While in Edmonton last week, I had the honor of examining 5 sashes that were fingerwoven in the 1800’s. Very interestingly, 3 of the 5 were strikingly similar. All of the 3 had stories consistent with having been manufactured between 1860 and 1900, all had the same bright colored thread, and a very similar pattern. Striking to me is the looseness of the weave.

I’ve been collecting data on sashes. I calculate the number of threads across the width of the sash. Often this means counting the number of threads per ‘lightning’, and multiplying it by the total number of lightnings across the width. I add in the number of threads in the central arrow and voila, total threads. This number, divided by the average width of the sash gives me ‘warp threads per inch’. I find that 20 to 30 threads per inch is common among modern sashes woven with knitting yarn. Tightly woven sashes in museums tend to have 50 to 57 threads per inch. The tightest I’ve examined had 66 threads per inch. I’ve woven a small band with some wool given me by a weaver friend that ended up at 80 threads per inch … something I’m not too keen to repeat.

Even more telling is ‘weft threads per inch’. I calculate the number of rows to complete each pattern, and multiply by the number of repeats. (For example if it takes 9 rows to complete an arrow, and there are 60 arrows in the sash, then there are 9 x 60 or 540 rows in the sash. Number of rows divided by length gives me ‘weft threads per inch’. Tightly woven sashes have upwards of 12 wefts per inch.

The 3 sashes I speak of in Edmonton had 4 to 6 wefts per inch. I have seen similarly loose sashes in other collections. I find little information in the litterature concerning the origin of these. Has anybody out there noticed this. Anyone have a theory about the origin of these? I find it darn difficult to weave that loosely.

Two of the 5 were exquisite, fine thread, tightly woven, excellent condition. One was the sash from the Southesk Collection, recently acquired by the folks of the Royal Alberta Museum. The other was a silk sash, also collected and taken to England by a gentleman, then returned to Canada.