CHAPTER XVIII. The Classification of Modern Blankets
Size and Quality of Warp.—Except in very light weight blankets an all-wool warp should be insisted upon. As I have shown in the chapter on the deterioration of the art, cotton-warps were introduced to cheapen the price by saving the time of the weaver. Unfortunately, it did not have the desired effect. The weaver expected as much for her cotton-warped blanket—which warp she had bought for a small sum—as she did for the blanket made on honestly-woven, strong, and durable wool warp which would have taken her several days to spin. A cotton warp is less yielding than wool; its tensile strength is very much less, hence when there is any pressure placed upon the fabric a cotton warp will often give way and the blanket is then on the way to speedy dissolution.
The size of the warp is a matter for serious consideration, and the tightness with which it is spun. It is, as it were, the skeleton upon which the flesh of the woof or weft is hung. It must be large enough and tightly woven enough to bear the weft to stand all the ordinary and expected strains that may be made upon it. Many an otherwise good blanket is almost valueless because the warp strands are not thick and strong enough, by tight spinning, to bear the strain of shaking or using in the fairly rough manner such household articles are commonly subjected to.
Size of Woof.—It must be evident to every purchaser that a coarse, loosely-spun yarn cannot make as durable, beautiful, or desirable a blanket as one made from a fine tightly-spun yarn. Many blankets of harmonious color and striking design are undesirable because the weft is not composed of a fine and tightly-woven yarn. Then, too, no fine blanket can be made from a coarse yarn. The finer the yarn the greater
In the working out of design, too, a fine woof or weft yarn is essential. The fine lines that often delight the eye, and the introduction of slight touches of color here and there that make all the difference between the mediocre or commonplace and the striking and distinctive are impossible with a coarse woof yarn.
Quality of Woof Yarn.—But not only must the woof yarn be tightly spun; it must be of good quality wool, silky in texture, of long staple, and of great tensile strength. Where it is possible—and if there is a fringe made of the same yarn as the woof it answers as if prepared for the purpose—the yarn should be carefully examined. The finer the wool, the softer and silkier to the feel, the longer the staple, and the stronger it proves itself, the better the blanket. But even with all these qualities in its favor the wool may be dirty, and therefore unable to receive or retain the color in which it is dyed. Hence its cleanliness and freedom from extraneous substances, as small burrs, pieces of vegetable fibre, small sticks, etc., should be considered and carefully examined into. Where one has the opportunity of comparing the grade of blankets I have designated as ‘‘„common„’’ with the ‘‘„extra standard,„’’ or ‘‘„native wool fancy„’’ grades, he will readily note the differences, and understand why he should pay more for the better class of blankets than the former, even though the former look quite as well, or even better, to his eye, than the latter.
Color,.—Color is a most important factor in a blanket. In the first days of aniline dyes when the Navahos were suddenly awakened to the fact that the whole rainbow gamut of colors was open to them at ten cents a package, they indulged in a riot of colors that was a debauch and delirium combined. There are still some remnants left of this wild frenzy of unrestrained color in the Navahos' minds, though the conservative traders have ceased to supply certain of the colors whose use is likely to be disadvantageous. So long as the Indians were left to their own unperverted tastes their color harmonies were pleasing, and though somewhat limited, perfect and satisfying. But when they were given unrestrained freedom, with the idea that the white man desired the frenzy of color, their normal tastes became perverted, and it is one of the unfortunate facts of life that ten years of exercise of a perverted taste takes four times ten years to eradicate.
Hence determine whether the colors are pleasing in themselves, harmonious in relation to each other, and then whether they will harmonize with the color-scheme into which you wish to introduce the blanket.
FIG. 200. Blanket with Yei or Divinity Design. (Courtesy of R. T. F. Simpson.) [PAGE 140]
Weave.—Now comes the question of weave. Is the blanket well woven? Square? Even in stitch? In some places the weaver ‘‘„bungles„’’ her work. (See Fig. 207.) In other words, she does not take her woof straight across where there is nothing to hinder, and then she ‘‘„fills up„’’ the space awkwardly and clumsily to the manifest injury of the looks of the blanket. Regularity should be insisted upon, and then, for a good blanket, be sure to see that each row of woof is well ‘‘„battened„,’’ down—in other words, that it is tight and solid.
And yet, somehow, there is another side to what I have termed above ‘‘„bungling.„’’ In this blanket from which the illustrative photograph is made (Fig. 207), as well as others in my possession, this very irregularity of the weave produces a pleasing effect on the mind. It arouses thought. What made the weaver do it? Why did she not go directly across the fabric with this yarn when she desired it to be of the same color and stitch?
Then a picture comes to me of a somewhat tired weaver, squatted before her blanket, the sun just happening at that time of the day to be in such a position that if she moved a trifle to right or left her tired shoulders would come directly under its powerful rays. Too weary to make the effort to move or to place a screen between herself and the sun, and made a trifle careless by her weariness, her tired hands reach as far as the shade goes, and then sends the ball of yarn back, thus making the ‘‘„bungle„’’ or irregularity that nothing but the destruction of the blanket can efface. How human and how real. How close it brings one to the blanket. It is a ‘‘„bungle,„’’ but it makes the blanket mean more than it did before. It gives it the human touch, that flash of life and reality that sets it distinct and apart from machine work. It makes it the work of a personal, living, sentient human being. And these recognitions of humanity in such work are good. They are, in reality, most precious in the things we are able to purchase.
In this connection my attention has been called to the assertion made that when these ‘‘„bungles„’’ appear in Oriental rugs they are done purposely, in order to confuse the evil spirits who might otherwise work injury to the weavers or users of the rug; and the question is asked, May not the Navaho weavers be controlled by the same idea?
Design.—The marvel of the infinite variety in Navaho blanket designs never grows less. The more one sees and knows the more the marvel grows. From the simple and plain alternate bands pictured in Fig. 204, of the common type, to the complex, highly ornate, and brilliantly colored designs created by a modern genius is a gigantic step in artistic development, and one for which the aboriginal weaver is entitled to our highest consideration and appreciation.
Naturally in choosing a fine blanket the quality of the design is a matter the importance of which cannot be too highly estimated. Personal taste, necessarily, largely enters into the choice of a design. What will please one may be displeasing to another. The place the blanket is to fill should be a helping factor in coming to a decision. As a rule, however, too great complexity is not desirable, the plainer and simpler the design, in reason, the more pleasing it becomes with time. There are some designs, however, such, for instance, as that shown in Fig. 205, that are too simple, too plain, too large, for general use. A plain series of stripes or bands would be much preferable to this ‘‘„Greek key„’’ on so large a scale.
On the other hand the one large panel of Fig. 206 is so broken up by the black and white bands that it does not seem too large, and although the blanket is 60x96 inches in size, and the single panel practically fills up the whole space, there has never been a moment when it has seemed inappropriate or unpleasing.
In considering this subject of design the reader should not overlook the fact that the Navahos have proven themselves possessed of inventive genius in this department of art. There are no ‘‘„stock„’’ designs as far as they are concerned. Repetition of design comes from the desire of the white race for duplication—‘‘„I want a blanket exactly like that one„’’—never from the unperverted, natural instincts of the weaver. And while I feel that my publishers have been generous in the number of illustrations they have included in this book, to me the number is inadequate and altogether limited as far as conveying to the reader anything like an idea of the vast and marvelous variety a study of the Navaho's textiles affords. Multiply the designs reproduced herein by ten thousand and still new and striking designs will continually be found. Hence the exacting connoisseur should not hesitate to discard a thousand designs, if necessary, to secure what he desires, for he may rest assured that if he is patient and persistent, the one design of his longing will ultimately come into his hands.
Fig. 201. Yei Blanket. [Page 140]
While I have thus attempted to analyze the elemental factors that go to the making of a good Navaho blanket, no one knows better than I how inadequate my attempt is. For after all, when the fire of genius burns it will manifest itself even though the instrumentality be poor warp, and unclean, ill-spun, poorly dyed weft. Genius rises triumphant over all adverse conditions and compels admiration and respect in spite of them. But, when genius triumphs and is enabled to use perfect and fitting manifestations for its soarings, then—when the result is a Navaho blanket—one has a poem of weaving, shot through and through with all exquisite melody, accompanied by glorious harmonies of color that make the design. These are the priceless treasures one occasionally sees in the collections of connoisseurs, more rarely has offered to him for sale, and now and again triumphantly finds when rambling in solitary and wild places on the reservation, far, far away from the haunts of civilized and artistically sophisticated mankind.
In what is presented above there is that which will enable a tyro to determine the relative value of a Navaho blanket, but to those engaged in the purchase and sale of them as a business, there is still another individualistic analysis of blankets for purposes of broad classification which others may find helpful and suggestive.
It must be recognized, however, at the outset, that it is impossible to classify and describe a Navaho blanket as the products of the white man's loom are classified. The colors are dissimilar, the weave is different, the designs are individualistic, and, therefore, play up and down a marvelous gamut, the warp and woof threads are spun tighter or looser according to the whim of the weaver, the finished product is closely or more loosely woven according to the time taken or haste shown in the work. Hence, practically every Indian blanket must be examined for itself and then placed in a broad classification to which it belongs, only, however, by a consideration of its general characteristics.
Generally these are woven of coarse yarn, an eighth of an inch more or less in diameter, made of wool that has been indifferently cleaned and dyed. They are usually made for saddle-blankets, and are in reds, blacks, dirty whites, and grays, with other colors occasionally appearing. No first-class dealer ever cares to handle this type of blanket, unless it be that some one orders a quantity for a special purpose or that he pick out a
The average size of a saddle-blanket may be said to be in the neighborhood of 36x48 inches; some being a trifle larger and some smaller. A ‘‘„common„’’ blanket larger than this size is seldom to be desired, though often found in the cheaper ‘‘„curio„’’ stores, where trashy blankets are disposed of to the unwary. Beware of these places. There are plenty of reliable dealers to be found, and the mail order business, referred to in the chapter devoted to reliable dealers, places any would-be purchaser in the United States in immediate contact with those whose knowledge and experience are safeguards and assurances against deception.
Blankets of the ‘‘„common„’’ variety can generally be bought, in quantity, by the pound. All else are now sold, as a rule, by the piece, though there are still a few traders who sell certain grades to their retailers by the pound. The public, however, can seldom buy in any other way than the piece.
It should not be overlooked that, comparatively speaking, there are a great many of this poorer quality of blankets made which find their way into circulation through the hands of irresponsible traders. And by this I do not mean dishonest traders—they buy these blankets at a low price and sell them correspondingly. But they often come into the hands of dealers—wholesale and retail—who care nothing for quality or price so long as they can collect their toll from everything that passes through their hands. Hence, while compared with the number of the superior grades of blankets that the reliable Indian traders and wholesalers succeed in obtaining the number of these poor blankets is small, in the aggregate they amount to a large enough quantity to lead the wise purchaser to be cautious. Unless one is assured that he knows it is far better to trust to the judgment of an expert, or purchase only from those who deal in no other than first-class and unquestionably desirable blankets, than to run the risk of having one of these common grades thrust into one's possession.
Now and again where one has large experience and knowledge he may ‘‘„pick up„’’ either from a trader on the reservation, or a weaver, one or more of these common type of a little better quality and finer weave, and such are often good enough to use for places where a first-class and expensive blanket is not desired. Occasionally I have made purchases of this kind and have always found a ready market for them amongst those
FIG. 202. Yei Blanket from a Painting. (By permission of the owner, W. MacGinnies.) [PAGE 141]
Of this class of blanket the one in the loom and covering the knees of the weaver in Fig. 207 may be regarded as a type, though it does not always follow that blankets without design or color (as is the one in the loom), are always trashily common.
Fig. 208 is also of what might be termed a little better quality of common blanket. Here bands of color are introduced, in which geometrical figures are worked in simple but effective fashion. Fig. 209 also is another specimen of this class. While of a cheap variety, it is not unpleasing, the banded and colored effect being variable enough to destroy monotony.
Fig. 210 is of a common blanket in the Matthews collection, closely woven, twilled and practically waterproof, while Fig. 211, not being so closely woven, is better fitted for rough use as a camping-out blanket.
This fact should ever be borne in mind, viz., that a heavy, closely woven blanket is not suited either for a bed-blanket or for camping-out purposes, unless one places it underneath him. The stiffness makes the blanket so that it does not fit snugly to the body, and the result is that if one attempts to use one of this type for either of these purposes he is sure to be disappointed.
On the other hand, the loosely woven blankets, especially if the yarn is not too coarse, are highly suitable for both these purposes, though the ordinary types are much too heavy for bed use except in a very cold climate.
Now and again what may almost be regarded as another type of common blanket finds its way to the market, or can be purchased on the reservation. I have had many of them during the past twenty-five years. This type is illustrated in Fig. 212. At first the stranger to it wonders why it is woven half with a design and half without. Here is the reason. It is a saddle-blanket, which, before being placed on the horse's back, must be doubled. The plain portion is then next to the horse—because it is hidden—while the ‘‘„designed„’’ half is outside and exposed. While at first when these are placed upon the floor, or on a porch, as rugs, they have a peculiar and sometimes unpleasantly strange effect, I know of many cases where their owners have become quite fond of them and have learned to enjoy their singularity.
Fig. 213 is of a size rather smaller than what might be regarded as an ordinary standard size. It is 46x75½ inches, with body color of gray, and the triangular designs in red, white, and black, the red being inside. The border at each end is gray, white, and black.
Fig. 214 is 48x79 inches in size, with a dark gray body. The border, however, is red, two and a half inches wide on the sides, and three and a half inches at each end. The designs throughout are in black and white, save in the center, and the four diamonds nearest to the center, where there is an inner touch of red. Fig. 215 is of about the same size, with a gray body, the designs being in gray, white, and a little red.
A rather unique and pleasing blanket of the standard class is one made expressly for me as a gift by the widow of the last great warrior chief of the Navahos, Manuelito. The dear old lady and I became great friends. I made many excellent photographs of her, one of which is reproduced in Fig. 152, and some months after my leave-taking and return home, I received the blanket shown in Fig. 216, with a message of appreciation and affection. The blanket is closely woven, though of heavy yarn. The body is white; the Greek border in gray, outlined in black, while the center figure is of maroon, outlined or bordered with green, orange, blue, and lemon yellow. While these colors—to read about them‐may not seem to harmonize, the blanket itself is pleasing to most eyes, and, anyhow, color harmony is largely a matter of individualistic taste.
FIG. 203. Blanket with Sacred Symbols. (Courtesy of J. A. Molohon & Co.) Designed and woven by Dug-gau-eth-lun Bi-dazhie.
Occasionally a blanket similar to Fig. 218 will be found in this class, 5x7½ feet or thereabouts in size. There is no certainty, however, that blankets of standard quality will be found like this, as most of the weavers now seek, when they make a blanket as large and well designed as this, to have it so good that it is immediately recognized as of the extra standard quality.
Fig. 219 is an excellent standard blanket, with gray body, and red interior design picked out in white. Its size is about 5x7 feet, and the design is peculiarly striking and forceful. It was made by Hastin Deet-si Be Ahd, who is very proud of it, and who occasionally makes up a similar blanket in native wools, undyed.
Fig. 220 is a standard quality blanket, in my own collection, which I bought some years ago. It is saddle size, viz., 30x45 inches, body in red, the design down the center in black and brown, although in the illustration the brown is scarcely distinguishable. The zigzag outlines on the side set off portions of diamonds in violet, brown, and black, while the two striking white designs on each side are joined to a light blue design of equal size, which the photograph fails to reveal.
Two standard blankets of saddle size, both of which, however, were being worn by children when he secured them, are in the Matthews collection. These are Figs. 221 and 222, and the designs of both are effective and pleasing, especially as they are of a better quality than ordinarily found in saddle-blankets. In commenting on the border in Fig. 222, Dr. Matthews says such regular border of uniform device all the way around is a very rare thing.
The undyed native wools are those that come naturally from the sheep. They are whites, blacks, browns, and grays, the last being either a natural growth (of which there is comparatively a small shearing), or made by a judicious admixture of black and white while spinning the yarn. The demand for this class of blanket, when the design is good, has been a steadily growing one, as the public taste has been cultivated during the past ten to fifteen years. I well remember when I used to buy a fine quality of this type at a less price than that now charged for ‘‘„standards.„’’ Indeed, there was comparatively small call for them. Those bought in the earlier days were urged upon the taste of the critical for use in bedrooms,
This type as a rule, is made from wool that has no acquaintance whatever with dye. The sheep of the Navaho grow wool that is black, white, gray, and brown. There are some black and brown native wools, however, that are not pronounced enough to be pleasing, and in such cases the wool is cleaned, carded, spun, and dyed—that is, the black is put into black dye to make its blackness uniform, and the same is done with the brown.
In many cases the gray of a gray blanket is made by carefully carding together black and white wool. When this is properly done a pleasing gray is the result, but the most desirable gray is that which comes from a special breed of sheep and is silver gray of itself. This is a glossy wool, of a bright and attractive gray, and blankets made from it, with due introduction of design or outline in black, white, or brown, are eagerly sought after. They, however, are generally extra well woven, so come into the class called ‘‘„extras.„’’
Figs. 223-227 and 39 are all of native wool, undyed, but the five latter are so well woven and of such excellent and pleasing design that they would immediately be graded as ‘‘„Extras„’’ of this type.
Fig. 227 is one of the modern blankets of this type made by the best weavers on the reservation of today, and is one of the many found in the Fred Harvey collection. The body of the blanket is gray with alternate rows of diamonds extending across the blanket. The first row has one center diamond, with a half-diamond on each side, the outer line of the figure being in black. The second row comprises two complete diamonds, the outer line being in white. They thus alternate from bottom to top.
A peculiarly attractive blanket that contains a great deal of native wool, undyed, is shown in Fig. 228. The body color is of natural brown, carefully cleaned, deodorized, and spun. It was designed and woven by Chas-cin-ni-bit-See, and is 60x90 inches in size. Like the native silver gray, this pure brown is rather rare, and blankets made from it are to be prized, especially if the designs are artistic and pleasing. In this case the red and blue of the design are of dyed yarn, but where black and gray are introduced with the brown the color effect is even more pleasing than with the red and blue.
Fig. 204. Simplest and First Deviation from a Flat or One-Color Blanket.
Fig. 205. Key Design, Too Large for Blanket.
Fig. 206. Blanket with Large but Pleasing Design. (Author's Collection.)
A little native brown is introduced into Fig. 227. This is 58x113 inches in size, and each of the diamonds has one of its panels in brown. This is a blanket secured on the reservation in the winter of 1912-13, and is one of the finest specimens of modern weave I have ever seen. While not so fine as the oldtime bayetas, it is equally well woven and is a splendid specimen of the weaver's art, though the design is neither so striking nor individualistic as many others herein pictured.
Naturally, certain weavers excel no matter what form of work they produce from their looms. When such specimens of excellence are brought to the traders they grade them as of ‘‘„extra„’’ quality and charge an extra price for them. The determining points of ‘‘„extras„’’ are wool-warp, fineness of woof-warp, good color, excellence of design, harmony of color and design, and general superiority and fineness of weave.
This is the class of blanket of which Fred Harvey makes a specialty. He keeps no cheaper grades. His weavers are constantly urged on to the production of ‘‘„extras.„’’ This, and even better qualities, are the only types he recommends or guarantees, and on blankets of this character he is ready to give the most comprehensive guarantees.
Fig. 229 shows one of especially fine effect, designed and made by Hastin Dug-agh-eth-lun Be-Ahd. It is about 52x84 inches in size, and is in gray, white, and black. Blankets of this type are made by the same weaver in sizes ranging from 45x76 inches up to 6x9 feet. Occasionally she will introduce a trifle of color into the border, or interior figures, but, as a rule, she prefers to stick to the native undyed wools.
Of equal quality and even more striking in design is Fig. 230, designed and woven by Bi-leen Al-pi-Bi-zha-Ahd. This woman has never been known either to copy the design of another weaver or to repeat one of her own. Every blanket must be an original. She is of an essentially artistic temperament, and has the creative instinct developed to a high degree. In this blanket the native brown is introduced with pleasing effect. This is 75x115 inches in size. A blanket of this size and type is worth, according to quality and fineness of weave, from $60 to $150.
It is a source of great pleasure to know a weaver of this woman's natural aptitude. If she can be found alone and induced to speak freely she converses interestingly and fluently of the influences that determine the designs of her blankets and the reasons she will never duplicate them.
Very popular both in design and color is Fig. 231, which originated from the busy brain and fingers of Bi-leen Alpi Bi-zha Ahd. The soft gray of the body and border, with the white panel picked out in a small design of red, white, and black, makes an effective and pleasing combination. The size of the original is 56x86 inches, but it is made to order in extra grades from 45x76 inches up to 6x9 feet, and is often kept in stock in some of those sizes. While originally made in the standard quality, it is seldom found in that grade, though occasionally one is brought in of similar though not exact duplicate pattern in that quality.
The same weaver also designed Fig. 232. This is 5x7½ feet in size, in which grays, blacks (or deep blues), browns, and reds are skilfully commingled in a daring design. She has also woven the same design in red, white, and black. These are made to order in the extra class, in any colors required and in any of the standard sizes.
Fig. 218 is of an extra quality blanket. This was designed by Meh-li-to Be Day-zhie and is 5x7½ feet in size. The major portion of the body is red, with white, black, and blue, or gray in the design. This is one of the stock designs of the Manning Company, and can be made up in any color, such as gray, white, and black, when it would be classed as a native wool, undyed, of the extra quality. The sizes, too, vary, and are often found ‘‘„in stock,„’’ as, for instance, 45x76 inches up to 65x96 inches.
Fig. 219 shows a striking and original blanket, which, while classed as standard, is often made up in extra grades, of sizes from 48x72 inches up to 6x8 feet or more. This was designed by Hastin Deet-si Be-Ahd, and has been so popular that she has been kept weaving on similar blankets ever since to meet the demand.
Similarly Fig. 233, while occasionally found in the standard class, is regularly made up in a variety of sizes from about 48x72 inches up to 6x8 feet in extra qualities, either in native wools, undyed, or in standard colors.
Fig. 234 is an extra grade, designed and woven by Yeh-del-spah Bimah, size 64x85 inches. The body color is gray, with a panel of red all around, in which the designs are worked out in white and black, while the inner panel is in white, red, and black.
Fig. 207. Navaho Weaver, Showing ‘‘„Bungling„’’ in Weave on Left-Hand Side. [Page 145]
Fig. 208. Common Blanket of Simple Design.
Fig. 209. Common Blanket with Irregular Banding of Color.
Equally original is Fig. 235, designed and made by Bit-se Bi-Ghay Bit-Se, size 64x84 inches, with a body mainly of red. The black and white, or deep blue and white, make striking and effective contrasts.
To those who enjoy the full flood of ‘‘„sunshine red„’’ Fig. 236 will especially appeal. It was designed and made by Toh-dichin-e Bi-Ahd, and is 64x98 inches in size. The red picked out in light gray, with the inner panel in white, with design in black, or deep blue, with slight dashes of red, make striking contrasts, and one must know definitely where such a colored blanket will ‘‘„fit„’’ or it will strike a discordant note. But on a light wood floor, with no other deep color note to conflict with it, such a blanket would light up and warm a room with a glow such as covers the earth at sunset. The weaver who made this is ready to make others similar to this, in the same or different colors and of sizes varying from 45x76 inches up to 6x9 feet.
There is, however, another fine and distinctive grade, known as Native wool, Fancy blankets. It used to be well known in the trade and included all the very fine native wool blankets as differentiated from those made of Germantown yarn.
The same tests are put to this type as to the ‘‘„extra„’’ qualities, only carried to a still finer point. Such blankets are exceedingly desirable and when found fully justify the words of Father Berard, elsewhere quoted, to the effect that the Navahos of today are making just as fine blankets as they have ever done.
Some of the finest of these blankets are made by men, more to show what they can do, perhaps, than for sale purposes. Several of those I have secured have been of this class, and, tell it not in Gath! others were woven by maidens for the young men of their choice, to use as saddle-blankets, and were disposed of when the flames of affection had burned low, or some other flame had taken the place of the ‘‘„light that had failed,„’’ or gone out. Practically all of these are single size saddleblankets, viz., 15x24, 21x24, and 17x22 inches, thus demonstrating how individualistic is the taste in size, as well as design and color, of the weavers even in those blankets that are to be used for a common purpose.
Fig. 237 is of the choicest specimen of this type in my own collection. It is 21x25 inches in size, and is used as a table-cover. The panels of small lozenges or diamonds are daintily done. The main color is red, while different colors are used in the fourfold portions of which the diamonds are composed.
Fig. 238 is of almost as fine yarn, spinning, and design. It is 15x24 inches in size, of closely spun red, with unusual figures combined with those that are more common. The fringe and tassels at the ends are extra elaborate. Well do I remember the place and occasion on which I purchased this. I had been to little visited portions of the reservation, around the dreaded Navaho Mountain, where renegades of several races and tribes are said to congregate, and where some wonderful cliff dwellings are found, and was now crossing, on horseback, alone, to Shiprock, on the northeastern border of the reservation. My mount was not of the best, and could not be urged beyond a limited speed, the roads were somewhat uncertain, and late afternoon found me at the Cornfields, where several families had built their hogans, in the midst of a fairly large area of cultivated land. I had no blankets or bedding of any kind, but the hospitality of a rude hogan was preferable to nothing. The nights were exceedingly cold and frosty, so I intimated that I should be glad to remain. There were families of two generations, with grandpa and grandma, to occupy the hogan, and only enough blankets to go around. But I was supplied with a sheepskin to lie on, and with my overcoat wrapped around me and a small saddle-blanket I endeavored to be content. We were stretched out with feet towards the fire, but I kept up a fairly constant roll all night, warming first one side and then the other, as the temperature declined. The roof of the hogan was partially open, though a blanket was hung over the doorway. During the night the head of the family did a most gracious thing. He arose and took down this doorway blanket, and, assuming that I was asleep, carefully and gently spread it over me, tucking it around me so that I might secure its full benefit. That blanket secured me several hours' extra sleep, for in its warmth I was able to defy the cold. Early the next morning his son brought me the blanket pictured (Fig. 238), and, as they would take no money for my ‘‘„lodging,„’’ I was glad to purchase and pay extra well for this dainty little piece of weaving.
Fig. 239 is of a less fine and striking quality of weave, yet one which would properly come within this class. It was made by a Navaho maiden for her lover, who for some reason or other jilted her, and then was willing to sell me the blanket.
Fig. 240 is a native wool, fancy blanket in the Matthews collection. When secured by Dr. Matthews it was being worn by a woman. Its size is 5 feet 4 inches by 3 feet 7 inches, and its colors are yellow, green, dark blue, gray, and red, all but the latter color being in native yarn.
Fig. 241 is one of the best representatives of the earlier type of native wool dyed blankets made by the Navahos prior to the deterioration of the art. It is in the American Museum of Natural History. The body of the blanket is red, and the wool used is of several different dyes, which is
Fig. 210. A Closely Woven Blanket, Practically Waterpoof. (Matthews Collection.)
Fig. 211. Good for Rough Use. (Matthews Collection.)
Fig. 212. Double Saddle Blanket. Plain half is placed next to the horse. (Author's Collection.)
Fig. 213. Standard Blanket in Gray, Red, and White. (Author's Collection.)
Fig. 196 is a typical specimen of a first-class native wool fancy blanket, modern in weave throughout, but of old design. The body of the blanket is gray, the center diamonds are of red outlined in brown, white, and black. The stepped figures surrounding the center diamonds are in black and white, while the conventional stepped diamonds of the center are outlined in black, brown, and white. The border is of white, surrounded with black. Blankets as good as this are often woven by Fred Harvey's best weavers.
These, as the name implies, are Navaho blankets made throughout of Germantown yarn. In the chapter on the development of the art I have already referred to the introduction of Germantown yarn, and how, for a time, it led to the deterioration of blanketry. ‘‘„Haste to get returns„’’ became the cry of both Navaho weaver and trader, regardless of quality and durability. The weaver was glad to get rid of the trouble of cleaning, carding, washing, dyeing, and spinning the yarn, when she could secure it from the trader all ready to be woven. And so cotton-warp, Germantown-woof blankets for a time had a great run. Then, as suddenly as the trade had grown, there came a slump, and trader and weaver meaningly asked: ‘‘„Why?„’’ The answer was not far to seek in the angry cry of purchasers, dinged into the ears of blanket sellers, and by them echoed to the traders: ‘‘„We thought we were buying good blankets. We find we have almost thrown our money away.„’’ This speedily led to a change, and today only the smallest and lightest ‘‘„Germantowns„’’ are made with a cotton warp, while all the larger ones handled by reputable dealers have wool warps, and are woven both with care and skill.
Fig. 193 is of a very fine blanket of this type which I purchased over twelve years ago. It has been in constant and rough use ever since. While it has a cotton warp, it is an extra strong one, and is so carefully woven that it is in good condition. The body of the blanket is in red, the lozenge figure in the center in white, blue, white, and maroon, with the very delicate outline in white. The upper and lower diamonds, with the serrated edges, or really outlines, are in red, with a blue border inside and a maroon border outside the dainty serrated line, which is in white. From top to bottom on each side are two rows of alkidot'ezh, or triangles placed one
Fig. 132 is of a Germantown yarn blanket which used to be in Dr. Matthews's private collection. He described it as follows: ‘‘„This blanket measures 6 feet 9 inches by 5 feet 6 inches, and weighs nearly six pounds. It is made entirely of Germantown yarn in seven strongly contrasting colors, and is the work of a man who is generally conceded to be the best weaver in the tribe. A month was spent in its manufacture. Its figures are mostly in serrated stripes, which are the most difficult to execute with regularity. I have heard that the man who wove this often draws his designs on sand before he begins to work them on the loom.„’’
This is the only case in which I have ever heard of a weaver making a design in the sand, or otherwise. In my many years of familiarity with the Navahos, and varied wanderings over the whole of their reservation. my constant inquiry has failed to find me one weaver who has ever followed this practice, or known of anyone doing so.
Figs. 242 and 243 are of two single saddle-blankets made with Germantown yarn. Fig. 242 is fairly well woven and with a good color scheme. The design is familiar and frequently found, and lends itself to as varied a color harmony as there are bands. This comprises white, deep blue, cherry-red, salmon-pink, and deep green, and they are combined with a keen eye to color effect. The size is 17½x23 inches, with fringes at both ends fully two inches long.
Fig. 243 has a red body color, is 20x24 inches in size, and is completely surrounded with a so-called Greek-key border, which Dr. Matthews claimed was exceedingly rare in the eighties of the past century. The key is in green, with an orange insert; the geometrical figures on each side are in black, yellow, and green; while those of the center row are in black, yellow, green, and gray. The blanket has a four-inch fringe at each end, with double tassels at one corner of each end.
Fig. 214. Standard Blanket of Fine Quality. (Collection of C. N. Cotton.)
Fig. 215. Standard Blanket in Black, White, and Gray. (Collection of C. C. Manning Co.)
Fig. 216. Made by Manuelito's Widow for the Author. [Page 150]