Object Timeline


  • Work on this object began.


  • Work on this object ended.



  • You found it!

Double Saddle Blanket, early 20th century

This is a Double saddle blanket. It is dated early 20th century and we acquired it in 2017. Its medium is hand-spun wool and its technique is tapestry and twill weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Navajo weavers are widely admired for their dramatic shoulder blankets – mantle-like garments worn draped over the shoulders and typically featuring bold abstract geometric patterning. By the 1890s, these blankets were being created more often for trade rather than family use, and began to transition from garments to rugs, which were popular trade and tourism items. Saddle blankets -- placed under the saddle to protect the horse from chafing and pressure from the saddle -- continued to be used by the Navajo into the 20th century, long after handwoven garments became impractical. At the same, they were a popular barter item with Pueblo and Apache groups, as well as for non-native ranchers.
Navajo weavers use hand-spun wool, worked in tapestry technique. Rather than working across the full width of the cloth, the weaver completes one section before moving to an adjacent area. The edge of each working area is slanted, and they are connected by small amounts of yarn wound together. These joins are called “lazy lines”; by adding flexibility to the fabric, they also increase its durability.
A number of mistakes suggest that a second weaver participated in making this blanket; perhaps a younger relative took a turn at the loom. Changes in weave structure and tension resulted in an indentation in the sides, areas of exposed warp in the gray and loose weaving in the red stripe.
After a period in the 1870s and 80s of exuberant use of synthetically dyed yarns, traders in the early 20th century pushed aggressively for a return to natural colors, plus some red. One retailer wrote in 1905, “We can use some good native wool blankets of good weaves in grey, white and black with a little red. A little red in the blankets helps to sell them; the plain greys do not sell with us so fast.”[i] This example features several shades of natural, undyed gray, which break up the background subtly, with bold horizontal bands of red.

This object was donated by Gail Martin. It is credited Gift of Gail Martin.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 119.4 × 69.9 cm (47 × 27 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Double Saddle Blanket, early 20th century; hand-spun wool; H x W: 119.4 × 69.9 cm (47 × 27 1/2 in.); Gift of Gail Martin; 2017-6-1

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

For higher resolution or commercial use contact ArtResource.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1108826347/ |title=Double Saddle Blanket, early 20th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 June 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>