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Donna Flood
The Red Granny Shawl


Occasionally, we are gifted with an acquaintance such as Grandmother Lucille.  Her wisdom had to reach back to a place far before this time. This was what made her so special.  American Indian culture,  like so many other lifestyles has been permeated with different philosophies, but still, vestages of it remains and cannot be wiped out. One can only wonder how strong it would have been if it had remained in its pure form. The psychology, reason, and alert ways can bring strength to the most worried of souls.

This is what Grandmother did when she gifted our Mother with a tartan of unspeakable beauty. The bright red plaid was edged with a woven fringe not known to the  Native culture and this made it desirable too. Normally,  called a Grandmother's shawl, the fabric is of wool and not of the commonly used fabric, gaberdine.  The tartan design, of course, is not worn as a shawl for dances by the members of the tribe. Usually it is brought to either put on the benches for seating or to use to cover the legs of a grandmother as she sits on the sidelines no longer able to join every dance.

Grandmother Lucille in her wisdom, love, and kindness was aware of the situation surrounding our family and of the person she called daughter in an Indian relationship. Her daughter's children, of course, her grandchildren, were worthy to receive her teaching.  This is what the red tartan was able to do but not without first having a whole set of situations around it.

Once, my sister danced in the arena with the tartan and she knew she could.  “Half breeds can do what they want, is the saying,” she laughed. Probably, this is the message wise Grandmother was able to convey to us.

“You didn't have to wear that.”  Mother told her.  “There are all kinds of shawls at the camp.”

“I was cold.  It was there, and I wore it.”  My sister, the daughter, laughed.

There was a quiet pulling of the tartan back and forth between us. Once it was in one house, and again in another and around in a circle as it visited each location but for a moment.

Finally, it occurred to me that if someone had made the shawl surely I could learn as well. Mother knew the weave from somewhere, maybe from grandmother Bellzona.   Actually, it turned out it was not that difficult. The red yarn used on it was not nearly as costly as the strands of silky thread required for the other shawls.

The weave is simply to join two strands of half of each fringe on every fourth fringe.  A knot holds that part of the weave and then one moves on to the next strand. The only place to give difficulty was around the corners. There was a sewing shop here with a lady operating it who advised me on that. She observed the loops of the fringe were set closer together at the sharp turning  place and this is what allowed the fringe to travel around the corner with no unwanted gathering of it too tightly.

When the weaving is completely cut the irregular lengths to a measured seven inch length. This finishes the shawl and gives it neatness. Needless to say, I plan to have many “Granny Shawls,” with many different colored tartans.  The red is so beautiful and I have enough to do a number of smaller baby throws to go over their cradle as well.


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