Trad­ing Post

Tales and Trea­sures from the rich legacy of the Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany

Canada's History - - CONTENTS -

A Dene loom bow in­volves a dis­play of math­e­mat­i­cal vir­tu­os­ity.

The bow loom can be used to pro­duce a va­ri­ety of wo­ven ma­te­ri­als and is a technology that has been used by many cul­tures. This late- nine­teenth- cen­tury Dene loom from the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries shows a partly com­pleted band of wo­ven quill­work that uses nat­u­ral and dyed por­cu­pine quills. It in­cludes eigh­teen strand warps made from sinew plus an end piece and a spreader, or row-di­vider, made from birch­bark. Por­cu­pine quills are care­fully cleaned and dyed be­fore weav­ing. Nat­u­ral dyes from plants were used be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of com­mer­cial ani­line dyes in the late-nine­teenth cen­tury. Once the quills are pre­pared they need to be flat­tened and moist­ened to make them pli­able for weav­ing — women would of­ten use their mouths to do the job! When the weav­ing is com­plete, the sharp ends of the quills are trimmed, and the fin­ished band is ready to be sewn on to ar­ti­cles of cloth­ing or other ac­ces­sories. Quill­work de­clined in the mid-nine­teenth cen­tury with in­creas­ing ac­cess to glass beads, but the artis­tic tra­di­tion con­tin­ues to­day. — Amelia Fay, cu­ra­tor of the HBC Col­lec­tion at the Man­i­toba Mu­seum

The artist made care­ful use of math­e­mat­ics in cre­at­ing the geo­met­ric de­sign. It ap­pears that she counted in threes, weav­ing each quill around the sinew wefts (the trans­verse thread) to pro­duce her pat­tern.

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