Next, he lifts the regular heddle and puts in a weft of invisible tabby; then the extra heddle again. It lifts the same pairs of warps as before and he passes the colored strand back in the opposite direction, again wrapping it once around each pair before he proceeds. Then he uses the shed stick for another row of plain tabby weft. It will be seen that all the actual weaving is done by the tabby and that, if the colored wool were omitted, we should have a plain fabric, though with very thin weft. The function of the colored wool is not weaving, for it wraps the same pairs of warps every time. If it were not for tabby, these warps with their connecting weft strands would hang out from the others in a loose mass. Actually, the function of the colored wool is only decoration, which may well be called embroidery weaving.
The small white figures seen in plate 111-34 are another matter. Here, the process of passing the colored weft around a pair of warps, then in front of eight others, has been interrupted. Instead, the weaver has used his fingers to pass the bright yarn behind one pr more warps, so that their white color is left showing. In the figures which look like a tall, thin C, we see the white warp with the marks of the thin tabby across it. In the large diamond figures, there are small white diamonds and triangles and, between them, a loose wool weft of some pale color, passing in front of several warps.
The weaver proceeds through the patterned section, using the heddle, extra heddle, shed stick, extra heddle and so on, occasionally bringing forward special warps to produce the white figures. When he has finished this section, he detaches the extra heddle, brings out his white cotton weft and finishes in plain weave. He weaves two identical pieces in this way and sews them together. At the patterned end of each, he has left a foot or so of unwoven warp, which serves as fringe.
The Braided Sash (also called rain sash and Hopi wedding sash). This broad, fringed white sash is made of warp only, with no weft at all. We shall speak of the process as braiding and it is, in fact, the same used in braiding women's hair except that here there are 150 strands to intertwine instead of three. Pueblo people must have known this technique in very early days for bits of braided fabric have been found in the ruins, dating earlier than other kinds of cloth. Indians of the Great Lakes knew the process also. Their narrow, bright-colored sashes of commercial wool were the regular wear for French trappers in colonial days and students have wondered whether the art was imported from Europe. Evidence shows, however, that the opposite was probably the case. Braiding was an Indian art, taught to French Canadians, who use it still. It may be, then, that this form of weftless weaving was known to many American Indian tribes, who never went beyond it to learn true weaving. (Plate 111-36)
Plate 111-34. Section of Hopi sash in embroidery weaves.
The Hopi practice it in elaborate form, making a sash over a foot wide, with a unique kind of fringe. For this purpose, they need something like a loom, to hold the strands in order and bring them across one another at regular intervals. What they use is a pair of rollers, arranged horizontally as for warp stringing. On these the worker winds his warp of two-ply white cotton in tubular form. Then, instead of picking sheds and attaching heddles, he starts crossing the strands over one another in regular order. The first at the left, and every sixth one after that, crosses under the next three to the right as in plate 111-35, and then continues on down, while every sixth from the right crosses in the same way toward the left. Ultimately, every strand in the belt gets several turns at being sixth.
To hold this complicated interlocking in place, a smooth stick is run in after each. The diagram shows four such sticks in place. The worker, as he proceeds, puts in fifty of them, pulling the warp strands around on the rollers now and then, just as a belt weaver would do. As he braids on the upper side of the tubular warp, the strands on the lower side, their ends not free to disentangle as the ends of braided hair would be, twist themselves up in the opposite direction. Therefore he is actually braiding two sides of the warp at once. He stops long before the two sides meet, leaving a stretch of warp strings three or four feet long which is cut in two to serve as fringe at each end of the sash.
The fringe is a very important item and receives special treatment. The worker buries it in damp sand so it will twist more easily. Then he separates the strings into groups of six, ties each group at the end and rolls it on his leg into a twisted cord. (This, it happens, is a left-handed twist, not right.) He ties these twists together at the sash end, so that they hang in pairs and rubs them with white clay to whiten them.
A distinguishing mark to the Hopi sash, unknown to other Indian weavers, is the decorative knobs above the fringe. These are made of corn-husk rings covered with two-ply cotton string. The string is first wound over a short piece of wood, which has a length of string along each of its edges, just as a loom string runs along the loom bars except that, in this case, string and bar are not fastened together. The cotton is wound over wood and string in tubular form, then the wood is slipped out, the cotton covering is laid over the cornhusk ring and the two strings gather it into bag shape at top and bottom. (Plate 111-39) One such ring is slipped over each pair of fringes. Plate 111-37 shows the finished sash. Note the long vertical lines and the absence of horizontal ones such as are produced by weft threads.