Methods Used To Weave Wampum
You Have To Be Warped
Warp With Plant Or Animal?
Most people today use a buckskin warp for wampum weaving. It's easier and much faster to cut off a strip of buckskin than to make traditional cordage. It's also often cheaper, since it can be cut from available scraps. For most personal items, though, a buckskin warp is a poor choice. Buckskin degrades and tears much faster from perspiration and body salts than properly prepared plant fiber.
Original personal items we have seen, and many we were informed of by curators and other researchers, show a similar variety in materials used for warp threads. Certain plants - namely dogbane, milkweed, flax, and Indian mallow bark - have a much higher tensile (pulling) strength than buckskin, and, therefore, will last longer under repeated use. [Top of Page]
Single- and Double-Thread Weave
The predominant method of original wampum weaving, including all peace and history belts we know of, used a "double-thread" weft. Two threads of sinew or plant fiber go through the beads in the same direction - one under the warp threads and the other, of course, over. The threads are crossed on the outer edge to secure each row of beads in place. [Top of Page]
Bias Wampum Weaving
Wampum beads run lengthwise with the warp instead of perpendicular to it. A row of beads is slipped on the warp threads (two through each bead). When a bead has been placed on each pair of warp threads, an outer pair of threads (always work from the same side) is run between the two threads of each of the other pairs of warp threads at the bottom of the row of beads. Another row of beads is then added and the process repeated until the desired length is reached. Ends are finished by running the warp threads through a buckskin end cap and knotted off. The end caps are doubled over and a thong added to each for tying the ends together. [Top of Page]
Finishing The Ends
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