Besides being great potters, carvers, bead workers, and basket creators; Cherokee artists are also makers of finger woven belts, sashes, and garters. Cherokee finger weave artists create weaves of both double, single and oblique in a variety of design and color. Some of the earlier belts were made of buffalo hair, Indian hemp (apocynum) or mulberry bark. Today we employ the use of manmade fibers as well as the resurrection of buffalo fur for weaving.
The Cherokee, as did many of the southeastern tribes, employed the use of beads in their weaving. This oblique style of weaving which allowed for the insertion of beads in the weaving, dominated finger weave of the southeast for many years. It is thought that the late Mary Shell a contemporary Cherokee was the last to have created a belt that contained beads. But it was most recently that this technique was re-introduced to the contemporary Cherokee finger weave artist. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian introduced a series of classes that would once again bring this traditional technique to the Cherokee. Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources is working to secure buffalo fur for use in producing a more authentic product. It is known that buffalo fur was used in many of our finger woven belts with beads. The Cherokee also used other techniques in the creation of finger woven products.
The double weave and single weave techniques are used to create many designs; designs that have dominated finger weave of 20th century. The Cherokee create many designs such as the eagle dancer, lightning bolt, arrowhead, chevron, diagonal and a plaid design. These designs are created by using the double weave and single weave techniques. These techniques were the most prevalent techniques implemented on the Qualla Boundary until the re-introduction of the oblique weave, also known as finger weave with beads. Much of today’s finger weave is constructed using manmade fibers which are commercially dyed. But it is the techniques which have been passed down from generation to generation that make them truly Cherokee.