Española Valley Fiber Arts Center | 325 Paseo de Oñate | Española, NM 87532 | (505)747-3577 |

New Mexico Fiber Traditions

A major part of the mission of the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center is to preserve and promote the rich textile heritage of Northern New Mexico. We try to do this through teaching traditional techniques and hosting lectures, tours and demonstrations so that the public can learn about these traditions. We also try to make the materials needed to produce these traditional artforms available to local artists.

Here in Northern New Mexico, our heritage includes:

Rio Grande Weaving
In the late 1500’s, the Spanish brought sheep and the treadle loom to Northern New Mexico. Simple, striped wool blankets or frazadas were woven in colonial times and are still produced today. In the early 20th century Chimayó, a small village in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, became a center for the production of weavings. Pieces done with the distinctive design system developed in Chimayó came to be called Chimayó blankets. Other tapestry styles, such as the Rio Grande Saltillo and the Vallero, are also part of this tradition.

Pueblo Sash Weaving and Embroidery
Native Americans were the first fiber artists in northern New Mexico. Two of their traditions that have survived to this day are sash weaving and embroidery. Beautiful cotton rain sashes and colorful ceremonial sashes are woven on long, narrow belt looms. The unique symbolism of Pueblo embroidery is created in wool. The yarn is often tightly respun by the artist to give the stitches more definition.

Navajo Weaving
The beautiful weaving of the Diné, or Navajo people is known world wide. Navajo tribal lands extend well into New Mexico, and the traditional lifeways of sheep raising and weaving continue here. Characterized by various regional styles such as TwoGrey Hills, Ganado, Burnt Water and others, these intricate wool weavings are created on simple, upright looms.

In colonial times jerga was a twill woven wool yardage used for floor coverings, sacks for transporting goods, and coarse clothing. This cloth was woven on a four harness loom in either a herringbone check or a diamond twill called ojo de perdiz.

Colcha Embroidery
A unique style of embroidery evolved in colonial New Mexico. Colcha is done in handspun, hand-dyed wool on a plain-woven wool ground cloth called sabanilla. Sometimes the entire ground is covered with embroidery. The subject matter included ornate and fanciful flowers or birds. Colcha is used for decorative wall pieces and altar cloths as well as household items.

Natural Dyeing
Since the Native Americans first came to this land, New Mexicans have known how to use the native plants such as chamisa and cota to give color to their textiles. In addition, the colonial Spanish imported tropical indigo and brazilwood, while Anglo settlers brought Eastern dye plants such as madder root. Today, master dyers are passing these skills to the next generation.

For more information on these traditions or for classes where you can learn these methods
Contact us at:
Española Valley Fiber Arts Center
325 Paseo de Oñate
Española, NM 87532