Cultural Affiliation

The cultural group listed is almost always presumed to be the group of the blanket weaver. Wheat often listed the museum record’s cultural category with his revised assessment. He also noted whether the blanket was possibly made by one cultural group but collected among (and therefore perhaps used by) another group. As mentioned before, his own determinations sometimes changed as the research progressed, but he did not always record revisions. In his earliest notes, and following earlier museum standards, Wheat referred to most Spanish American textiles as “Chimayo.” In time he changed this to “Old Rio Grande” or just “ORG.” Such blankets are now referred to as “Early Rio Grande” for the stylistic period and “Spanish American” for the culture. Otherwise, I have made few changes to Wheat’s original designations.

Textile Type

The name for each type of textile, such as sarape, wearing blanket, and chief blanket, is derived from Wheat’s evolving taxonomy. At times Wheat’s forms repeat names that were used inconsistently by museums and others; these appear under JBW Type and his more standardized terms are substituted under Object. Occasionally a collector’s or owner’s name has come to be associated with a given textile; Wheat often referred, for instance, to the “Bartlett blanket,” the “Davis poncho,” and the “Chief White Antelope sarape.” (He preferred the Spanish spelling “sarape” to the English “serape.”). Wearing blankets differ from shoulder blankets in being woven longer than wide, whereas the latter are wider than long. The term “slave blanket” appears in quotation marks because Wheat used the term provisionally.

Dates and Dating

In Wheat’s original annotation on his analysis forms and photographs, dates of manufacture with an asterisk (*) indicate that documentary evidence was available to suggest or support a particular time period. However, the final dates given for a textile may not match those in its documentation, because Wheat considered many factors in determining a blanket’s dates and maintained a healthy skepticism regarding collection histories. When a textile has corroborating documentation, we have removed the asterisk from dates and entered “Yes” in a field called “Identity / Dates Documented?”

Generally other dates are approximate, based upon collection information and Wheat’s technical and stylistic analyses. The use of circa (abbreviated ca.), indicates a possible two- to five-year range before and after any given date. I have used the attributed dates as listed on Wheat’s original analysis forms, occasionally editing them only for consistency, and have also created a field called “Maximum Date Range,” by which the records can be sorted chronologically. When Wheat modified a date after his first entry, I have used his most recent thinking on the attribution. I have placed some of Wheat’s dates in brackets {} to indicate their highly provisional nature, specifically because of possible discrepancies between definitive dye tests and earlier attributed dates without benefit of corroborating analytical tests (especially as assigned to red dyes that tested as aniline on raveled and three-ply yarns).

Stylistic Periods

Wheat designated the periods of Navajo weaving as Pre-Classic (before 1800), Classic (1800–1865), Late Classic (1865–1880), and Transitional (1880–1895), followed by the Rug and Modern periods of the twentieth century. For a refined and annotated version of this by me, see SW Textile Time Periods. For Rio Grande blankets, he contributed to and subsequently used Dorothy Boyd Bowen’s classification published in Spanish Textile Tradition of New Mexico and Colorado (edited by Nora Fisher, p. 55. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe): Early (pre-1860), Transitional (1860–1880), and Late (1880–1900) Wheat acknowledged the potential for more overlap than these absolute dating systems indicate. In fact, these periods reflect an association of various design styles and some materials with temporal periods, not necessarily the absolute dating of specific blankets. He didn’t therefore enter period names in his analysis forms for all textiles, but I have added entries in this field in order to allow for sorting.

Design Description

Wheat described each textile at considerable length and used that process to think through each design arrangement and to compare it with others. He also sketched many design elements as seen in the original analysis forms and in his book.

Collection Information

In most cases, provenance was transcribed from Wheat’s notes and made consistent with other entries from the same source. In many cases, individual museums or archives may have more extensive documentation and donation information.

Technique and Technical Comments

Structural features include the weave, presence or absence of lazy lines, selvage and corner composition, and notes on other significant technical features. Selvage and corner finishes are illustrated in Blanket Weaving’s chapter 5, and woven structures in chapter 6. Wherever possible, terminology follows that of Irene Emery’s The Primary Structures of Fabrics (The Textile Museum, 1966). Pueblo and Navajo selvage information refers to the number of cords twined (as in two- or three-strand twining) and the makeup of each cord (e.g., two or three plies). When a selvage is described as “plain,” such twining is absent, and the weft yarns turn simply around the first and last warp yarns. Weft selvage information also includes reference to how side cords were handled when a partially woven textile was turned 180 degrees (upside down) on the loom, and where this occurred in the web (that is, the selvage cords may have been joined at the center or near a border; see chapter 5). Under the heading “Corners” are described the ways in which the warp and weft selvage cords were treated when they met at each corner—either left open or closed by a variety of possible knots. “Last warp/last weft” indicates a corner with those elements extended but not knotted. Corner information also includes a description of tassels, if present. Self-tassels are composed only of the warp and weft selvage cords. Augmented tassels are those supplemented with additional yarns. For a description of many technical terms, see the Glossary on this website and Blanket Weaving’s chapter 5. Wheat sometimes noted that corners were “missing” and at other times used “—”; these have been transcribed as he wrote them.

Wheat noted textile repairs on occasion. In particular, he discerned one type of replaced selvage and tassel system used by the Fred Harvey Company. Those are described as “Harvey-style” repairs.

Dimensions and Thread Counts

Dimensions are given in inches and centimeters (the latter calculated from the former in most cases). The length is measured along the warps and is always stated first, followed by the width as measured along the wefts. Measurements were generally made at the textile’s widest point and are rarely accurate to more than the nearest inch. Dimensions do not incorporate corner tassels or fringe.

Warp and weft counts are the average number of the threads per inch (2.5 cm). When multiple strands of raveled yarns were used as one weft, each group of strands is counted as a single weft, but the actual number of strands is indicated as the ply number.

Yarn Composition

Fiber analysis is generally based on low-power examination unless otherwise noted. Wheat noted the presence of handspun Churro wool in some, but by no means all, possible cases. “Handspun” refers to yarn created on a hand spindle spun in the Pueblo or Navajo style; “wheelspun” to yarn produced on a foot- or hand-powered spinning wheel; and “commercial” to industrially processed and commercially marketed yarn. Occasionally, but again not always, Wheat noted whether a commercial yarn was Saxony, early (three-ply) or later (four-ply) Germantown, or some other known brand name. His recognition of certain yarns by brand name evolved as the study progressed, but his analysis forms were rarely updated or made consistent. Searching on these terms may yield some useful but not exhaustive results.

Likewise, raveled flannel may sometimes be listed as such, and at other times, simply as raveled. Diameters of selected raveled yarns were made in millimeters using a micrometer and are listed under “Yarn Type.” Raveled yarns used in groups may not have been subsequently plied; a <ll>, //, or \\ indicates a group of parallel or only very slightly twisted strands. For a detailed discussion of raveled yarn and its sources, see Blanket Weaving’s chapter 4.

The number of plies in a yarn, direction of initial spin, and direction of final twist in multiple-ply yarns are reported in that order. When a compound yarn is described, the initial components appear in parentheses and the subsequent number of plies and ultimate twist direction outside the parentheses. For instance, “2(3 z S)Z” describes two three-ply yarns, each z-spun and S-plied, together re-plied with a final Z-twist. Wheat also noted the texture of many yarns, annotating the raveled ones, for instance, with “soft,” “hard,” “fuzzy,” “firm,” and so forth.

Color and Dye

Wheat developed a relatively standard list of color names that he used, modified by light, medium and dark, plus a few maverick terms he employed on occasion. With reference to dyes, “none” indicates no dye and a natural fiber color. “Native” refers to a dye, usually vegetal or mineral and sometimes both, obtained from a local source and applied by the weaver or a close associate. “Vegetal” indicates a presumed plant source for the dyestuff. “Natural” is used for a dye that may be vegetal, mineral, insect, or some combination of these, applied in either a home or a commercial setting, which has not been further identified. It also may refer to one or more of these dyes used on natural colored sheep’s wool, such as the black dye made of sumac leaves and twigs, piñon pitch, and yellow ocher that was top-dyed on natural brown sheep’s wool. Both “synthetic” and the more specific “aniline” refer to commercial dyes that were variably applied to handspun yarn, to commercial yarn, or to trade fabric that was subsequently unraveled.

Only dyes annotated with “tested” were identified with certainty through spectrophotometric laboratory tests. Unless otherwise noted, David Wenger performed the dye tests (see Blanket Weaving’s appendix E for further description and appendix F for a separate list of yarns tested). Numbers following a pair of dyestuffs (for example, cochineal 60, lac 40) indicate the percentages of two dyes in a single yarn sample, as interpreted by Wenger. All other dye entries represent Wheat’s attributions made through visual inspection and comparison.

Wheat often cautioned specifically against determining red dye sources visually without more reliable analytical testing. For red dyes not tested, he based his attributions on contextual information (yarn types, blanket designs, construction techniques, documentation, etc.) as well as visual examination. His best guesses were informed but nevertheless might have changed through time as he gained more knowledge on the subject. Sometimes such changes went unrecorded. Brackets { } are therefore used, as elsewhere in the entries, to indicate the highly provisional nature of Wheat’s assessment of untested red dyes on raveled and three-ply commercial yarns, some of which might affect the dating of a textile.

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