Métis finger weaving a traditional art form and cultural symbol

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

“Sashes originally came from Europe,” Krista Leddy, finger weaving instructor, said. “But the Métis made them awesome.”

From Edmonton, she has been finger weaving for 10 to 15 years and also beads.

Celina Loyer is one of the people who taught her finger weaving. She is excited to teach more people this endangered art form.

At the Métis Nation of Alberta Region Five office on Main Street on Saturday April 6, 16 participants learned basic finger weaving.

Before coming, many people thought they’d come out with a sash. However, they learned a three-metre sash takes 300 hours of work, so the workshop was bracelet weaving.

Charlotte Measor from Canyon Creek did finger weaving for the first time at this event.

“It’s really interesting,” she said. “It takes a lot of concentration. It’s fun. (It helped me) learn to appreciated the hard work people put into their craft.”
Krista Leddy, the instructor, gave some insight into the significance of this dying craft.

“From the long history in the fur trade, (sashes) are an important cultural symbol,” she said.

She explained the sash was a multi-tool and important trade item during the fur trade. As the economy changed, sashes became harder and more expensive to buy from the Hudson Bay Company. Finger weaving techniques were developed to recreate the sashes. As this happened, regional variations of colours and patterns developed.

Krista’s daughter Aura Leddy helped her teach the class. She’s been weaving for around a year-and-a-half.

“I create my stuff when I jig and kinda wanted to make my own sash,” she said.

She has started but not finished weaving her first sash.

The beginner weavers started with eight threads with two colours. A sash takes 200 to 400 threads.

“Thinner is better, but as much as your hands can hold,” Aura said.

Many Metis sashes for sale nowadays are made on a loom. Krista has even been to sash workshops using looms, which is not traditional.

This workshop used regular weight yarn. Krista explained that traditionally, sashes were wool, linen – or if you were wealthy – silk. Poorer people would only own one summer weight linen sash.

The participants were mostly local, but Philip and Stephanie Paulson drove over four hours from Anzac. The majority of the participants were women, with only two men in attendance.

Several people took home yarn and skewers or chopsticks to to continue learning and weaving on their own.

Showing off their weaving

Back row: Hilda Lambert, vice-president Metis Nation Region 5, and Krista Leddy, instructor.
Front row: Mary Brown and Solomon Auger.

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