Janice Vanwinkle Interprets the Chief Blanket


Meet Janice Vanwinkle!

Janice Vanwinkle of Navajo, NM is one the daughters of master weaver, Nellie Joe.  Nellie taught Janice and her sisters Gloria Begay, Lillian Vanwinkle, and Alice Vanwinkle that weaving would provide them with a way of making a living.  Janice's beautiful Chief Blanket shows the design skills and technical excellence that hallmark the work of every single weaver in this family.  


Janice often uses the classic Chief Blanket as a basis for her designs. The palette and motifs allow her to anchor her work in traditional style and contemporary design geometry.  The basic design layout she uses here is what traders refer to as a nine-spot Third Phase Chief Blanket, meaning that there are nine full or partial diamonds (spots) in the design.  In contrast, First Phase Chief Blankets are arrangements of stripes.  Second Phase Chief Blankets have block designs.  Diamond motifs of all kinds hallmark the Third Phase.  No, there won't be a quiz on that later!


The Design Background


"Moqui" or "Moki" blue and black striping forms the background of Janice's blanket.  Navajo weavers enslaved in the Rio Grande Valley starting in the seventeenth century often used this striping combination.  By 1800 an estimated two-thirds of Navajo families lost members to enslavement.  Read more about this period, during which kidnapping was common, in an excellent article by Dr. Jennifer McLerran at the ATADA website.  You'll also learn about the restoration of an actual "slave blanket."   Want to learn more about slavery practices in the Southwest?  Read The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez.  


Janice used Brown Sheep's fine weight Top of the Lamb yarn for this rug.  Top of the Lamb is a sport weight yarn that Janice re-spun for a tighter twist that lends more definition to the design.  After completion, Janice carefully shaved any fuzz off the surface of the blanket and pressed the weaving for a smooth finish.  


Janice Vanwinkle Chief Blanket: Those Joins!


All of Nellie Joe's daughters use the interlock join extensively in their work.  Interlocks join the weft threads between the warps.  They produce the smoothest possible vertical lines.  In the hands of Nellie's daughters, they are razor-sharp and perfectly straight.  You can see this in the close-up above and the slideshow below.  Click on any of the pictures for a larger view.


Collectors seek out Janice's work. She is an active and prolific weaver, and her mother would be proud of her. Her Chief Blanket sold to a collecter in 2019, shortly after completion.  Let us know if you would like Janice to weave something for your collection!


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