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Title: Navajo weavers - Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1881-'82, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1884, pages 371-392.
Author: Matthews, Washington, 1843-1905
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology
to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1881-'82,
Government Printing Office, Washington, 1884, pages 371-392.


PLATE XXXIV.--Navajo woman spinning                           376
       XXXV.--Weaving of diamond-shaped diagonals             380
      XXXVI.--Navajo woman weaving a belt                     384
     XXXVII.--Zuñi women weaving a belt                       388
    XXXVIII.--Bringing down the batten                        390
    FIG. 42.--Ordinary Navajo blanket loom                    378
         43.--Diagram showing formation of warp               379
         44.--Weaving of saddle-girth                         382
         45.--Diagram showing arrangement of threads of
              the warp in the healds and on the rod           383
         46.--Weaving of saddle-girth                         383
         47.--Diagram showing arrangement of healds in
              diagonal weaving                                384
         48.--Diagonal cloth                                  384
         49.--Navajo blanket of the finest quality            385
         50.--Navajo blankets                                 386
         51.--Navajo blanket                                  386
         52.--Navajo blanket                                  387
         53.--Navajo blanket                                  387
         54.--Part of Navajo blanket                          388
         55.--Part of Navajo blanket                          388
         56.--Diagram showing formation of warp of sash       388
         57.--Section of Navajo belt                          389
         58.--Wooden heald of the Zuñis                       389
         59.--Girl weaving (from an Aztec picture)            391



§ I. The art of weaving, as it exists among the Navajo Indians of New
Mexico and Arizona, possesses points of great interest to the student
of ethnography. It is of aboriginal origin; and while European art has
undoubtedly modified it, the extent and nature of the foreign
influence is easily traced. It is by no means certain, still there are
many reasons for supposing, that the Navajos learned their craft from
the Pueblo Indians, and that, too, since the advent of the Spaniards;
yet the pupils, if such they be, far excel their masters to-day in the
beauty and quality of their work. It may be safely stated that with no
native tribe in America, north of the Mexican boundary, has the art of
weaving been carried to greater perfection than among the Navajos,
while with none in the entire continent is it less Europeanized. As in
language, habits, and opinions, so in arts, the Navajos have been less
influenced than their sedentary neighbors of the pueblos by the
civilization of the Old World.

The superiority of the Navajo to the Pueblo work results not only from
a constant advance of the weaver's art among the former, but from a
constant deterioration of it among the latter. The chief cause of this
deterioration is that the Pueblos find it more remunerative to buy, at
least the finer _serapes_, from the Navajos, and give their time to
other pursuits, than to manufacture for themselves; they are nearer
the white settlements and can get better prices for their produce;
they give more attention to agriculture; they have within their
country, mines of turquoise which the Navajos prize, and they have no
trouble in procuring whisky, which some of the Navajos prize even more
than gems. Consequently, while the wilder Indian has incentives to
improve his art, the more advanced has many temptations to abandon it
altogether. In some pueblos the skill of the loom has been almost
forgotten. A growing fondness for European clothing has also had its
influence, no doubt.

§ II. Cotton, which grows well in New Mexico and Arizona, the tough
fibers of yucca leaves and the fibers of other plants, the hair of
different quadrupeds, and the down of birds furnished in prehistoric
days the materials of textile fabrics in this country. While some of
the Pueblos still weave their native cotton to a slight extent, the
Navajos grow no cotton and spin nothing but the wool of the domestic
sheep, which animal is, of course, of Spanish introduction, and of
which the Navajos have vast herds.

The wool is not washed until it is sheared. At the present time it is
combed with hand cards purchased from the Americans. In spinning, the
simplest form of the spindle--a slender stick thrust through the
center of a round wooden disk--is used. The Mexicans on the Rio Grande
use spinning-wheels, and although the Navajos have often seen these
wheels, have had abundant opportunities for buying and stealing them,
and possess, I think, sufficient ingenuity to make them, they have
never abandoned the rude implement of their ancestors. Plate XXXIV
illustrates the Navajo method of handling the spindle, a method
different from that of the people of Zuñi.

They still employ to a great extent their native dyes: of yellow,
reddish, and black. There is good evidence that they formerly had a
blue dye; but indigo, originally introduced, I think, by the Mexicans,
has superseded this. If they, in former days, had a native blue and a
native yellow, they must also, of course, have had a green, and they
now make green of their native yellow and indigo, the latter being the
only imported dye-stuff I have ever seen in use among them. Besides
the hues above indicated, this people have had, ever since the
introduction of sheep, wool of three different natural colors--white,
rusty black, and gray--so they had always a fair range of tints with
which to execute their artistic designs. The brilliant red figures in
their finer blankets were, a few years ago, made entirely of _bayeta_,
and this material is still largely used. Bayeta is a bright scarlet
cloth with a long nap, much finer in appearance than the scarlet
strouding which forms such an important article in the Indian trade of
the North. It was originally brought to the Navajo country from
Mexico, but is now supplied to the trade from our eastern cities. The
Indians ravel it and use the weft. While many handsome blankets are
still made only of the colors and material above described, American
yarn has lately become very popular among the Navajos, and many fine
blankets are now made wholly, or in part, of Germantown wool.

The black dye mentioned above is made of the twigs and leaves of the
aromatic sumac (_Rhus aromatica_), a native yellow ocher, and the gum
of the piñon (_Pinus edulis_). The process of preparing it is as
follows: They put into a pot of water some of the leaves of the sumac,
and as many of the branchlets as can be crowded in without much
breaking or crushing, and the water is allowed to boil for five or six
hours until a strong decoction is made. While the water is boiling
they attend to other parts of the process. The ocher is reduced to a
fine powder between two stones and then slowly roasted over the fire
in an earthen or metal vessel until it assumes a light-brown color; it
is then taken from the fire and combined with about an equal quantity
in size of piñon gum; again the mixture is put on the fire and
constantly stirred. At first the gum melts and the whole mass assumes
a mushy consistency; but as the roasting progresses it gradually
becomes drier and darker until it is at last reduced to a fine black
powder. This is removed from the fire, and when it has cooled
somewhat it is thrown into the decoction of sumac, with which it
instantly forms a rich, blue-black fluid. This dye is essentially an
ink, the tannic acid of the sumac combining with the sesquioxide of
iron in the roasted ocher, the whole enriched by the carbon of the
calcined gum.


There are, the Indians tell me, three different processes for dyeing
yellow; two of these I have witnessed. The first process is thus
conducted: The flowering tops of _Bigelovia graveolens_ are boiled for
about six hours until a decoction of deep yellow color is produced.
When the dyer thinks the decoction strong enough, she heats over the
fire in a pan or earthen vessel some native almogen (an impure native
alum), until it is reduced to a somewhat pasty consistency; this she
adds gradually to the decoction and then puts the wool in the dye to
boil. From time to time a portion of the wool is taken out and
inspected until (in about half an hour from the time it is first
immersed) it is seen to have assumed the proper color. The work is
then done. The tint produced is nearly that of lemon yellow. In the
second process they use the large, fleshy root of a plant which, as I
have never yet seen it in fruit or flower, I am unable to determine.
The fresh root is crushed to a soft paste on the _metate_, and, for a
mordant, the almogen is added while the grinding is going on. The cold
paste is then rubbed between the hands into the wool. If the wool does
not seem to take the color readily a little water is dashed on the
mixture of wool and paste, and the whole is very slightly warmed. The
entire process does not occupy over an hour and the result is a color
much like that now known as "old gold."

The reddish dye is made of the bark of _Alnus incana_ var. _virescens_
(Watson) and the bark of the root of _Cercocarpus parvifolius_; the
mordant being fine juniper ashes. On buckskin this makes a brilliant
tan-color; but applied to wool it produces a much paler tint.

§ III. Plate XXXVIII and Fig. 42 illustrate ordinary blanket-looms.
Two posts, _a a_, are set firmly in the ground; to these are lashed
two cross-pieces or braces, _b c_, the whole forming the frame of the
loom. Sometimes two slender trees, growing at a convenient distance
from one another, are made to answer for the posts, _d_ is a
horizontal pole, which I call the supplementary yarn-beam, attached to
the upper brace, _b_, by means of a rope, _e e_, spirally applied. _f_
is the upper beam of the loom. As it is analogous to the yarn-beam of
our looms, I will call it by this name, although once only have I seen
the warp wound around it. It lies parallel to the pole _d_, about 2 or
3 inches below it, and is attached to the latter by a number of loops,
_g g_. A spiral cord wound around the yarn-beam holds the upper border
cord _h h_, which, in turn, secures the upper end of the warp _i i_.
The lower beam of the loom is shown at _k_. I will call this the
cloth-beam, although the finished web is never wound around it; it is
tied firmly to the lower brace, _c_, of the frame, and to it is
secured the lower border cord of the blanket. The original distance
between the two beams is the length of the blanket. Lying between the
threads of the warp is depicted a broad, thin, oaken stick, _l_, which
I will call the batten. A set of healds attached to a heald-rod, _m_,
are shown above the batten. These healds are made of cord or yarn;
they include alternate threads of the warp, and serve when drawn
forward to open the lower shed. The upper shed is kept patent by a
stout rod, _n_ (having no healds attached), which I name the shed-rod.
Their substitute for the reed of our looms is a wooden fork, which
will be designated as the reed-fork (Fig. 44, _a_).

[Illustration: FIG. 42.--Ordinary Navajo blanket loom.]

For convenience of description, I am obliged to use the word
"shuttle," although, strictly speaking, the Navajo has no shuttle. If
the figure to be woven is a long stripe, or one where the weft must be
passed through 6 inches or more of the shed at one time, the yarn is
wound on a slender twig or splinter, or shoved through on the end of
such a piece of wood; but where the pattern is intricate, and the weft
passes at each turn through only a few inches of the shed, the yarn is
wound into small skeins or balls and shoved through with the finger.

§ IV. The warp is thus constructed: A frame of four sticks is made,
not unlike the frame of the loom, but lying on or near the ground,
instead of standing erect. The two sticks forming the sides of the
frame are rough saplings or rails; the two forming the top and bottom
are smooth rounded poles--often the poles which afterwards serve as
the beams of the loom; these are placed parallel to one another, their
distance apart depending on the length of the projected blanket.

On these poles the warp is laid in a continuous string. It is first
firmly tied to one of the poles, which I will call No. 1 (Fig. 43);
then it is passed over the other pole, No. 2, brought back under No. 2
and over No. 1, forward again under No. 1 and over No. 2, and so on to
the end. Thus the first, third, fifth, &c., turns of the cord cross in
the middle the second, fourth, sixth, &c., forming a series of
elongated figures 8, as shown in the following diagram--

[Illustration: FIG. 43.--Diagram showing formation of warp.]

and making, in the very beginning of the process, the two sheds, which
are kept distinct throughout the whole work. When sufficient string
has been laid the end is tied to pole No. 2, and a rod is placed in
each shed to keep it open, the rods being afterwards tied together at
the ends to prevent them from falling out.

This done, the weaver takes three strings (which are afterwards
twilled into one, as will appear) and ties them together at one end.
She now sits outside one of the poles, looking towards the centre of
the frame, and proceeds thus: (1) She secures the triple cord to the
pole immediately to the left of the warp; (2) then she takes one of
the threads (or strands as they now become) and passes it under the
first turn of the warp; (3) next she takes a second strand, and
twilling it once or oftener with the other strands, includes with it
the second bend of the warp; (4) this done, she takes the third strand
and, twilling it as before, passes it under the third bend of the
warp, and thus she goes on until the entire warp in one place is
secured between the strands of the cord; (5) then she pulls the string
to its fullest extent, and in doing so separates the threads of the
warp from one another; (6) a similar three stranded cord is applied to
the other end of the warp, along the outside of the other pole.

At this stage of the work these stout cords lie along the outer
surfaces of the poles, parallel with the axes of the latter, but when
the warp is taken off the poles and applied to the beams of the loom
by the spiral thread, as above described, and as depicted in Plate
XXXVIII and Fig. 42, and all is ready for weaving, the cords appear on
the inner sides of the beams, _i.e._, one (Pl. XXXVIII and Fig. 42, _h
h_) at the lower side of the yarn-beam, the other at the upper side of
the cloth-beam, and when the blanket is finished they form the stout
end margins of the web. In the coarser grade of blankets the cords are
removed and the ends of the warp tied in pairs and made to form a
fringe. (See Figs. 54 and 55.)

When the warp is transferred to the loom the rod which was placed in
the upper shed remains there, or another rod, straighter and
smoother, is substituted for it; but with the lower shed, healds are
applied to the anterior threads and the rod is withdrawn.

§ V. The mode of applying the healds is simple: (1) the weaver sits
facing the loom in the position for weaving; (2) she lays at the right
(her right) side of the loom a ball of string which she knows contains
more than sufficient material to make the healds; (3) she takes the
end of this string and passes it to the left through the shed, leaving
the ball in its original position; (4) she ties a loop at the end of
the string large enough to admit the heald-rod; (5) she holds
horizontally in her left hand a straightish slender rod, which is to
become the heald-rod--its right extremity touching the left edge of
the warp--and passes the rod through the loop until the point of the
stick is even with the third (second anterior from the left) thread of
the warp; (6) she puts her finger through the space between the first
and third threads and draws out a fold of the heald-string; (7) she
twists this once around, so as to form a loop, and pushes the point of
the heald-rod on to the right through this loop; (8) she puts her
finger into the next space and forms another loop; (9) and so on she
continues to advance her rod and form her loops from left to right
until each of the anterior (alternate) warp-threads of the lower shed
is included in a loop of the heald; (10) when the last loop is made
she ties the string firmly to the rod near its right end.

When the weaving is nearly done and it becomes necessary to remove the
healds, the rod is drawn out of the loops, a slight pull is made at
the thread, the loops fall in an instant, and the straightened string
is drawn out of the shed. Illustrations of the healds may be seen in
Plates XXXV and XXXVIII and Figs. 42, 44, and 46, that in Fig. 46
being the most distinct.

§ VI. In making a blanket the operator sits on the ground with her
legs folded under her. The warp hangs vertically before her, and
(excepting in a case to be mentioned) she weaves from below upwards.
As she never rises from this squatting posture when at work, it is
evident that when she has woven the web to a certain height further
work must become inconvenient or impossible unless by some arrangement
the finished web is drawn downwards. Her cloth-beam does not revolve
as in our looms, so she brings her work within easy reach by the
following method: The spiral rope (Plate XXXVIII and Fig. 42) is
loosened, the yarn-beam is lowered to the desired distance, a fold is
made in the loosened web, and the upper edge of the fold is sewed down
tightly to the cloth-beam. In all new blankets over two feet long the
marks of this sewing are to be seen, and they often remain until the
blanket is worn out. Plate XXXV, representing a blanket nearly
finished, illustrates this procedure.

Except in belts, girths, and perhaps occasionally in very narrow
blankets, the shuttle is never passed through the whole width of the
warp at once, but only through a space which does not exceed the
length of the batten; for it is by means of the batten, which is
rarely more than 3 feet long, that the shed is opened.


Suppose the woman begins by weaving in the lower shed. She draws
apportion of the healds towards her, and with them the anterior
threads of the shed; by this motion she opens the shed about 1 inch,
which is not sufficient for the easy passage of the woof. She inserts
her batten edgewise into this opening and then turns it half around on
its long axis, so that its broad surfaces lie horizontally; in this
way the shed is opened to the extent of the width of the batten--about
3 inches; next the weft is passed through. In fig. 42 the batten is
shown lying edgewise (its broad surfaces vertical), as it appears when
just inserted into the shed, and the weft, which has been passed
through only a portion of the shed, is seen hanging out with its end
on the ground. In Plate XXXV the batten is shown in the second
position described, with the shed open to the fullest extent
necessary, and the weaver is represented in the act of passing the
shuttle through. When the weft is in, it is shoved down into its
proper position by means of the reed-fork, and then the batten,
restored to its first position (edgewise), is brought down with firm
blows on the weft. It is by the vigorous use of the batten that the
Navajo serapes are rendered water-proof. In Plate XXXVIII the weaver
is seen bringing down this instrument "in the manner and for the
purpose described," as the letters patent say.

When the lower shed has received its thread of weft the weaver opens
the upper shed. This is done by releasing the healds and shoving the
shed-rod down until it comes in contact with the healds; this opens
the upper shed down to the web. Then the weft is inserted and the
batten and reed-fork used as before. Thus she goes on with each shed
alternately until the web is finished.

It is, of course, desirable, at least in handsome blankets of
intricate pattern, to have both ends uniform even if the figure be a
little faulty in the center. To accomplish this some of the best
weavers depend on a careful estimate of the length of each figure
before they begin, and weave continuously in one direction; but the
majority weave a little portion of the upper end before they finish
the middle. Sometimes this is done by weaving from above downwards; at
other times it is done by turning the loom upside down and working
from below upwards in the ordinary manner. In Fig. 49, which
represents one of the very finest results of Navajo work, by the best
weaver in the tribe, it will be seen that exact uniformity in the ends
has not been attained. The figure was of such a nature that the
blanket had to be woven in one direction only.

I have described how the ends of the blanket are bordered with a stout
three-ply string applied to the folds of the warp. The lateral edges
of the blanket are similarly protected by stout cords applied to the
weft. The way in which these are woven in, next demands our attention.
Two stout worsted cords, tied together, are firmly attached at each
end of the cloth-beam just outside of the warp; they are then carried
upwards and loosely tied to the yarn-beam or the supplementary
yarn-beam. Every time the weft is turned at the edge these two strings
are twisted together and the weft is passed through the twist; thus
one thread or strand of this border is always on the outside. As it is
constantly twisted in one direction, it is evident that, after a
while, a counter-twist must form which would render the passage of the
weft between the cords difficult, if the cords could not be untwisted
again. Here the object of tying these cords loosely to one of the
upper beams, as before described, is displayed. From time to time the
cords are untied and the unwoven portion straightened as the work
progresses. Fig. 44 and Plate XXXVIII show these cords. The coarse
blankets do not have them. (Fig 42.)

Navajo blankets are single-ply, with designs the same on both sides,
no matter how elaborate these designs may be. To produce their
varigated patterns they have a separate skein, shuttle, or thread for
each component of the pattern. Take, for instance, the blanket
depicted in Fig. 49. Across this blanket, between the points _a--b_,
we have two serrated borders, two white spaces, a small diamond in the
center, and twenty-four serrated stripes, making in all twenty-nine
component parts of the pattern. Now, when the weaver was working in
this place, twenty-nine different threads of weft might have been seen
hanging from the face of the web at one time. In the girth pictured in
Fig. 44 five different threads of woof are shown depending from the

[Illustration: FIG. 44.--Weaving of saddle-girth.]

When the web is so nearly finished that the batten can no longer be
inserted in the warp, slender rods are placed in the shed, while the
weft is passed with increased difficulty on the end of a delicate
splinter and the reed-fork alone presses the warp home. Later it
becomes necessary to remove even the rod and the shed; then the
alternate threads are separated by a slender stick worked in tediously
between them, and two threads of woof are inserted--one above and the
other below the stick. The very last thread is sometimes put in with a
darning needle. The weaving of the last three inches requires more
labor than any foot of the previous work.

In Figs. 49, 50, 51, 52, and 53 it will be seen that there are small
fringes or tassels at the corners of the blankets; these are made of
the redundant ends of the four border-cords (_i.e._, the portions of
the cord by which they were tied to the beams), either simply tied
together or secured in the web with a few stitches.

The above is a description of the simplest mechanism by which the
Navajos make their blankets; but in manufacturing diagonals, sashes,
garters, and hair-bands the mechanism is much more complicated.

§ VII. For making diagonals the warp is divided into four sheds; the
uppermost one of these is provided with a shed-rod, the others are
supplied with healds. I will number the healds and sheds from below
upwards. The following diagram shows how the threads of the warp are
arranged in the healds and on the rod.

[Illustration: FIG. 45.--Diagram showing arrangement of threads of the
warp in the healds and on the rod.]

[Illustration: FIG. 46.--Weaving of saddle-girth.]

When the weaver wishes the diagonal ridges to run upwards from right
to left, she opens the sheds in regular order from below upwards thus:
First, second, third, fourth, first, second, third, fourth, &c. When
she wishes the ridges to trend in the contrary direction she opens the
sheds in the inverse order. I found it convenient to take my
illustrations of this mode of weaving from a girth. In Figs. 44 and 46
the mechanism is plainly shown. The lowest (first) shed is opened and
the first set of healds drawn forward. The rings of the girth take the
place of the beams of the loom.

There is a variety of diagonal weaving practiced by the Navajos which
produces diamond figures; for this the mechanism is the same as that
just described, except that the healds are arranged differently on the
warp. The following diagram will explain this arrangement.

[Illustration: FIG. 47.--Diagram showing arrangement of helds in
diagonal weaving.]

To make the most approved series of diamonds the sheds are opened
twice in the direct order (_i.e._, from below upwards) and twice in
the inverse order, thus: First, second, third, fourth, first, second,
third, fourth, third, second, first, fourth, third, second, first,
fourth, and so on. If this order is departed from the figures become
irregular. If the weaver continues more than twice consecutively in
either order, a row of V-shaped figures is formed, thus: VVVV. Plate
XXXV represents a woman weaving a blanket of this pattern, and Fig. 48
shows a portion of a blanket which is part plain diagonal and part

[Illustration: FIG. 48.--Diagonal cloth.]

§ VIII. I have heretofore spoken of the Navajo weavers always as of
the feminine gender because the large majority of them are women.
There are, however, a few men who practice the textile art, and among
them are to found the best artisans in the tribe.


§ IX. Navajo blankets represent a wide range in quality and finish and
an endless variety in design, notwithstanding that all their figures
consist of straight lines and angles, no curves being used. As
illustrating the great fertility of this people in design I have to
relate that in the finer blankets of intricate pattern out of
thousands which I have examined, I do not remember to have ever seen
two exactly alike. Among the coarse striped blankets there is great

[Illustration: FIG. 49.--Navajo blanket of the finest quality.]

The accompanying pictures of blankets represent some in my private
collection. Fig. 49 depicts a blanket measuring 6 feet 9 inches by 5
feet 6 inches, and weighing nearly 6 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. Fig. 50 _a_
shows a blanket of more antique design and material. It is 6 feet 6
inches by 5 feet 3 inches, and is made of native yarn and _bayeta_.
Its colors are black, white, dark-blue, red (_bayeta_) and--in a
portion of the stair-like figures--a pale blue. Fig. 50 _b_ depicts a
tufted blanket or rug, of a kind not common, having much the
appearance of an Oriental rug; it is made of shredded red flannel,
with a few simple figures in yellow, dark blue, and green. Fig. 51
represents a gaudy blanket of smaller size (5 feet 4 inches by 3 feet
7 inches) worn by a woman. Its colors are yellow, green, dark blue,
gray, and red, all but the latter color being in native yarn. Figs. 52
and 53 illustrate small or half-size blankets made for children's
wear. Such articles are often used for saddle blankets (although the
saddle-cloth is usually of coarser material) and are in great demand
among the Americans for rugs. Fig. 53 has a regular border of uniform
device all the way around--a very rare thing in Navajo blankets. Figs.
54 and 55 show portions of coarse blankets made more for use use than
ornament. Fig. 55 is made of loosely-twilled yarn, and is very warm
but not water-proof. Such blankets make excellent bedding for troops
in the field. Fig. 54 is a water-proof _serape_ of well-twilled native

[Illustration: FIG. 50.--Navajo blankets.]

[Illustration: FIG. 51.--Navajo blanket.]

[Illustration: FIG. 52.--Navajo blanket.]

[Illustration: FIG. 53.--Navajo blanket.]

[Illustration: FIG. 54.--Part of Navajo blanket.]

[Illustration: FIG. 55.--Part of Navajo blanket.]

The aboriginal woman's dress is made of two small blankets, equal in
size and similar in design, sewed together at the sides, with
apertures left for the arms and no sleeves. It is invariably woven in
black or dark-blue native wool with a broad variegated stripe in red
imported yarn or red _bayeta_ at each end, the designs being of
countless variety. Plates XXXIV and XXXV represent women wearing such

[Illustration: FIG. 56.--Diagram showing formation of warp of sash.]


§ X. Their way of weaving long ribbon-like articles, such as sashes or
belts, garters, and hair-bands, which we will next consider, presents
many interesting variations from, the method pursued in making
blankets. To form, a sash the weaver proceeds as follows: She drives
into the ground four sticks and on them she winds her warp as a
continuous string (however, as the warp usually consists of threads of
three different colors it is not always _one_ continuous string) from,
below upwards in such a way as to secure two sheds, as shown in the
diagram, Fig. 56.

[Illustration: FIG. 57.--Section of Navajo belt.]

[Illustration: FIG. 58.--Wooden heald of the Zuñis.]

Every turn of the warp passes over the sticks _a_, and _b_; but it is
alternate turns that pass over _c_ and _d_. When the warp is laid she
ties a string around the intersection of the sheds at _e_, so as to
keep the sheds separate while she is mounting the warp on the beams.
She then places the upper beam of the loom in the place of the stick
_b_ and the lower beam in the place of the stick _a_. Sometimes the
upper and lower beams are secured to the two side rails forming a
frame such as the warp of a blanket is wound on (§ IV), but more
commonly the loom is arranged in the manner shown in Plate XXXVI; that
is, the upper beam is secured to a rafter, post, or tree, while to the
lower beam is attached a loop of rope that passes under the thighs of
the weaver, and the warp is rendered tense by her weight. Next, the
upper shed is supplied with a shed-rod, and the lower shed with a set
of healds. Then the stick at _f_ (upper stick in Plate XXXVI) is put
in; this is simply a round stick, about which one loop of each thread
of the warp is thrown. (Although the warp may consist of only one
thread I must now speak of each turn as a separate thread.) Its use is
to keep the different threads in place and prevent them from crossing
and straggling; for it must be remembered that the warp in this case
is not secured at two points between three stranded cords as is the
blanket warp.

When this is all ready the insertion of the weft begins. The reed-fork
is rarely needed and the batten used is much shorter than that
employed in making blankets. Fig. 57 represents a section of a belt.
It will be seen that the center is ornamented with peculiar raised
figures; these are made by inserting a slender stick into the warp, so
as to hold up certain of the threads while the weft is passed twice or
oftener underneath them. It is practically a variety of damask or
two-ply weaving; the figures on the opposite side of the belt being
different. There is a limited variety of these figures. I think I have
seen about a dozen different kinds. The experienced weaver is so well
acquainted with the "count" or arrangements of the raised threads
appropriate to each pattern that she goes on inserting and withdrawing
the slender stick referred to without a moment's hesitation, making
the web at the rate of 10 or 12 inches an hour. When the web has grown
to the point at which she cannot weave it further without bringing the
unfilled warp nearer to her, she is not obliged to resort to the
clumsy method used with blankets. She merely seizes the anterior layer
of the warp and pulls it down towards her; for the warp is not
attached to the beams, but is movable on them; in other words, while
still on the loom the belt is endless. When all the warp has been
filled except about one foot, the weaving is completed; for then the
unfilled warp is cut in the center and becomes the terminal fringes of
the now finished belt.

The only marked difference that I have observed between the mechanical
appliances of the Navajo weaver and those of her Pueblo neighbor is to
be seen in the belt loom. The Zuñi woman lays out her warp, not as a
continuous thread around two beams, but as several disunited threads.
She attaches one end of these to a fixed object, usually a rafter in
her dwelling, and the other to the belt she wears around her body. She
has a set of wooden healds by which she actuates the alternate threads
of the warp. Instead of using the slender stick of the Navajos to
elevate the threads of the warp in forming her figures, she lifts
these threads with her fingers. This is an easy matter with her
style of loom; but it would be a very difficult task with that of the
Navajos. Plate XXXVII represents a Zuñi woman weaving a belt. The
wooden healds are shown, and again, enlarged, in Fig. 58. The Zuñi
women weave all their long, narrow webs according to the same system;
but Mr. Bandelier has informed me that the Indians of the Pueblo of
Cochiti make the narrow garters and hair-bands after the manner of the
Zuñis, and the broad belts after the manner of the Navajos.


[Illustration: FIG. 59.--Girl weaving (from an Aztec picture).]

§ XI. I will close by inviting the reader to compare Plate XXXVI and
Fig. 59. The former shows a Navajo woman weaving a belt; the latter a
girl of ancient Mexico weaving a web of some other description. The
one is from a photograph, taken from life; the other I have copied
from Tylor's "Anthropology" (p. 248); but it appears earlier in the
copy of Codex Vaticana in Lord Kingsborough's "Antiquities of Mexico."
The way in which the warp is held down and made tense, by a rope or
band secured to the lower beam and sat upon by the weaver, is the same
in both cases. And it seems that the artist who drew the original rude
sketch, sought to represent the girl, not as working "the cross-thread
of the woof in and out on a stick," but as manipulating the reed-fork
with one hand and grasping the heald-rod and shed-rod in the other.

  NOTE.--The engravings were prepared while the author was in New
  Mexico and could not be submitted for his inspection until the
  paper was ready for the press. Some alterations were made from the
  original pictures. The following are the most important to be
  noted: In Plate XXXVIII the batten should appear held
  horizontally, not obliquely. Fig. 5 is reduced and cannot fairly
  delineate the gradations in color and regular sharp outlines of
  the finely-serrated figures. Fig. 53 does not convey the fact that
  the stripes are of uniform width and all the right-angles
  accurately made.

       *       *       *       *       *


  Blankets, Navajo 380-388

  Codex, The Vatican; Illustrating Mexican weaving 391
  Colors prepared for Navajo fabrics 376
  Cotton woven in Pueblos, Native 375

  Dyeing among Navajoes 377
  Dyes used by Navajoes 377

  Fabrics; Prehistoric textiles of the United States 393-425

  Healds of Navajo loom 378
    Mode of applying the 380, 384
    Zuñi 389

  Looms, Navajo 377

  Mathews, Dr. W., Navajo weavers 371-391

  Navajo blankets, Varieties of 385-388
    Mode of weaving 383
    diagonal 383
    diamond 384
    dyeing 377
    dyes 376
    healds in loom used 380
    looms 377
    position in weaving 380
    warp of blankets 378-379
    sash 388
    weavers 371-391
    wool 375

  Taylor, E.B., Anthropology cited 391

  Warp, Construction of Navajo blanket 378
  Warp, Construction of Navajo sash 388
  Weavers, Navajo, by Dr. Washington Mathews 371-391
  Weaving, Navajo position in 380
    wool by Navajoes 375

  Zuñi, healds 389

       *       *       *       *       *

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Navajo weavers - Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1881-'82, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1884, pages 371-392." ***

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