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Style: Transitional Rugs 1870-1900

Time changes life for everyone, and that’s especially true for the Navajo. During the last part of 19th century, trading posts opened up and traditional life for the Navajo began to evolve rapidly; especially when it came to Navajo weavers. It was with the changes to wool, newly available dyes, and the transition from wearing blankets to floor rugs; that gave way to this “transitional” period and thus, Transitional Rugs were born.


History of Transitional Rugs and Blankets
It began in the late 1870s that “transitional”, also referred as “late classic,” began to give way to the transitional blanket. And within a decade, the Transitional Rug began to copy those elements and share in their colors and designs. Larger and heavier than their counterparts, bordered Transitional Rug weavings began to evolve and the old classic banded-style of wearing blankets were nearly phased out altogether by the early 1900s.


Powered by Trade Potential
One of the major weaving additions to these transitional pieces is the distinctive border design for floor rugs that didn’t accompany earlier weavings. This style caught on due to their popularity (and trading potential), which lead to it being implemented in many trading regions of the Navajo reservation. Traders identified the demand for the bordered floor rugs in the eastern markets of the United States.


Overcoming Time, Wool and Commerce
One of the biggest difficulties found in making these transitional rugs was how often the wool changed from one decade to the next. In 1910, for example, Rambouillet sheep supplied short, oily wool which made hand washing and dying very time consuming and difficult. 


By the 1930s, in an effort to discourage the use of cotton warp and Germantown yarns the United Indian Traders Association wrote,  “... the same shall be hand-washed, hand-carded and hand-dyed, the warp shall be all wool and hand-spun, the wool shall be all wool and hand-spun and the blanket shall be hand-woven by an Indian.”


Transitional rugs, though not as distinct in style or flair as their counterparts, played a major milestone in Navajo weaving styles. 


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