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Pre-contact Weaving Techniques

In contrast to the lack of accurate, technical data about dyes, we do know a good deal about different weaving techniques that ancient Southwesterners used.

    Pre-contact Sewing
    Brocade or Embroidery?
    Other Pre-contact Evidence
        -Wall Paintings
        -Weaving Techniques

     Ancient fabrics are decorated with plaids, checks, stripes and a variety of twills. This kind of decoration results from variations of the basic weaving process. The weaver changes the sequence of the warps and wefts to produce the desired effect. He or she weaves each row from side to side, sometimes using a shuttle, or stick wound with the weft thread. Such patterning is called “loom-controlled.”

     Another category of design and decoration achieved during the weaving process includes brocade and various techniques used to produce lace, or openwork, weaves. In these processes, the weaver may not weave the fabric from side to side. Instead, he or she may isolate a section to work it individually. For example, he or she may choose and bind (wrap together by weft threads) certain warps as the wefts move back and forth across the warps. The weaver may treat sections of just-woven material in much the same way, binding small sections of weft threads together. The holes caused by the bunching up and binding together of different groups of threads produces a lacy appearance.

Weft-wrap openwork with every second weft used as the wrapper


Gauze weave cloth with
openwork border.

Weft wrapping on a fragment. Enlarge

     Lace and brocade weaves are called “finger-controlled” techniques. The patterns shown in these early, pre-contact lacy fragments look very much like the patterns used in contemporary embroidery.

Read more about the looms used.

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