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.