Beltweaving in Oregon, USA

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 belt. 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.


Cardwoven belts 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 embroidery patterns.


There are two types of warp pick-up belt weaving found in Woodburn. The most common is a simple pick-up technique with 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. Old Believer pick-up belt design comparison

Simple Pick-up
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.


Russian Old Believer tapestry woven belt "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.


Harbintsi bottle belt 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. Knitted belts