The winding finished, the weaver fixes the final end of her string to one of the bars and then puts in the heddles. These are of the same type for almost all pueblo looms. Made of the simplest materials -smooth, slender sticks and long cotton string, they nevertheless take up little space and permit surprisingly fine weaving.
The sheds are "picked" only in the upper surface of the flat, tubular warp. The lower surface hangs straight, as shown in the profile sketch (right above) where the lower surface is at right, upper at left. To make the first shed, the weaver simply raises every alternate warp with his fingers and runs a slender rod through the opening thus made. This is the shed rod, a in the larger sketch above. It opens one shed and, to put a weft through, the weaver need only lay his thread alongside this rod. The second shed must raise the strands being held down by a. This is accomplished by tying those strands to the heddle stick b, which can be pulled forward, opening a different passage. The weaver picks up the warps left down before, and ties each to b with a continuous string. This passes over warp end stick, is fastened with a half hitch, then passes over the next warp and the stick. If the work is done, the warps lie evenly spaced and all held at the same tension.
The weaver now dismantles his warp stringing device, rolls up ihe warp and puts it away. The large sketch 111-9 shows how he has guarded against tangling of the threads. Short sticks have been tied to the ends of shed rod and heddle rod so they will not fall out. Flexible sticks have been thrust through the two sheds and their ends tied together. Above them, three sticks have been run through both upper and lower surfaces of the tubular warp, to keep them lying straight.
When the weaver sets up his loom he may use the same rollers, if they ar? not too heavy. Or, he may have a special set, cut to the right length and with knobs on the ends to keep the warp from slipping. Rollers of this sort have been found in the ruins, polished smooth with sandstone by some painstaking weaver. Also the diggers find pierced stone blocks and holes in the wall such as were used for warp stringing. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when most of these seem to have been made, they may have been as desirable household fixtures as an inset ironing board is today.
Plate 111-10. Pueblo weaver with waist loom and reed heddle.
Old houses also show stakes in the floor or pegs in the wall which may have served for attaching the further end of a waist loom. The near end, or cloth beam, is held to the waist in various ways. Perhaps there is attached to it a wide loop made of yucca rope, modern rope, or cloth. The weaver crawls inside this and sits leaning back against it, holding the warp stretched. Some pueblo women have a wide leather strap, fastened to the roller at one end and with a slit in the other, like a buttonhole. When working, the weaver sits on the floor and buttons the strap around her. When she gets up, she unbuttons the strap and lets cloth and warp fall to the floor.
The photograph (111-10) shows a pueblo waist-loom weaver, posing at Washington in the early twentieth century. She uses a heddle common among Zuni and Hopi at that time and made of tiny uprights, set between parallel bars, some thirty inches long. These uprights are made of smooth, slender reeds but you can see the same thing, made of wire, in any little hand loom used by modern white women for weaving scarves and table linen. Each upright is pierced with a hole., like a needle with an eye in the center. The warp used with this heddle is not tubular, but made of separate strands, twelve feet long or more. When it is strung, the threads are passed alternately through the eye of an upright and through the space between two uprights. Half the threads, therefore, are held firm and half can slide up and down between the uprights. The weaver in the pueblo photograph has lowered her heddle, pushing down the threaded warps which appear across its center. The others have slid up to its top bar, thus opening a shed.
This is an old European form of heddle. For centuries, it was made of reeds by the peasants of Spain and France. When the power loom was developed, this same form of heddle was taken over and, even though it was made of steel, it was known as the "reed." Commercial weavers use that term still. We can guess that the Spaniards brought reed heddles to America, for Spanish-Americans are using them today in pueblo country. The alert pueblo weavers may have decided to copy them, for toward the end of the last century they were making clumsy heddles of mesquite sticks, tied together with leather thongs. Rarely could they get smooth reeds and milled lumber like those shown in the photograph. Evidently, they found the white man's device less efficient than their own stick heddles, whose loops of string took up so little room. There are no reed heddles in use today.
Almost as late as 1920, Isleta, San Felipe, and perhaps some other pueblos were still weaving belts on the waist loom. Still, many weavers must have thought of detaching the cloth bar from their waists and holding the warp firm in some other way. Hopi men fastened the cloth beam to the floor and yarn beam to the ceiling, just as they did later with the large blanket loom. (Plate 111-11) Fixtures were built into the house for this purpose, and generally these took the form of a plank set into the stone floor. Holes were bored in the planks and leather loops passed through the holes, ready to receive a loom bar or the cord attached to it.
It can be seen that, when we once have the principle of the two rollers and the tubular warp, all sorts of arrangements are possible. Navaho women attach the two rollers between the prongs of a long, forked stick, so they can carry the whole contrivance around. Pupils at the Indian schools have, for a long time, used a rectangular frame of four pieces of wood and it is interesting that they and older people like to sit with it in their laps in the very position they would use with a waist loom. Often these frames have an extra stick to help keep the warp straight. This is put in when the warp is strung. Each thread, after passing over bar A and before passing over bar B, is looped once around the stick. The stick holds the strands in order but it can be pulled around the warp as it is moved.
Plate 111-11. Upright tubular loom.
This arrangement for pulling the warp around is one of the distinguishing things about any kind of tubular loom. It means that the warp can be pulled along on its rollers just as a roller towel is pulled, furnishing a fresh section of towel for each new person. In the same way the weaver on a tubular loom, when he or she has woven the nearby section, pulls the warp along and brings an unwoven section into place. This is not possible with the reed heddle, nor with the blanket loom, which is next to be described.