Dorothy Weaving at Sash Loom - Hoosier Handweaving by Dorothy Baker

Some History

Some History of Voyageur Sashes

 In the 1700s and 1800s, both French voyageurs and Native Americans enjoyed wearing colorful sashes and garters for both practical and ceremonial occasions. They are known by many names: voyageur, metis, Red River, Hudson's Bay, and L'Assomption sashes. The men wore them by wrapping them twice around their waists. Voyageur sashes could also be slung around the forehead to support packages being carried. In addition to their own use, voyageur sashes were also traded for pelts.

The early fur trade was carried out between natives and the trade companies by French voyageurs on the rivers. From an article in M/J 1996 PieceWork magazine by Jessie Clemans: "These 'magnificent river rats' of the north, as the historian Peter C. Newman has called them, formed a class as distinctive in dress, customs, and traditions as the lumberjack and cowboy did later. Before putting into an inhabited port, the voyageurs usually stopped to shave, slip into their cleanest shirt, and stick a plume in their hat. Around their waist they tied the colorful voyageur sash and, below their knees, matching garters. (Some voyageurs clearly wore their sashes all the time; others may have kept their sashes in their pack.) Now they were ready to come singing around the river bend with paddles flashing, settling their loaded canoe precisely at the landing spot and swaggering ashore." No one has been able to discover the exact origin of this type of finger-weaving, but both French and Native Americans did do some sort of finger weaving. The majority of French settlers' finger-woven voyageur sashes were made in and around Montreal until around 1860.

Then... the Hudson's Bay Company introduced loom-woven voyageur sashes from England at a much lower price. Finger-woven sashes can take from 200 to 300 hours of work, so the cheaper loom-woven ones took over the market. Finger woven sashes are still available from occasional merchants, for period-specific enactments.

Our sturdy loom-woven voyageur sashes are made from very durable cotton, with sturdy twisted fringes on both ends. Several lengths are available. Some customers buy long-length voyageur sashes and wrap them around the waist twice.

You will sometimes note that we have two sashes with the same pattern, but different lengths. This is a result of our dressing the loom with enough warp to make two sashes; dressing the loom is the longest part of weaving. But... there are never more than two sashes of the same pattern.

Great for dressing to attend events representing voyageurs, Native Americans, or others; also popular in modern party dress.

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