Tradition & Trade
The Navajo, who call themselves Diné, meaning “The People”, honor Spider Woman and Man, the holy people who first brought weaving knowledge to them. Their weaving traditions developed in the U.S. Southwest after the Athabascan speakers arrived sometime around 1400 CE (CE=AD), and emerged as a distinctive Navajo activity by 1650. Generations of weavers used handmade tools and local materials to clothe their families with blankets in traditional and innovative patterns.
Navajo weaving was not isolated. It shared many traits—upright loom, specific techniques, and early blanket styles—with weaving by the Puebloan peoples who lived in neighboring villages. During the 1600s, contacts with Spaniards and Mexicans introduced sheep’s wool and indigo dye. By the early 1700s, Navajos actively traded their blankets to other Indian tribes, and received praise for their tight weaving and bold patterns.
Woman’s two-piece dress
Tapestry weave, interlocked joins
1.2 x 0.78 m; Tassels 0.090 m
30.709 x 47.244 in.; Tassels 3.543 in.
Catalog No. E-2856
ASM purchase from E. E. Ellwood, 1955
“If you tell people these were dresses, they ask, ‘How did you wear those things?’ The old dresses were open on the side and fastened where it is now frayed. It’s hard to visualize what these dresses looked like if they’re just hung up on the wall.” —Barbara Ornelas
“You see simple stepped diamonds everywhere on dresses; that’s what many dresses look like. This, however, has a distinct pattern.” —Sierra Ornelas
|Weft||Wool||Raveled||1||Z||--||Red||C Coch 95+Lac 5, Tested 2004||--|
|Weft||Wool||Raveled||2||S||--||Red--Solid/Speckled||A, B Lac, Tested, 2004||71|
|Weft||Wool||Handspun||--||Z||--||Dk Brown-Black||None Blk+Native||61|