Saturday, October 13, 2012

Is There Such a Thing as Blanket Heaven?

Is there such a thing as being in blanket heaven?!  Yes, there is, because I was there! On a recent visit to Taos, I took in Millicent Rogers Museum.  I can't count the number of times we have been in Taos for wool market and never stepped foot in that museum.  There are so many fine galleries and museums in Taos and why I've skipped this one, I'll never know.   But, I'm so glad that I visited this time.   What a collection of handwoven blankets!! And photographs were allowed without flash, of course--that way, I can savour the techniques of these fine examples of Saltillo and Rio Grande cultures.  Chimayo Weavers  carry on this tradition.

This is ikat dyed from late 19th century.  Little is known of the weaver, just that the link is Saltillo in nature.



The close-up of the points--is this weft or warp ikat?

Weft ikat==1800-1860; handspun cotton for warp, handspun brown, white, indigo for weft.

Close-up of workmanship

I especially took this photo to see how a patch was applied to cover up a hole.

This blanket is Rio Grande design based on Mexican Saltillo--featuring complex all over design with central concentric serrate diamond, serrate zig zag columns and a side border.  This form continued into the late 19th century.  Two widths seamed together, handspun wool, natural; undyed light and dark as well as indio and cochineal dyed wool for weft.

Just can't believe the sharpness of the points!

From 1800 to 1860 indigo dyed yarn in combination with natural colored brown and white yarn formed the palette for the majority of Hispanic woven textiles.  The zig zag design reflects the influence of Mexican Saltillo style weaving on Rio Grande weavers of the time.  Two widths were seamed together.

Nice hatching and combining of colors

This is pre-1860 Saltillo zig zag serape from Rio Grande Hispanic.  The Tlaxcalan Indians of Saltillo, Mexico are credited with originating the Saltaillo serape serrated diamond pattern.  Nineteenth century New Mexican weavings had fewer but larger design patterns and less intricaate background than the Saltillos from Northern Mexico.  Horsemen used the serape because it was water tight and could eaisily be rolled up and carried behind the saddle when not in use.  Like the Spanish cape, the serape was an accessory that represented status.

Just nice sharp points!
Before we go onto the next collection, let's talk a little about chief's blankets, which is a misnomer.  These blankets (chief's) were not used exclusively by tribal leaders, but were worn and traded extensively throughout the West.  When referring to the Navajo Chief's blankets and "phases", it is reference to the evolution of the elements in the design of these blankets. 
First Phase:  developed in 1800, but tradition had been established around 1650.  These blankets were made to be worn and had stripes that were woven with natural brown, white wools with indigo.  The end of this phase was mostly used by Navajo, with a huge time of cultural change with Kit Carson's removal of their tribe in 1863 and their relocation to Fort Sumer, NM, where they were held captive until 1868.  This led to their exposure to new materials and the Spanish American/Mexican patterns, which influenced their designs
This is classified as 'first phase Ute style' Navajo Chief's blanket from 1860.  Until 1820's, Navajo weavers made simple striped blankets, similar to Pueblo and Hispanic weavers.  Then Navajo weavers began making this type of blanket with the design of the simplest form.  This style consisted of stripes of indigo blue and natural brown and white.  These blankets, prized by the Ute Tribes are mostly valued by blanket collectors today, mainly due to their rarity.  Less than 50 of these 1st Phase blankets made until 1965 have survived.


This is a banded blanket, dated 1870-1890, Woven double width with natural handspun white and brown yarns.  Handspun indigo and handspun aniline red.


Moki striped blanket, 1880-1890, is a basic stripe pattern in natural brown or top dyed black and indigo broken by bands of white or red.  This pattern wasd brought to the Southwest by the Spaniards and was used by Hispanic Pueblo and Navajo weavers.  White Hispanic and Navajo weavers ventured far from the basic stripe.  Pueblo weavers continued to weave it throughout the 19th century, using it as a background for more innovative geometric and serrate designs.  So common was this design to the Hopi that the term MOKI, a name used by the Navajo for the Hopi, was applied to all blankets of this style despite the common to all three cultures.

The small stripe added interest with the diverse twist.

Another banded style blanket, Rio Grande Hispanic; warp is commercial spun cotton, weft is handspun natural, indigo and aniline dyed wool.  Towards the end of 19th century the trend in Hispanic weaving turned toward the use of bright aniline dyes and commercially spun warp and weft yarns.  This blanket spans two weaving 'generations' because of the presence of the banded saltillo design and the handspun indigo dyed weft, both of which predominated earlier in the century.  The aniline dyed red and the commercially spun cotton warp were relatively new to New Mexico in 1880 and indicates what was to come in Rio Grande weaving through the turn of the century.

Second Phase:  the stripes thinned out and triangluar forms were introduced.  In addition new red dyes were incorporated and were strategically placed to accent significant points of the body.  These forms began to imply the motifs that were to be installed in the third phase.
This is classified as 'second phase' Chief's blanket (Navajo) 1870-1875.  Modified second-phase chief's blanket woven with handspun and raveled flannel yarns.  The presence of the raveled flannel and 4 ply Germantown yarns suggest the above dates.  This blanket was displayed in Millicent Rogers' Taos bedroom.

Third Phase:  Stripes only functioned as a background and now diamonds and crosses appeared in the fore front.  With the arrival of the railroad came the introduction of Germantown yarns and access to aniline dyes and with these materials came the "eye-dazzler" style
'Third Phase' transition Chief's blanket (Navajo), 1890-1895.  This blanket represents a late Third Phase Transition Chief's blanket--the diamond motif has been replaced by crosses and the proportion of the large central motif surrounded by smaller motifs has changed.  The commercially spun wool and aniline dyed cotton yarns used in this blanket indicate the evolving relationship between Navajo and Euro-American trading partners and design collaboration in the late 1800's.  This blanket also signals the beginning of the kaleidoscope "eye dazzler' period, and a transition from blankets woven primarily for Navajo use to textiles woven by Euro-American traders and tourists.


Diamond Network blanket (Navajo) 1880-1885; wapr:  handspun natural wool with weft being handspun natural, indigo, indigo-green & aniline dyed red.  As less time was used in preparation of handspinning yarn, more time was used on design.


Fourth Phase Chief's blanket--woven entirely with handspun yarns in natural colors on churro wool.  Now, you can see how progress involved in design and color placement


This is more!  Can you believe?!  Stay tuned to another blog within the next few days with photos of more of these stunning blankets.

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