Vintage Navajo Weaving: “Saddle Blanket”, 59″ x 31″


1 Available

Saddle Blanket

This Vintage Navajo Saddle Blanket measures 59″ x 31″

Early Saddle Blankets

The earliest saddle blankets were essentially smaller versions of the blankets the Navajos wore and were made for their own use and for trade. They featured patterns of horizontal stripes using natural colors such as white, brown or grey wool plus indigo-dyed blue, and red made from unraveled red trade cloth known as bayeta.

Weavers often embellished the stripes with stepped geometric motifs or serrated diamond shapes, the latter having been adapted from Spanish and Mexican textiles.In an effort to put an end to Navajo raids on Anglo and Hispanic settlers and Pueblo Indians, the US government hired Kit Carson to round up the Navajo. To accomplish this, he led a campaign to slaughter their sheep and destroy their crops and homes, driving the refugees to an internment camp at Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico.

During their detention from 1864 to 1868, the government supplied the weavers with factory-produced yarns, generically known as “Germantown” after the spinning mills in Germantown, Pennsylvania.The new yarns came in a wide array of bright colors, which the weavers used to great advantage in making complex diamond patterns, outlined in contrasting colors, called “eyedazzalers.” After the Navajo returned to their homeland, the government continued to supply them with Germantown yarn, but also brought in a new breed of sheep, called merinos, to rebuild Navajo flocks.

The annuity payments of factory yarn ended in 1878 and, although they still could purchase Germantown from traders, the weavers gradually returned to shearing, spinning, and dying their own wool.

A Guide to Navajo Rugs

There is an ageless beauty to Navajo weaving. Navajo weavings are many things to people. Above all else, Navajo weavings are masterworks, regardless of whose criteria of art is used to judge them. They are evocative, timeless portraits which, like all good art, transcend time and space. Navajo weaving has captured the imagination of many not only because they are beautiful, well-woven textiles but also because they so accurately mirror the social and economic history of Navajo people. Succinctly, Navajo women wove their life experiences into the pieces.

Navajo people tell us they learned to weave from Spider Woman and that the first loom was of sky and earth cords, with weaving tools of sunlight, lightning, white shell, and crystal. Anthropologists speculate Navajos learned to weave from Pueblo people by 1650. There is little doubt Pueblo weaving was already influenced by the Spanish by the time they shared their weaving skills with Navajo people. Spanish influence includes the substitution of wool for cotton, the introduction of indigo (blue) dye, and simple stripe patterning. Besides the “manta” (a wider-than-long wearing blanket), Navajo weavers also made a tunic-like dress, belts, garters, hair ties, men’s shirts, breechcloths, and a “serape-style” wearing blanket.