Germantown Blankets and Navajo Eyedazzlers

Germantown Blankets and Navajo Eyedazzlers

Germantown blankets were Navajo textiles woven from 1864 to 1910, with the bulk of the weavings made from 1885-90. The name of these blankets comes from the yarn used - commercially-made yarn that came from wool mills in the region of Germantown, Pennsylvania. This yarn was shipped to the Navajo reservation, where the weavers would buy or barter for it at their closest trading post. Germantown yarns gave the weavers a magnificent array of colors to use that they hadn’t had before: bright pinks and greens, dark greens, reds, yellows, and purples.

Having access to these yarns sparked a creative outburst in the Navajo weaving community of the period and resulted in gorgeous textiles that are highly prized by modern audiences. Note that Germantown blankets preceded the making of Navajo rugs and were woven almost exclusively for the tourist trade. These vintage Navajo blankets are too delicate to put on the floor; instead, these textiles were draped on beds, worn, or hung on walls. Early Germantown weavings were frequently woven with a cotton warp, adding to their fragility (though this practice was soon discouraged by traders, who encouraged weavers to use wool warps for added strength).

The key to identifying a Germantown blanket is recognizing the yarn. Germantown yarn is plied, meaning there are multiple strands of yarn twisted together. Early Germantown yarn (circa 1868) was three-ply. By the early 1870s, four-ply yarn became the standard, producing a fine, even weave./

Bright colors are also characteristic of Germantown blankets - although as aniline dyes became more accessible, weavers would also dye their homespun yarn with these vivid hues, so color alone is not an indicator.

A Navajo Eye Dazzler (sometimes written as one word, “eyedazzler”) is a unique type of Navajo weaving made between 1880 and 1910. These weavings are characterized by vibrant, complex designs woven in many colors. These weavings are masterful examples of the weavers’ creativity, sparked by access to the Germantown yarns in an array of brilliant colors.

There are a couple of caveats if you are looking at a vibrant, Navajo weaving and wondering if it is an eye dazzler.

  1. An eyedazzler does not have to be woven of Germantown yarn. A few weavers of the era dyed their homespun yarn with aniline dyes and recreated the look of Germantown eyedazzlers with their own handspun yarn. Here is an example:
    Navajo Eyedazzler - homespun wool
  2. Germantown blankets (and therefore Germantown eyedazzlers) were only woven during a brief period, largely ending at the turn of the last century. After this period, Navajo weavers wove rugs exclusively - even those that are “eye-dazzling” to look at, such as the Red Mesa rug below, are not considered to be true eye dazzlers.
    Navajo Red Mesa

 

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Learn about authentic Navajo Germantown blankets and Germantown Eyedazzlers with these videos by Medicine Man Gallery CEO, Dr. J. Mark Sublette.


 

 

Read about vintage Navajo Germantown blankets and Eyedazzler weavings

Navajo Germantown Blanket

Under the Rainbow: Navajo Germantown Weavings by Mark Sublette from Native American Art magazine

Medicine Man Gallery CEO, Dr. J. Mark Sublette, discusses the history and characteristics of Navajo Germantown blankets and provides numerous visual examples of the artform in this 2016 article. Read more...

Navajo Germantown Blankets at Medicine Man Gallery

Germantown Weavings from Navajo Rugs-Part 1, Western Art Collector magazine

In this article, Dr. J. Mark Sublette of Medicine Man Gallery discusses an overview of early Navajo weaving, including providing information about vintage Navajo Germantown weavings and the Hispanic Saltillo serape-inspired origin of the Eyedazzler blanket. Read more...

 


Medicine Man Gallery, located in the Catalina foothills of Tucson, Arizona, has one of the largest collections of antique Navajo textiles in the United States, including Germantown blankets and vintage Navajo eye dazzler weavings. Every Navajo blanket and rug in the gallery has been authenticated by Dr. J. Mark Sublette, a leading expert on Navajo weavings.

Site Content copyright 1996-2021. Permission to reproduce photos and paintings in this online catalog secured by J. Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Inc. All rights reserved. No portion of this online catalog may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written or email permission from J. Mark Sublette, Medicine Man Gallery, Inc.