Blanket Weaving in the Southwest

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University of Arizona Press, 2003 - Art - 444 pages
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Exquisite blankets, sarapes and ponchos handwoven by southwestern peoples are admired throughout the world. Despite many popularized accounts, serious gaps have existed in our understanding of these textiles—gaps that one man devoted years of scholarly attention to address.

During much of his career, anthropologist Joe Ben Wheat (1916-1997) earned a reputation as a preeminent authority on southwestern and plains prehistory. Beginning in 1972, he turned his scientific methods and considerable talents to historical questions as well. He visited dozens of museums to study thousands of nineteenth-century textiles, oversaw chemical tests of dyes from hundreds of yarns, and sought out obscure archives to research the material and documentary basis for textile development. His goal was to establish a key for southwestern textile identification based on the traits that distinguish the Pueblo, Navajo, and Spanish American blanket weaving traditions—and thereby provide a better way of identifying and dating pieces of unknown origin.

Wheat's years of research resulted in a masterful classification scheme for southwestern textiles—and a book that establishes an essential baseline for understanding craft production. Nearly completed before Wheat's death, Blanket Weaving in the Southwest describes the evolution of southwestern textiles from the early historic period to the late nineteenth century, establishes a revised chronology for its development, and traces significant changes in materials, techniques, and designs.

Wheat first relates what Spanish observers learned about the state of native weaving in the region—a historical review that reveals the impact of new technologies and economies on a traditional craft. Subsequent chapters deal with fibers, yarns, dyes, and fabric structures—including an unprecedented examination of the nature, variety, and origins of bayeta yarns—and with tools, weaves, and finishing techniques.

A final chapter, constructed by editor Ann Hedlund from Wheat's notes, provides clues to his evolving ideas about the development of textile design. Hedlund—herself a respected textile scholar and a protégée of Wheat's—is uniquely qualified to interpret the many notes he left behind and brings her own understanding of weaving to every facet of the text. She has ensured that Wheat's research is applicable to the needs of scholars, collectors, and general readers alike. Throughout the text, Wheat discusses and evaluates the distinct traits of the three textile traditions. More than 200 photos demonstrate these features, including 191 color plates depicting a vast array of chief blankets, shoulder blankets, ponchos, sarapes, diyugi, mantas, and dresses from museum collections nationwide. In addition, dozens of line drawings demonstrate the fine points of technique concerning weaves, edge finishes, and corner tassels. Through his groundbreaking and painstaking research, Wheat created a new view of southwestern textile history that goes beyond any other book on the subject. Blanket Weaving in the Southwest addresses a host of unresolved issues in textile research and provides critical tools for resolving them. It is an essential resource for anyone who appreciates the intricacy of these outstanding creations.

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Blanket weaving in the Southwest

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Although trained as an archaeologist, Wheat (1916-97) made his name as an ethnologist, his specialty being textiles of the Southwest. During his more than 30 years at the University of Colorado ... Read full review


Historical Background
Fibers and Yarns

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3-ply twined cords Acoma Pueblo American Amerind Foundation analysis date aniline Anthropology Arizona Arizona State Museum Athapaskan augmented tassels baize bayeta blankets blue indigo weft Bosque Redondo brazilwood brown none Brugge Chihuahua Churro Churro sheep cloth cochineal collection color dye warp Colorado Museum commercial yarns corners cotton crimson dark blue indigo diamond Diego de Vargas Dinetah dye warp wool Estevanico fabric fine 1 z Fort Defiance Fort Wingate Frank Hamilton Cushing Fred Harvey Company fuchsine function fiber function fiber type George Pepper Germantown Gladys Reichard handspun 1 z handspun handspun handspun handspun handspun Hawikuh Heard Museum heddle Hopi Indian indigo weft wool Jemez Pueblo Joe Ben Wheat John Wesley Powell lazy lines loom mantas Matilda Coxe Stevenson medium blue indigo Merino Mexican Mexico mordant native Navajo Sarape Navajo weavers none weft wool Photo plain weave Plains Apaches Plate ply spin Ponceau 2R Poncho Pueblo Pueblo Indians Pueblo Revolt raveled yarns Rio Grande Rio Grande Valley rt rt rt Saltillo SANM Santa Fe Santa Fe Trail Sarape Saxony scarlet selv wool selvage cords selvages Two 3-ply sheep sheep shears Smithsonian Institution Southwest southwestern weaving Spain Spaniards Spanish spectrophotometric spin twist color stripes Susan Haskell synthetic synthetic dyes Tapestry Tapestry weave tassels textiles thread counts threads treadle Tucson twill type ply University of Arizona University of Colorado USNA warp selv warp selvages warp wool handspun warps/inch weavers weft selv weft selvages weft weft weft weft weft weft wool commercial weft wool handspun weft wool raveled weft-faced wefts/inch Wheat white dark white none weft William Randolph Hearst wool commercial wool wool wool woolen woven yards YARN function YARN function fiber yellow z-spun Zuni

About the author (2003)

Joe Ben Wheat became the first Curator of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder in 1953, where he remained until retirement as Curator Emeritus in 1986. Wheat lectured widely and became known as the leading expert on southwestern textile history as well as an internationally recognized archaeologist. Segments of his work have been published in preliminary articles, but the majority of his ethnohistorical textile research has remained unpublished until now.

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