Chilkat weaving is a traditional form of weaving practiced by Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and other Northwest coastal tribes of Alaska and British Columbia. Chilkat blankets are worn by high-ranking tribal members on civic or ceremonial occasions, including dances.
Background of Chilkat Weaving
The name derives from the Chilkat tribe in Klukwan, Alaska on the Chilkat River. The Tsimshian might have invented the technique. Chilkat weaving can be applied to blankets, robes, dance tunics, aprons, leggings, shirts, vests, bags, hats, and wall-hangings. Chilkat clothing features long wool fringe that sways when the wearer dances. Traditionally chiefs would wear Chilkat blankets during potlatch ceremonies.
Chilkat weaving is one of the most complex weaving techniques in the world. It is unique in that the artist can create curvilinear and circular forms within the weave itself. A Chilkat blanket can take a year to weave. Traditionally mountain goat wool, dog fur, and yellow cedar bark are used in Chilkat weaving. Today sheep wool might be used. The designs used Northwest Coast formlines, a traditional aesthetic language made up of ovoid, U-form, and S-form elements to created highly stylized, but representational, clan crests and figures from oral history – often animals and especially their facial features. Yellow and black are dominant colors in the weavings, as is the natural buff color of the undyed wool. Blue can be an secondary color.
Looms used in Chilkat weaving only have a top frame and vertical supports, with no bottom frame, so the warp threads hang freely. The weaver works in vertical sections, as opposed to moving horizontally from end to end.
Fingerweaving is a Native American art form used mostly to create belts, sashes, straps, and other similar items through a non-loom weaving process. Unlike loom-based weaving, there is no separation between weft and warp strands, with all strands playing both roles
North and Central American Finger weaving
Some patterns and color combinations were originally restricted to certain societies or clans, while others were available for general use by all. Belts, sashes, leg bands, capes, gun straps, even dresses, shirts, and pants were created by the sometimes intricate patterns and methods. Often beads or feathers were interwoven into the patterns of the articles.
The French Voyagers (fur traders in the northern US and southern Canada) adapted the finger weaving patterns to create belts and sashes which showed which company they belonged to. The belts were the original weight belts, as they added extra support to their stomachs when they were lifting heavy canoes or packets of beaver pelts, which sometimes weighed up to 600 lbs. The Spanish conquistadors used fingerwoven sashes to proclaim which command they were in, as well as to record their conquests over the Native Americans.
South American Finger weaving
Although South American styles shared much in common with those from North America, some differences are reliably observable. In addition to many of the specific weaves from the north, additional atyles were created by using multiple weft strands at a time.
The most basic weave is called a diagonal weave, as it creates a series of parallel lines running down the length of the weave at a diagonal. Whether one weaves from left to right or from right to left does not matter, as the pattern is the same, however, the direction must stay the same or the pattern will change.
As with loom weaving, one starts with an even number of warp strands, but with no weft strand. Divide the warp strands into two groups, a top and bottom row. Take the top left (or top right) strand, and run it between the top and bottom rows, turning it into a weft. Reverse the position of each warp strand (from top to bottom or bottom to top), making sure to keep all strands in the same order and placement to form a single interlocked row.
For the second row, take the new top left (or top right) warp strand, and tuck it between the top and bottom, forming a new weft strand. Again, interlink the top and bottom rows, making sure to use the old weft strand from row #1. Continue this process until the desired length is completed.
Other common, but more difficult patterns include those of lightning bolts, arrowheads, and chevrons. By making slight changes to the weaving process, a wide variety of unique patterns can be created.
Inkle weaving is a type of warp-faced weaving where the shed is created by manually raising or lowering the warp yarns, some of which are held in place by fixed heddles on a loom known as an inkle loom. Though inkle weaving was brought to the United States of America (US) in the 1930s, the inkle itself seems to predate this by several centuries, being referred to in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Inkle weaving is commonly used for narrow work such as trims, straps and belts.
Equipment For Inkle Weaving
Inkle looms are constructed in both floor and table-top models. Either model is characterized by a wooden framework upon which dowels have been fastened. These dowels will hold the warp threads when the loom has been dressed. One of the dowels is constructed so that its position can be adjusted. This tensioning device will be taken in as weaving commences and the warp threads become shorter. Additional equipment includes yarn of the weaver’s choice, yarn or thread for forming heddles and a shuttle to hold the weft. A notebook is also handy for charting weaving diagrams.
Process of Inkle Weaving
The inkle loom is threaded with warp threads according to the weaver’s design, alternating between yarn that that can be raised and lowered and yarn that is secured in place through the use of the heddles. The raising and lowering of these warp threads creates the shed through which the weft thread will be carried on a shuttle. The weaver should make one pass with the shuttle with each opening of a shed through the raising and lowering of threads.
A simple raising and lowering of threads creates a plain-weave band in which warp threads are slightly offset. Weft threads are only visible at the edges of the band and the weaver may wish to take this into account by warping threads that will form the edges in the same color as the weft.
As the weaving commences, the warp threads will shorten on the loom and the weaver will need to adjust the tension periodically. As the inkle band progresses, it will also get closer to the heddles. The weaver will also need to advance the warp thread along the bottom of the loom to open up new weaving space. In her book “Inkle Weaving,” Helene Bress recommends loosening the tension when you are ready to advance the warp. Once you have done so, tighten the tension again and resume your weaving.
There are other more advanced techniques in which, instead of merely allowing warp threads to alternate in their up or down positions, individual threads are brought to the surface to form a brocaded pattern. One side of the band will show the exposed surfaces of warp threads while, on the other side of the pattern, the weft thread will be visible
An inkle loom is also useful in the practice of tablet weaving for its added portability. Simply thread the warp onto the loom but use cards instead of alternating between free-hanging and heddle-secured yarn.
Uses of Inkle Weaving
The narrow bands that inkle weaving forms are ideal for using as belts or for decorating the edges of a garment. (This weaver finds a narrow strip of hand-made fabric to be ideal as a strap for use in yoga. The many varieties of color and pattern are limited only by the weaver’s imagination.
Tablet Weaving (often card weaving in the United States) is a weaving technique where tablets, also called ‘cards’, are used to create the shed the weft is passed through. The technique is limited to narrow work such as belts, straps, or garment trim.
The origins of this technique go back at least to the early Iron age. Examples have been found at Hochdorf, Germany, and Apremont, France. Tablet-woven bands are commonly found in Iron age graves and are presumed to be standard trim for garments among various peoples, including the Vikings. As the materials and tools are relatively cheap and easy-to-obtain, tablet weaving is popular with hobbyist
The tablets used in weaving are typically shaped as regular polygons, with holes near each vertex and possibly at the center, as well. The number of holes in the tablets used is a limiting factor on the complexity of the pattern woven. The corners of the tablets are typically rounded to prevent catching as they are rotated during weaving.
In the past, weavers made tablets from bark, wood, bone, horn, stone, leather, or a variety of other materials. Modern cards are frequently made from cardboard. Some weavers even drill holes in a set of playing cards. This is an easy way to get customized tablets or large numbers of inexpensive tablets. The tablets are usually marked with colors or stripes so that their facings and orientations can be easily noticed.
Procedure of Tablet Weaving
The fundamental principle is to turn the tablets to lift selected sets of threads in the warp. The tablets may be turned in one direction continually as a pack, turned individually to create patterns, or turned some number of times “forward” and the same number “back”. Twisting the tablets in only one direction can create a ribbon that curls in the direction of the twist, though there are ways to thread the tablets that mitigate this issue.
Traditionally, one end of the warp was tucked into, or wrapped around the weaver’s belt, and the other is looped over a toe, or tied to a pole or furniture. Some traditional weavers weave between two poles, and wrap the weft around the poles. Commercial “tablet weaving looms” adapt this idea, and are convenient because they make it easy to put the work down.
Some modern weavers thread each card individually, but this is time consuming. The traditional threading method is to put all the threads through the holes of an entire deck. Then, starting at the pair of cards farthest from the bobbins, the threads are pulled from between each pair of cards out to the length of the warp, and hooked or tied on each end. If the cards remain “paired”, so that alternate cards twist in opposite directions, continuous turning does not twist the ribbon. Some weavers in some patterns flip alternate cards, “unpairing” them. This makes it easier to turn individual cards.
A shuttle about twice as wide as the ribbon is placed in the shed to beat the previous weft, then carry the next weft into the shed. Shuttles made for tablet weaving have sharp edges to beat down the weft. The best shuttles have plates to cover the bobbin, and keep it from catching the warp. Simple flat wooden or plastic shuttles work well for weaving with large yarns, but weaving with finer threads goes more quickly with a tablet-weaving shuttle.
Patterns are made by placing different-colored yarns in different holes, then turning individual cards until the desired colors of the weft are on top. After that, a simple pattern, like a stripe, small diamond or check, can be repeated just by turning the deck of tablets.
Tablet weaving is especially freeing, because any pattern can be created by turning individual tablets. This is in contrast to normal looms, in which the complexity of the pattern is limited by the number of shafts available to lift threads, and the threading of the heddles.
Tablet weaving can also be used to weave tubes or double weave. The tablets are made to have four levels in the warp, and then two sheds are beat and wefted, one in the top pair of warps, and the other in the bottom pair, before turning the deck. Since groups of tablets can be turned separately, the length, width and joining of the tubes can be controlled by the weaver
Taniko (or taaniko), is a traditional weaving technique of the Māori of New Zealand related to “twining”. It may also refer to the resulting bands of weaving, or to the traditional designs.
The Taniko technique does not require a loom, although one can be used. Traditionally free hanging warps were suspended between two weaving pegs and the process involved twining downward. The traditional weaving material is “muka”, fibre prepared from the New Zealand flax . The muka fibre was dyed using natural dyes
Tapestry is a form of textile art, woven on a vertical loom. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length (called the warp) and those parallel to the width (called the weft); the warp threads are set up under tension on a loom, and the weft thread is passed back and forth across part or all of the warps. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each colored weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design.
Most weavers use a naturally based warp thread such as linen or cotton. The weft threads are usually wool or cotton, but may include silk, gold, silver, or other alternatives. Both craftsmen and artists have produced tapestries. The ‘blueprints’ on cardboard (also known as ‘tapestry cartoons’) were made by artists of repute, while the tapestries themselves were produced by craftsmen