Navajo blankets are carefully constructed textiles that embody a cultural appreciation for craftsmanship, innovation and individuality. Weaving is an important aspect of Navajo or Diné society and spirituality. Communities banded together to raise sheep and women took to the forefront as weavers. In Navajo legend, Spider-Man taught the Navajo how to create the loom out of their surroundings, and Spider-Woman (the first to weave the web of the universe) taught them the beauty of weaving. Under this guidance, Navajo weavings are remarkably created without preliminary sketches or outlines, each design is extremely personal to the creator.
The main distinctions of Navajo blankets are Serapes (shoulder blankets), Saddle blankets and Chief’s blankets. Chief’s blankets are the finest and most expensive Navajo textiles. Although the Navajo do not have chief distinctions in their culture, these blankets were named because only someone wealthy such as a chief could afford one. Chief’s blankets were highly prized and often traded with settlers or other tribes where they were to be used in ceremonies. When worn in the traditional manner – draped over the back- Serape and Chief’s blankets emphasize the strength of the wearer, presenting them as an idealized being. Styles and patterns in Navajo weaving evolved over time as they were always dependent on the resources available. Early Navajo blankets were limited to the natural colour palette of the wool and used more simplistic banded patterns. As synthetic dyes were invented and trade with settlers became more common, Navajo blankets began demonstrating their more iconic colours and bold graphic patterns. Today Navajo blankets are widely recognized for beauty, quality and resilience.
Appropriation and Influence
ASOS Aztec & Navajo Line, 2012
Urban Outfitters Navajo Line, 2011
Siki Im Fall/Winter, 2011
Kahlenberg, Mary. “The Navajo Blanket.” Craft Horizons (Archive: 1941-1978), 32, no. 3 (1972): 30-39.
Parezo, Nancy J. “The Southwest.” In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: The United States and Canada, edited by Phyllis G. Tortora, 424–436. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010.
Whitaker, Kathleen. “Art from the Navajo Loom: The William Randolph Hearst Collection.” African Arts 22, no. 2 (1989): 98-99.