Navajo Transitional Blankets

Navajo Transitional Blankets

Navajo Transitional blankets (also frequently called Navajo Transitional rugs) were a specific type of textile created by Navajo weavers from about 1885 to 1910. In terms of construction, you can think of these Transitional weavings as being “in between” a rug and a blanket: They are thicker and heavier than a Navajo wearing blanket yet softer and less rugged than a Navajo rug. The reason for this midway state is that Transitionals were woven during the time that the pressures of a changing consumer market forced Navajo weavers to stop making blankets for wearing and instead weave floor rugs to sell to tourists and buyers back east.

The change from weaving blankets to rugs did not occur overnight, taking a good 15 years to evolve. During this transitional time, weavers exhibited a wide range of innovative designs and color choices, bolstered both by the freedom of not needing to make the same kind of blankets that had been woven for generations and also having increased access (through the trading posts) to aniline synthetic dyes.

Navajo Transitional blankets are usually made with a soft, handspun churro yarn. This yarn has long, silky fibers that are pleasing to the touch. Occasionally, you will also encounter the inclusion of raveled commercial yarns (commercial fabrics that were unraveled, spun, and woven) in addition to the churro wool. Germantown weavings were also made during this time period, though they are not considered to be Transitional blankets as they have their own unique place in Navajo weaving history.

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Would you like to learn more about authentic Navajo Transitional blankets? Check out these instructional videos by Native American textile expert, Dr. J. Mark Sublette.


Read more about authentic Navajo Transitional blankets in these articles from Medicine Man Gallery

Navajo  Transitional Blankets at Medicine Man Gallery

Navajo Transitional Weavings: A Time of Change

In this article, originally published in Native American Art magazine, Dr. J. Mark Sublette offers a history of Navajo Transitional blankets, an oft-underappreciated type of Navajo weaving. In addition to history, Sublette also discusses appealing and innovative design features found these textiles. Read more...

Navajo Transitional blankets and rugs

Collecting Navajo Rugs from Native American Art magazine, April 2017

Dr. J. Mark Sublette discusses the range of diverse Navajo weavings, including Transitional blankets, their history, and the kind of wool typically used. Read more...


Dr. J. Mark Sublette, proprietor of Tucson’s Medicine Man Gallery, is a renowned authority on antique Navajo blankets and rugs. Medicine Man Gallery has one of the largest collections of authentic Navajo weavings, including Navajo Transitional blankets.

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