The Navajo began weaving about 300 years ago, taught by Spider Woman, with tools of sunshine, lightening and rain. Navajo textiles, strongly symmetrical in their design and exact in their execution, reflect the Diné (the Navajo name for "the People") concept of harmony, which brings with it beauty and a sense of well-being.
The earliest Navajo textiles are known only through accounts of the Spanish. They mention banded brown and blue dresses, like the two-piece dress in the Durango Collection®. This dress dates to 1750 and is the earliest intact Navajo dress known.
Navajo weaving has been classified by scholars and aficionados into three periods. These are:
-The Classic Period, from 1700-1875, where the Navajo primarily produced clothing for their own use,
-The Transitional Period, from 1875-1900, when after the Navajo's forced exile at Bosque Redondo they found their herds scattered and resources depleted, and began experimenting with new materials and designs, and
-The Rug Period through contemporary times, where Navajo weaving has reached a worldwide market.
First Phase Chief's Blanket
The first phase chief's blanket, a Navajo wearing blanket with wide alternating brown and white stripes, is best known for its simple, striking design, the quality of the wool, which is from "old style" churro sheep, and the fineness of the weave. These blankets, which date from 1800 to the early 1860's, have become the basis on which historic Navajo blankets are evaluated by today's art market.
The term "Ute style blanket" has often been applied to this blanket because it was a frequent trade item to the Utes. The term "chief" is used because important people wore this type of blanket. While wearing blankets with wide alternating white and brown stripes are generally considered to designate a man's wearing blanket, many historical photos show women wearing this type of blanket.