RUSSIAN OLD BELIEVERS
Beltweaving in Oregon,
The wearing of belts is a religious requirement for
Russian Old Believers. The community in Oregon consists of
three sub-communities originating most recently from
Harbin China (the majority of the
community), Sinkiang China, and Turkey (a very small minority,
who came to Turkey via Romania). They brought with them their
own styles of folk costume, including belts.
The simplest belts are made by plaiting, either four strands making a
cord, or an uneven number of strands making a flat
Plaited belts are more common for children and everyday wear,
since the investment of time in their production is relatively small.
Cardwoven belts and warp pick-up belts are now made by a few
of the community members. These belts involve greater time,
creativity, and skill.
have varying types of ornamentation. Older
belts sometimes haveinscriptions (secular or religious) with geometric separator motifs, or
sometimes have a progression of improvised
geometric motifs without words. A newer fashion repeats a
floral motif taken from cross-stitch
There are two types of warp pick-up belt weaving found
in Woodburn. The most common is a
a thick supplemental warp thread which forms the design.
The second, potainnoi
is specific to the Sinciani, and very rarely practiced in
Woodburn. These two forms of pick-up technique have a
shared design inventory.
The flower motif on the top belt is executed in simple pick-up, and the same flower notif is executed
in potainoi pick-up on the bottom example.
Both types of pick-up weaving require a plain weave shed which is manipulated by hand (i.e. the design threads are manually "picked up"). Both counterbalance and backstrap looms can be used to create the basic shed.
Simple pick-up weaving is made with a supplemental warp,
thicker than the base of the belt, which is lifted or not, depending
on the pattern. These belts are reversible; one side is the
opposite coloring of the other. The Russian pickup belts
were, before they moved to Oregon, a continuous repeat
of one motif. The positive and negative spaces were
roughly equal. Since the Old Believers moved to Oregon, some
innovations have taken place, creating a
background with a motif floating
along the length of the belt. This makes the belts
easier and quicker to weave.
Potainoi (hidden, secret, referring to the fact that
the weft is hidden) pick-up weaving actually creates a form of
double cloth. The two colors used to create the design are of
equal thickness thread. This technique is particularly arduous,
and has in fact practically died out. The Sinciani, besides weaving
potainoi belts, also had women's blouses with
smocking which resembles the pick-up weaving patterns, and
a type of sleeve embroidery which resembles
potainoi weaving patterns.
"Sewn" belts are in fact tapestry-woven with a sewing needle
used to carry the individual colors, which is why they are called "sewn" belts. This technique
has fallen out of favor in Woodburn.
Another belt style which had fallen out of fashion by the time I did research in the community, bottle belts were made by the Harbintsi.
The two wide belts on the right are knitted. This technique was out of fashion at the time I did my research.