Wax-resist dyeing: A process in which areas of fabric are coated with hot wax before dyeing. The coated areas resist the dye.
Rug Knot: A segment of a supplementary wrapping weft whose cut ends project above the surface of the rug.
Plain weave: The simplest possible interlacing of warm and weft elements in which each weft element passes alternately over and under successive warp elements (over-one, under-one), and each reverses the procedure of the one before.
- Headbands from the Inca Empire, [insert date]. The Textile Museum 2009.2.1, .16, .13. Gifts of Robert and Maria Duff.
The three headbands shown above are part of a larger group of 43 said to have been found together in a weaver’s basket. They are unusual objects, and there are few similar objects in other collections. The upper band has a bold Inca zigzag and dot design, the lower one has coastal bird designs, and the center band combines coastal fish with an Inca “X-design.” When pieces of disparate style are found together, it normally means that the group was made at about the same time. If the date of one of the styles is known, it can be used to date the remaining items. In this case, the Inca style is well known and helps to date the bands with lesser-known coastal styles.
The pieces are all small, and not all of them are finished. They appear to have belonged to a weaver who was still working on them when she died. These objects are unusual—bands of this size do not seem to have been a normal part of coastal costume. There are related long narrow warp-patterned bands in the Chancay style from the central coast, which may have been headbands, but not short ones like these. There are a number of Spanish descriptions of Inca costume that mention that women wore headbands, but few such headbands survive. Examples found at the central coast site of Pachacamac are narrow, like the center band, and slightly longer than those shown here. It is possible that not all Inca women wore such headbands, but it does appear that these particular bands might have been intended for this purpose. The finished Inca headbands have a tie cord extending from the middle of each end. However, these bands lack such ties, and so even if they are completely woven, they are unfinished in this sense. The bands with the Inca patterns have less complex patterns than those from Pachacamac and are more diverse in size, so it is likely that all the bands were woven by a coastal weaver. While small, they are beautiful examples of more unusual designs from the era of the Inca empire.
Ann Pollard Rowe, Research Associate, Western Hemisphere Textiles. Originally printed in our Fall 2011 Member’s Magazine
Piecing: The joining of pieces of fabric to make a larger textile.
- TM 2010.2.2. Collection of Dorothy P. and Joseph Polakoff. Washington D.C.
The huipil, a Nahua (Aztec) word referring to a woman’s rectangular upper body garment, has been worn in Mesoamerica at least since the 8th century AD. In San Mateo Ixtatan in highland Guatemala the huipil is long and worn outside of a wrapped skirt, as was typical in pre-Hispanic times. Although huipils in many Guatemalan towns are still handwoven on the indigenous backstrap loom, those in Ixtatan have been made of machine-made cloth since at least the beginning of the 20th century, when Guatemalan huipils were first collected and preserved.
Early examples are only embroidered around the neck hole and over the horizontal seam that runs across the chest, but by the 1930s the neck embroidery had expanded to at least waist level, so that no separate work was done over the seam, and more recent huipils are embroidered to within two or three inches of the bottom. Likewise, the early embroidery was done in false satin stitch, in which the yarn appears primarily on the front of the fabric, with only small stitches at the edges of the design showing on the back. Increasingly areas of design were embroidered in true satin stitch, which covers the front and back of the fabric equally. These changes reflect the growing availability and lower cost of machine-spun yarns. The mountainous area where the village is located has a cold climate, so the additional stitching would also offer warmth, as would the two or three layers of heavy cotton ground fabric. The Ixtatan huipil shown was probably made in the 1950s using mercerized cotton thread for the embroidery and it has a relatively conservative pattern that is clearly derived from a concentric neck ornament. At the same time, the design has no European elements, but is a creative and lively indigenous development, with the two-color stripes providing a vibrant effect.
Ann Pollard Rowe, Research Associate, Western Hemisphere Textiles. Originally printed in our Fall 2012 Member’s Magazine
Loom: A device for weaving, containing a means of lifting selected warp yarns above other warp yarns, forming a space called a shed through which the weft is passed.
Resist Dyeing: A process of dyeing selected areas of yarns or fabrics by covering up the areas intended to remain undyed so that they “resist” the dye.
Looping: A technique using a single element or yarn in which the free end and full length of the yarn is pulled through previous work at the edge of a fabric to form each new loop.