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.   

Dave Taylor
7/30/2013 09:35:03 am

"While nicely done and pretty, the above pieces simply can not be documented to the 18th century SE." Please let me know where and when they Can be documented to. Thanks and Regards

Jason Melius (Owner)
7/30/2013 10:12:34 am


Thank you for the reply.

As mentioned further along in the same paragraph, the chevron pattern shows up in the late 1770's in the western Great Lakes. The arrow pattern begins to appear in the SE around 1800. There is a piece in France, collected after 1800 which is likely Choctaw. The central portion of the sash/strap is arrowhead and the borders are oblique woven, IIRC. I believe the Arrow pattern appears in other regions at about the same time, but it is not something I have attempted to document.

Dave Taylor
7/30/2013 04:31:08 pm

Thanks Jason

David Mott
12/10/2013 12:13:38 pm

"This is sufficiently confirmed by their method of working broad garters, sashes, shot-pouches, broad belts, and the like, which are decorated all over with beautiful stripes and chequers." p.423 Adair

Hi Jason, just wanted to remind you of this quote. Could the stripes Adair mentions be chevrons? Could the chequers be diamonds? Doug Rodgers, Jason Wolz and I have had discussions about this interpretation. What are your thoughts?

Jason Melius (Owner)
12/15/2013 11:36:44 pm

Doug, we have to be careful about removing the context. When we take statements out of context, we can greatly alter the original meaning. The actual, complete passage discusses how the weaving is accomplished with a LOOM using threaddles [heddles] and shuttles. Fingerweaving is not done on a loom. Heddle weaving is.

David Mott
12/16/2013 04:55:08 am

Yes the passage could refer solely to heddle weaving. It could also refer to twining, loose warp bead weaving and fingerweaving. Many believe loose warp bead weaving predates heddle weaving as this was also the method used in wampum belt construction. Fingerweaving and twining, as you are aware, both use a type of loom but not in the conventional cloth weaving sense.

I would be cautious in disregarding diamond and chevron pattern fingerweaving. Evidence supports the idea that the patterns and objects created predate European arrival as evidenced in shell carving, pottery and stone carving.

Jason Melius (owner)
12/16/2013 09:15:21 am

Claiming that Adair is talking a out something other than what he specifically describing is a huge leap. He is pretty specifically talking about a particular style of weaving and is using to make a connection to Asian cultures.
I understand that a lot of folks want other patterns to have been common in the mid-18th century AS. Unfortunately, something existing prior to the middle of the 18th century does not mean it was in common use in the middle of the 18th century. When ALL of the extent pieces from the era are of a particular form, the only "proof" of the non-existant pieces are loose theories based on a lot of "coulda's" rather than hard evidence. Citing the small artifact pool is only proof of a small artifact pool, and not the existance of anything else.

Michael Galban
12/16/2013 10:27:04 am

"Wampum" belts are not all made the same way. Some are twined, some are double thread but simple loom, others are single thread loomed.

Michael Galban
12/16/2013 10:28:27 am

I would caution against lumping all wampum belts into one technique. BTW, when I say "loom" I am simply referring to the outcome not that they were woven on a loom necessarily.

4/13/2014 11:11:03 pm

I would like to thank you for the above article. I found it informative and very helpful. I have played with finger weaving of and on over the years and having had to take a long sabbatical I am starting to get back into F&I war native interpretation. Having been away so long I find that things have changed and come a long way in our understanding of the native peoples of the late 1600rs, 1700rs, and the early to mid 1800rs. It would seem that I have to start all over again, so keep these write ups coming they are very helpful. Thank You again. Jim S.

Don aka Hollercritter
11/7/2014 12:25:51 am

There seems to be a lot of debate and speculative conjecture on the basic and sometimes heated and controversial ideas,about what the "proper dress" was and should be for the said period, time and the peoples and nations being portrayed. Only believing or completely basing an entire wardrobe and entity upon the archaeological evidence found is not enough proof of a standard way of dress and living for these people and tribal nations. Biased opinions based on only what is available in a museum or private collections is almost entirely in itself only speculative at most. Articles and goods of all types were traded within the tribes of native Americans and the probability of other tribes mimicking or copying from another group or nation of people was highly probable. Just as in modern times we trade in goods and services and then take these goods and services and improve upon, copy or change the articles and services. Like wise with the people and nations being portrayed; we should also give thoughtful consideration of the said notion of emulating, copying and changing of said items between native Americans. The notion and idea of individuality must also be considered when "portraying" a group or people. Individuality is a key factor in trying to copy or emulate a persona or people " nation". Archaeological evidence found in museums and private collections can not be a stand alone fact or basis on which to emulate an individual or group of people. Many decades of decay and destruction of archaeological articles not found or presented must also be considered. Individualism is human nature and one persons idea and conjectures are just that "individualism". The people and nations of native Americans of the past are no different than the present; one persons idea of fashion, colours,and style are not the same to other individuals, unless it is in correspondence to traditions and identity of a said nation. An individuals persona is based entirely how they are perceived by their peers and others around them. This being said, should we at lest take into notion and probable fact; that individual style, themes, and colours or and combination of articles being worn and used was not only a " grey and white" society but more of personal identity of each persons personal taste and style.

Jason Melius (Owner)
12/27/2014 06:12:32 am


Applying modern societal norms to a historic peoples is speculation in an of itself. We have 250 years of social, intellectual, cross-cultural, technological (and so on) progress on our side. We can not apply modern European based concepts of the individual to a people who were extremely culturally different. If you want to draw parallels, try it with modern "primitive" tribesmen in Africa or the mountains of Vietnam. The sense of "individual" is extremely different from ours. It is likely the same for Native Americans in the 18th century.

4/30/2015 05:26:22 am

While. not having malice in heart or written word; I must in part disagree with the ideology and practicums of the noted author and or his ideas and notions.
No where did I mention in my rebuttal any notion of applying (Modern European) ideas to the nations or peoples being mentioned. I only suggested careful thought on placing an article of clothing; and or any other articles mentioned of native Americans into a factual content of a precise and dedicated form or way of life. Be it religion, shelter, food and or clothing.

Basing ones educational or methodological theories entirely upon private collections and or rare museum pieces is purely conjective and at best theoretical.

My suggestive thoughts and ideas where only meant as a idea of thoughtful consideration.
When one becomes self-lightened with an idea, possibility or notion such as our esteemed author of this article has in himself done. Then he or she will only hinder themselves logically and histrionically. The native American tribes mentioned in this and other articles can not be placed into a gray scale forum in history. We have to give into thought the possible idea of historical inaccuracy when we try to place an article or object with a particular nation or tribes. History and time its self have eluded us to the true and factual archeological evidence. What has not been changed,stolen or destroyed has other wise been lost and buried.
We therefore must not place an idea or conjecture of a people and its nation and history on a few articles placed or found.
As mentioned before in my last quote. We must be careful to realize the fact that these said nations. tribes and people traded and bartered articles of all types (food,clothing,weapons,and even art).
When native tribes trade and barter for goods and items it is only fair to give into thoughtful consideration of the items traded to be altered or copied.
My idea of individualism, thus goes as with each individual in a tribe or nation had his or her own idea of what was to them (fashionable) and or useful. There are trade records of eastern woodland natives adorning themselves with trade items from Europeans, Although these articles and items traded were not part of the natives culture or history they were coveted and adapted to each individual tribe member as daily articles. Examples, of woolen blankets made into leggings and or other article of clothing is such one example. Individualism defines not a just a nation, but a people. Therefore the use of color and theme can not and must not be solely based upon articles found or placed. We must give thought to the idea of trading tribes and nation coping and adopting articles and wears from their neighboring nations.

In closing , I make note to of my preceding ideas as thoughtful conjecture and idea only. For, as history and time has shown. We can only make truths and statements on archeological items found. These truths and statement are merely theoretical in nature as articles and archeological evidence has been mostly lost to time.

10/1/2017 02:03:20 pm

These sashes that you are showing here have been taken out of context, they never were described as "Indian Sashes" & they were intended for non Indian use. There is documentation of white people weaving sashes & garters on a loom.

Jason (owner)
10/16/2017 12:31:40 pm

Hi Keith,,

Thanks for your comment. Can you provide one original 18th century example of a sash like those I point out are inaccurate? Regardless, many Native interpreters incorrectly wear this type of sash because they are easily obtainable and inexpensive.

Jennifer B.
6/15/2018 10:21:00 am

Hi Jason,

This is an excellent piece and I am pleased to see the comment thread is still possibly alive? I'd love to know about the Choctaw fingerwoven piece you mentioned in the comments that is in France. I do a lot of research on Choctaw traditional textiles as well as Choctaw pieces in France. This would be an invaluable resource to this work. Also, if you know of some other Choctaw fingerwoven pieces, I'd love to share resources and information. There is certainly a lot of blurred lines when it comes to pinning down when and where these techniques were used. The oblique method really doesn't get enough attention in the Southeast like it should.


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    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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