Fine Weaves: An 1880’s Germantown Blanket
This blanket dates to the 1880’s and was in an attic in St. John’s, Arizona. The three ply Germantown yarns used date it to the 1880’s and the blanket definitely shows it’s relationship to Rio Grande blankets as well as to Chief blankets. Germantown yarns were spun in Germantown, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia and were supplied to Navajo weavers at the Bosque Redondo and after the Navajos returned to their homehand in 1868.
The designs from this period are often quite irregular and idiosyncratic. I think that this probably an artifact of the difficult circumstances under which these pieces were woven as well as the novelty of the materials and patterns. These weavers had lived through total cultural upheaval; they were dealing with loss of family and friends, new foods, different clothing and a totally foreign economic system and they were working to adapt their weaving techniques to this new reality.
During this period, Navajo textiles were not used as rugs. This is a wearing blanket and the hand of the fabric reflects that. The blanket was photographed in December of 2006 at R.B. Burnham Trading Co., Sanders, AZ. Here’s a detail of the weaving.