700 CE–1998
Chronology of Textiles and Fiber Art in New Mexico

Textiles in New Mexico have a   l o o o o o o n g   history.

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Pre-700 CE Basketmaker Period: The Anasazi employ plant and animal fiber to weave baskets and other utilitarian items.

700-1000 Evidence of the introduction of cotton fiber (to Anasazi land via trade routes through Mesoamerica. With the cotton fiber comes the technologically advanced back strap loom and the vertical frame loom.

1000-1400 Cotton cultivation extends along the Rio Grande Valley. Looms are found in excavated kivas of ancient pueblos. Weaving in the pueblos probably was done by men.

1300-1500 Athapaskan-speaking people from western Canada travel south, bringing basketry skills. Nomads who settled in the Chama River valley, the Navajo, call themselves Diné.

1540 The Spaniard Coronado arrives with churro sheep and the European treadle loom. The Spanish settlers are offered finely woven cotton cloth by Puebloans as tribute. Eventually, the Spanish implemented a system of encomienda (forced labor) and taxes, paid in the form of cloth.

Mid-1500s Diné (Navajo) adopt sheep herding through raid and barter. Some Spanish settlers set up treadle looms in their homes.

1638 Spanish settlers establish a textile workshop in Santa Fe using Spanish and native labor who weave on the treadle looms. Pueblo weaving production is modified to meet Spanish needs, this includes the production of the serape (wearable blanket).

1680 The Pueblo Revolt halts the textile industry.

Late 1600s Some Puebloans, fearing Spanish reprisal, take refuge with Navajo allies. Mass acculturation takes place during these decades of coexistence and intermarriage. It is believed that Pueblo weavers teach Navajo women (who cared for the sheep) to spin and weave. The Navajo adopt the portable, upright loom.

1694 The Spanish Reconquest of New Mexico revives the textile industry. The Spanish government adopts a more lenient policy toward the Pueblo people.

1790 Spanish weaving industry thrives in New Mexico. Large quantities of weavings are shipped to Saltillo, Mexico where textiles from New Mexico, Asia, Europe and Mexico are traded. The government of "New Spain" has concerns that the new territory is not producing textiles of high enough quality.

1807 Spanish government sends master weavers, Juan and Ignacio Bazán, to Santa Fe to teach technical skills and improve the industry. They bring the magnificent Saltillo serape designs.

1821 Mexican Independence and the opening of the Santa Fe Trail bring new materials and new people to the territory which expands the textile market.

1848 The US assumes political control over the territory.

1860s Navajo imprisoned at Bosque Redondo; the US government supplies them with Spanish woven blankets. After five years, the almost decimated population returns to the reservation and receives commercial yarns and dyes as part of annuity payments. The Spanish blankets have influenced Navajo designs, resulting in experimental pieces such as eye-dazzlers--distinctive textiles with complex serrated patterns and vibrating color schemes.

1879-80 With the arrival of railroads, machine-woven cloth, commercially produced yarns and synthetic dyes are available. The commercial need for Spanish woven textiles decreases. Tourists demand Navajo weavings that have the "Southwest look." Trading posts are established and Navajo weavers trade handwoven rugs for machine-woven blankets and other goods. Only small Spanish communities in the north, such as Chimayó continue the Rio Grande weaving tradition. Pueblo weavings are used only for ceremonial purposes.

1950-60s A handful of tapestry weavers appear in NM influenced by traditional Rio Grande and Navajo weaving. They employ contemporary designs in handspun yarns, dyed with natural and some synthetic dyes.

Early 1980s Ganados del Valle, near Los Ojos, NM, begins a cooperative project involving churro sheep raising, hand spinning and weaving. Weaver Rachel Brown of Taos introduces the spinning wheel to women in northern New Mexico who had traditionally used a hand spindle to spin yarn. Today, Tierra Wools in Los Ojos, a cooperative, self-supporting enterprise, conserves the best of the Hispanic weaving tradition.

1989 Los Colores Museum is established in the historic Alejandro Gonzales house in Corrales, New Mexico, near Albuquerque. Dedicated to the weaving traditions of New Mexico and Mexico, the Museum's collection of 200 Mexican serapes is probably the largest in the world. (The Museum closed its doors in early 1995)

1998 August marked the inauguration of the much-anticipated Neutrogena Collection Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe remote This collection consists of close to 3,000 textiles and objects collected by Mr Lloyd Cotsen for his own pleasure and that of the employees of the Neutrogena Corporation.

2002 The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art remote opened adjacent to the Museum of International Folk Art. It is the home of the Spanish Colonial Art Society's 3000-object collection of textiles, santos, furniture, metalwork and more.

Originally appeared in
The Wingspread Collector’s Calendar - Volume 3, Number 4

Related Pages

A Personal Look at Navajo Weavings article
Collecting Contemporary Navajo Weavings article
Indian Trade Blankets article
Side Trip: Tierra Wools article
Textiles as Art article
The Pomegranate in New Spain article

The Thread of New Mexico article
Vallero Star Blankets article
A good resource for collectors wishing to understand more about their textiles:
Material Insight:
Navajo Textile Certification and Analysis

Collector’s Resources


Wright's Indian Art | 505-266-0120

Santa Fe

Chimayo Trading & Mercantile | 505-351-4566
LewAllen Galleries | 505-988-3250
Marigold Arts | 505-982-4142
Museum of International Folk Art | 505-476-1145
Tansey Contemporary rem 652 Canyon Road | 505-995-8513
Seppanen & Daughters Fine Textiles, Inc | 505.424.7470


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