Sashes of the TOBAS of ARGENTINA

The Tobas are natives of Argentina that live in the province of Chaco and in the northern part of the province of Santa Fe, near the Bermejo and Pilcomayo Rivers. They have been dominated by the military since 1936 and live in communities near the Chaqueña jungle. The Tobas and Pilaga were the last to be conquered in Argentina. They traditionally made textiles with chaguar fiber. They were influenced by the Inca to also use wool and to dye their fibers with colorful natural dyes from flower seeds and bark.

Cotton and chaguar fiber Toba sashes.

Toba Wichi cotton sash with one warp float in the middle.

Toba sash with three complimentary warp floats.

"Little comb" motif with cotton and chaguar floats.

Toba sash woven with contrasting colors of undyed virgin wool.


Preparation of Chaugar Vegetable Fiber

Toba and Wichie women collect wild chaguar in the surrounding area. They beat the leaves with rocks to remove the flesh, then leave the fibers to dry in the sun.  The plant fibers are dyed with ashes, soot, tree resin, and local seeds and bark. The dye was traditionally fixed with adolescent urine, but rock salt or alum is used today. Women sit on the ground when they spin the dry, dyed fiber between their hand and thigh, using ashes from the cooking fire to reduce friction.

Toba sash weaving with pickup technique:


Prepare a 25 x 50 cm frame, with rounded corners (25 cm on upper and lower parts), shed bar and beater that are 2.5 cm wide and 1/2 cm thick and no less than 30 cms long (see illustration). Other types of looms work well, too.

Thread for heddles, green and white yarn (or two other contrasting colors, but not black, because it is difficult to see).

Wrap the green yarn once around the frame, then tie it together, but don't tie it to the frame.

Wrap green around 2 more times, then wrap around one white, tying it to the green, but not to the frame.

Keep wrapping, alternating with green and white, until there are 9 white and 9 green, not counting the border yarns.

After there are 9 white and 9 green, cut the white and tie on the green (2 knots).

Wrap twice with green to make the other border, then cut and tie it on the bottom, but not to the frame.

Here you can see how to tie the knot. The warp is now almost ready to be woven with the Toba pickup technique.

Pick up the first green on the right with your right hand. Lower the next yarn (green), raise the third (white) yarn, lower the fourth (green), raise the fifth (white), lower the sixth (green), and continue until you have created the shed opening. Put the shed bar into this opening.

From the right side, lift the bottom yarns one by one between the top yarns to form the other shed opening, then insert the beater.

Pass the heddle thread though the shed opening from right to left. With the right hand, grab the thread that passes between the first 2 green warp yarns on the left and wrap it around four fingers of the left hand. Continue from left to right across, lifting the thread between each green warp. Cut the heddle thread when finished.

Grab the heddles and make a knot in the top, as shown in the photos. The heddles will raise the green warp and create one of the sheds.

Here are the 2 shed openings, one with green on top and the other with white. An X is formed when viewing it from the side.


Place the shed bar on its side and separate the yarns to create a shed opening.

Insert the beater in the shed and pass through the weft from right to left.

Lift the green with the heddles and insert the beater.

Beat down the weft with the beater, then pass through the weft from left to right. Keep weaving until several stripes have been woven.

Place the shed bar in its side to raise the white warp and separate the white yarns, leaving 3 in the middle.

From the left, with the left hand, grab the 2 green border yarns and 3 white yarns. Lift the next paired green yarn from below (to the right of the lifted white yarns) with the right hand, then let the next white yarn drop to the bottom.  Lift the next  green yarn and let the paired white yarn drop. Lift the next  green yarn and let the paired white yarn drop. Finish by grabbing the 3 white yarns and the border yarns on the right. Insert the beater, pass through a weft from right to left. This is the first pickup part of the pattern.

Lift the heddles to form the "green" shed, insert the beater, and pass through the weft.

Place the shed bar on its side to lift the white warp, then separate the 3 white warps to the right of the central floats with the left hand and, one by one, lift each of their paired green warps while dropping the corresponding paired white warps with the right hand. Repeat the action with the other yarns.


Repeat the movement on the left side with the white and green warp yarns; one by one, raise the green and let go of each paired white warp. Don't touch the central 3 white warps. Pass through a weft from right to left in the shed.

Lift the heddles and insert the beater. Beat down the weft, then pass through another weft from left to right.


Repeat the first movement of the central floats, lifting the white warp from the left and the green warp from the right.

There should be 3 white, 3 green, and 3 white. Pass the weft through the shed formed by the floats. Lift the green warp with the heddles and pass through the weft.

Lift the white warp, insert the beater and beat down the weft, and pass through the weft, then lift the green warp with the heddles and pass through the weft. Repeat these movements until 3 to 6 stripes are formed (the number depends on your taste).

When the weaving is finished, cut the warp, leaving long fringes, then take it off the loom. This is a double faced sash; a design is seen on both sides. This is a double faced sash; a design is seen on both sides.

Photos and text by María Cristina Ríos Iñíguez, Textile Artist in Pre-Colombian Art
Benegas 8381-Fisherton, Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina.

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