We can weave very traditional Rio Grande blankets by just weaving stripes. Which means that we’re just throwing a shuttle back and forth, and changing colors to make the stripes. Shuttle throwing is a chance to do some pretty physical stuff, and get a bit of a workout. I’m pretty ambivalent about workouts. I see the benefit of it, but and am only interested in such exertion for brief periods of time. This isn’t a design consideration per se, but it’s probably a big reason why I rarely weave pieces that are just striped. This is all an explanation as to why I like to take a break from shuttlework and weave some tapestry.
Weaving stripes doesn’t mean I don’t have to expend some energy on creative thought. I have to make decisions about how wide each stripe will be, and what color it is. I can decide on a number of stripes I want in a piece. Traditionally that number is an odd number, meaning that there is a stripe squarely at the center of the piece. I can decide to make stripes stand out on a background, which is what Rio Grande blankets traditionally do, or I can have stripes that are more unified in appearance, without having clear beginnings or ends. I can put tapestry between stripes, or inside of stripes. Essentially, from a design standpoint, Rio Grandes feel like they have rhythm to them. So they can march in an orderly fashion, or they can have some variation, or “syncopation” to make them more interesting to look at. Generally, the blankets that “march ” are easier to weave, and syncopation can be harder to deal with on the second half when you have to copy the first half. Predictability makes it easier to remember what comes next, so you can weave faster. I don’t really like marches a lot, and weaving repetitive stripes doesn’t appeal a lot to me either.
Let’s have a look at some pieces. Let’s start by looking at a few that have Moki-type colors, black, brown and white, and a few greys, so we can focus on some basics.
All of what we have visited here is just a few different approaches to striping. The possibilities for the tapestry design within the stripes is a whole different topic of discussion. Tapestry designs in Rio Grande stripes is related to, and almost certainly historically derivative of, the Saltillo design system. When we put tapestry into our Rio Grande stripes, we are bringing knowledge gained from our experience with Saltillo, Vallero, Chimayo, Modern, and even Pictorial weavings that we have done.