Aesthetics & Weaving Techniques
The archaeological record provides ample evidence that these very early textiles were not merely utilitarian. Textiles were aesthetic items as well as practical ones. Even a casual study of the subject reveals a magnificent variety of design and patterning.
An elegant, lacy shirt found at Tonto Monument, near modern day Phoenix, dates to about 1200 to 1400 A.D.
A blanket fragment elaborately worked in a diamond twill tapestry in red, brown and white cotton, dated 1132-1135 A.D., was found near Grand Gulch in Southeastern Utah (detail right).
Early Weaving Techniques
These three examples exhibit a wide range of techniques. The shirt is an example of a non-loom technique, sprang, a finger-manipulated braiding technique. The quiver appears to have been woven on a stick loom, also known as a backstrap loom. The top, bottom, and side selvedge fragments of the blanket indicate that it was made very much in the same manner as historic textiles of the Pueblo people, that is, on an upright frame loom.
This type of loom produced rectangular pieces of cloth. Pre-contact breech cloths, mantas, shoulder blankets, kilts, sashes, shirts, and belts are all variations on this shape. Pueblo people used the cloth in the same shape as it was woven, without cutting and tailoring. Occasionally they would cut down a larger piece, such as a manta, to make a smaller item such as a kilt, hemming the raw edges. The rectangle continues to be the basic shape of contemporary ceremonial clothing, even though artists today use machine-woven cloth (see Yarns& Fabrics).
The blanket fragment is about the same length as the white cotton mantas made today. The designs on the quiver and the blanket were made using different colored yarns, much as contemporary designs are. All of these pieces were made of handspun cotton, all are elaborately decorated; but none of them are embroidered.
When did Southwestern peoples begin embroidering their textiles?
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