In the weaving of striped blankets, we noted that color is furnished entirely by the weft, while the warp does not show. In the woman's belt, the opposite is the case. Here, the pattern is made by warp threads of colored wool, while the weft which holds them together may be fine black or white thread which is almost invisible. This behind-the-scenes weft of cotton or linen may be called by the weavers' name, "tabby."
The colored warp, in these days, is always commercial yarn but it has to be re-spun to make it tight enough. The design is usually a border stripe of green or black down the whole length of the belt, then a vivid red background down the center, with a series of small designs in black or white. Each pueblo has its own favorite pattern while one popular design in red, green, and white is made by the pueblos to sell to the Navajo. Such belts must have been made long before the pueblos got commercial yarn or even wool, for fragments of them have been found in the ruins. Perhaps they were a common product of the old waist loom for Indian women of Middle America can still be seen wearing them and an ancient example has come from Peru.
This narrow fabric, nine feet long, is best woven in tubular form on the waist loom or on a narrow, upright loom. The weaver begins at one side and puts on the proper number of warp threads for the black or green border stripes, then ties on a red thread and begins with the background. He carries this across the whole space where the design is to be, but in the design area he spaces the threads a little further apart. Then he lays other warp threads of green or black over or between them so that, through the part where the design is to be, the warp is practically double. It is this double warp which will make it possible to "float" certain warp threads, that is, let two or three wefts in succession pass under them so that they stand out to make a design. On the under side, threads of the opposite color will stand out. Threads for the border on the opposite side duplicate those for the first border and the whole warp has about 150 threads packed into six inches of width.
Plate 111-29. Section of garter in floated warp weave.
With his fingers the weaver picks out two sheds in the upper side of his tubular warp and adjusts a heddle and a shed stick as for plain weaving. In the central, doubled portion he has been careful to put all warps of the same color into the same shed.
He begins weaving at the end of the belt nearest him and alternates heddle and shed stick in the regular way, producing a green or black stripe where the warps are in those colors, red in the center. (See plate 111-30) When he is ready for the first design he raises one heddle and applies the batten as usual, then, before going on to the next shed, he uses his fingers or a small stick to pick an extra small shed through the double warp. He passes the weft through and beats it down, pushing the unused warps to the under side of the fabric. This will bring out the design in warp threads which are raised or "floated" above the surface of the belt on both sides. The photograph 111-29 shows a section of garter made in this way. The two borders are of white wool, in plain weave, the white warps being visible, while the linen "tabby" weft does not show. The center section has a double layer of red and white warps, picked up in such a way as to show first a row which is mostly red, then one mostly white. Some of the white warps are floated over two wefts and others over four, making a pattern of linked triangles. The same design will appear in red on the wrong side.
With this system of hand picking an extra shed, any number of variations are possible. Instead of having the background in plain weave and the design floated, as in the photograph, the background may be floated and the design in plain weave. Or both may be floated. The warps of the central patterned section may be of different thickness as in the popular red and white belt often made by pueblo people to sell to the Navaho. Here the warp threads of the background ore red wool while those of the design are white cotton, like the weft tabby. Some weavers always pick the extra shed with their fingers, others use a slender stick. In the simpler cases, it is possible to adjust two small supplementary heddles across the patterned section.
As the weaver works, he (or she) pulls the warp around on its rollers, so that he always has an unworked section in front of him. He fastens his last weft, leaving two feet of the tubular warp unwoven. This is cut in two to form a fringe.
Woman's woolen belt. (Plate 111-30) Man's woolen garter. (Plate 111-29) Man's woolen headband.