Samoan Material Culture
Figure 144.—Plaited kilt, check plait.
Each pair of strips (1 and 2) formed by a single attachment is diverged, the one on the left into a sinistral and that on the right into a dextral. Plaiting commences on the left and the first sinistral (1) has naturally no course in that direction as it is turned in to define the left edge, but the second element (2) has a clear course as a dextral. To get a working edge, the left edge is built up by turning each projecting sinistral as it reaches the margin in under the sinistral above it to maintain the check. The working edge is worked across in the orthodox manner. As it proceeds, it seems immaterial which element of the pair is used as a dextral or sinistral. The right edge is formed with the usual half turns of the projecting dextrals.
The check plait type (Pl. XXIII, A) is commenced with the single cord attachment after which the cord is turned towards the worker and the strips plaited in check in the same technique as plaiting a mat. (See fig. 144.)
In the type kilt, the plaiting was continued for a depth of 6 inches and a width of 2 feet 3 inches. From the last plaiting edge, the weft ends were simply left free without any special technique. When worn, the kilt had a plaited waistband with the ends of the wefts hanging down as a fringe for another 1 foot 10 inches, making a total depth of 2 feet 4 inches. The free ends were further split and combed out into their individual fibres. The upper suspensory cords formed the ties.
The twilled plait type of kilt (Pl. XXIII, B) has come into common use for dances and trade. Though showing modern influences, the technique is native. In the type figured, two suspensory cords are used but with a different method of attaching the strips to that described in figure 139. The full technique is shown in figure 145.
Figure 145.—Plaited kilt, cord attachment, twill plait, and lower fringe:
a, the two cords (1 and 2) are held together on the same level and a strip of bast is doubled under them to form a near part (3) and a far part (4) while the near part (3) is inclined to the left; b, the near part (3) is passed backwards over both cords. The far part (4) is turned to the left to pass over the near part (3) and passed down between the cords; c, the far part (4) which was to the left is pulled towards the right under the cords and the near part (3) is doubled down behind the cords and diverged to the left; d, the method of attachment is continued towards the right but in actual technique with page 259the ends of the cords tied to a post or the toes, the work will proceed towards the worker; e, appearance of the attachments from the opposite side. The strips are attached for the full width of the kilt, 2 feet 7 inches. The divergence of the wefts is maintained and thus naturally form sinistral and dextral series. f, Appearance of the technique of the kilt as it hangs in position; g, the cords are turned towards the plaiter in actual work and the usual plaiting technique in twilled twos carried out. The left edge is formed while building up the working edge. The craftswoman uses her own judgment at the left edge as to whether the turned in wefts shall pass above or below the projecting weft above it and whether check strokes should be introduced here and there near the edge until the twill strokes can be established. After getting a working depth as indicated by the arrows, she carries the working section right across the full width to the right margin, when the right edge is turned. The pattern is in horizontal lines of twilled-twos. At the working edge, the pairs that have been raised above the working sinistral (5) are shown in brackets. The movement is not completed in the figure. In completing it from the top, the top weft of each raised pair is dropped, the lower held and another picked up below it. To form the lowest pair, a new dextral (6) will be picked up. The next sinistral is then laid in the shed formed and the twilled twos will form horizontal lines as a result. The plaiting is continued until a depth of 6.5 inches is reached. Each weft is composed of the strip from two attachments as may be seen in the sinistral wefts which pass in front of the dextral wefts at their attachment. It will also be noticed that the first two strips (4) on the left have been turned immediately to the right to assist in commencing the left edge. h, The plaiting edge of the last section is turned towards the worker. The free wefts are collected in groups of eight (4 dextrals and 4 sinistrals) and tied with an overhand knot (5). This is continued throughout. The wefts from each knot (5) are divided into two lots and the adjacent lots from each knot again tied in a second row of knots (6). Below the second row, the free ends of the strips hang down as a fringe for about 13 inches.
The exterior surface of the plaited band is decorated in various ways which show foreign influence as regards motives and the use of sewing. The type kilt has a border formed by a wide strip of fangai'o bast dyed navy blue and folded in a zigzag as it was stitched to a strip of pandanus leaf with a sewing machine. This native ribband was stitched at intervals to the bast band with dyed bast. Rosettes and artificial flowers of dyed bast are also stitched on with bast threads.
Much ingenuity has been displayed in forms of ornamentation. Though stimulated by trade competition, the adaptation of foreign motives to suit native material and technique are worthy of note. By the use of foreign dyes, the native craftswoman hopes to attract buyers from the people to whose culture the dyes belong. She thus commits atrocities which the foreigner, for whom they were committed, mistakenly attributes to inherent error in the native sense of the artistic. The fact that such objects command a ready sale at Pago Pago on steamer day shows that the native estimate of foreign taste is based on practical experience.