 1760's.  It currently resides in Aberdeen, Scotland.  It is woven of fine, red wool yarn, with the small (probably about size 10/0 or 12/0) beads woven in a rectilinear pattern.  The angle of the beads makes it very clear to see that they are woven in and not sewn in.  There is also a dark border running the length of both edges of the garter. 
 A powderhorn and strap set from the 1759-61 Cherokee War survives in a European collection as well.  Below is a reproduction of the strap, done by Nathan Kobuck for Ft. Dobbs, NC.  Someday, if I obtain permission to share pictures of the original, I'll post them. 
The two pieces are surprisingly quite similar, which we could (and do) use as a basis to argue that the sash could very likely be Southeastern and mid-18th century.  Combined with a other pieces in different mediums and images, these present a pretty solid argument for what makes for Southeastern designs in weaving. 

But there are styles commonly used by reenactors which are not found in the mid-18th century. 
While nicely done and pretty, the above pieces simply can not be documented to the 18th century SE.  So why use them?  I would argue that these styles are completely incorrect for historical interpretation of 18th century SE cultures.  That is not to say that they might not be appropriate for other regions or time periods.  For instance, there is a chevron pattern sash/strap with a very solid 1770's collection history from the western Great Lakes.  But the western GL are a LONG way from the SE.  Even with a limited artifact database, it is a hard argument to make.  It is safest to stay away from these patterns.

Now, the diamond pattern is of limited use to folks who typically interpret mid-18th century SE Native culture. 
This watercolor images was created in 1784 by the artist Sarah Stone for a museum catalogue.  Stone painted numerous Native-made objects from North America in incredible detail.  As this pieces was painted in 1784, it was clearly manufactured prior to that date.  But just how early, we do not know, and likely never will.  Can we say this is 100% SE? Nope.  However, the diamond pattern became quite common later in the 1790's and into the 19th century, as shown in portraits and a number of surviving examples.  It is safe to say this pattern was gaining popularity at the time of the American Revolution.  It is possible that it was around earlier, but this can not be substantiated.

An important element to notice in the above water color is the solid colored edge.  There are surviving pieces with this exact same feature.  Commonly, the border is woven separately and then sewn onto the central panel.  Anyone considering a diamond woven piece needs to strongly consider this element. 

So all of this writing is to create a basic outline of fingerweaving styles used during the 18th century SE.  For folks interpreting the French and Indian War period, fingerweaving should be limited to oblique patterns with beads woven into the design.  A wide range of colors were available to the weavers via trade, such as green, yellow, brown, blue, red, and black.  Like the majority of surviving pieces, the yarn should be thin/tightly spun and the beads should be small.

Interpreting the Revolutionary War period in the SE allows for a little more variety.  Oblique woven items certainly still dominated.  However, it is clear that the diamond pattern began to gain in popularity.  The designs should be kept relatively simple, like the Sarah Stone image shown above.  Other designs should be avoided at all costs.

Utilizing these guidelines are a great way to demonstrate changes in fashion, just like changing from predominantly white shirts in the early part of the century to mostly check shirts by the mid-1750's.  But folks should be careful not to cross over time periods and muddy the waters.  There is already a lot of bad information out there.  It is our responsibility to interpret these cultures as accurately as possible.  Wearing a diamond woven sash for F&I interpretation would be just like wearing a World War II style helmet to a World War I event.  Its wrong.

And a postscript about "European" style sashes and garters:
These things simply do not show up on trade lists.  "Trekker sashes" and the like are just wrong, no matter how you want to cut it.  I know its harsh, but its the truth.  There's just no way to sugar coat it.  If you absolutely have to wear a sash, get an oblique fingerwoven one.  Better yet, get a leather belt with a brass buckle; they do show up on SE trade lists.  These types of sashes do not and are completely incorrect for Native interpretation.

A final, parting thought... Looking at the length of most original "sashes", I am forced to wonder how many of them were ever actually worn as sashes.  I believe that sashes were actually a rarity, especially on a daily basis, for the majority of the 18th century.  More than likely, I believe that most sashes were probably straps for powderhorns or bags and that sashes are over represented in most cases by historical interpreters.   

    J Melius

    If you found yourself here, you are more than likely aware of my passion for researching Southeastern American Indian material culture.  Its a sickness I've been wrapped up in since the early 1990's.  While some of my thoughts might come across as somewhat abrassive; they are not meant to offend.  No, I dont call myself and expert, only a student of history and culture.  Hopefully we all seek to further our education and this is intended as an extention of my unending desire to learn and share.


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