Salish Blanket, probably 19th century

CONSTRUCTION:  Heavy plied yarn which includes mountain goat and wooly dog hair (analyzed by the Smithsonian Institute)  in broken twill weave.  Decorative stripes of red and navy made from cut strips of woven wool fabric, and brown stripe of velveteen.   Weft fringe at one side.

DIMENSIONS:  approximately L 112” x W 64” including fringe

Dog hair was used for weaving by many American First Nations Peoples: in Mexico, South America, the US South West and the Pacific North West.  Undoubtedly many different breeds were used for this purpose.  The Coastal Salish had their own particular breed of wool (aka woolie) dog.  They were small to medium dogs, with short fluffy hair.  They were kept separate from camp dog mutts  in pens, or on islands, and were fed salmon.

Woolie dog hair was very labor intensive and was generally mixed with other fibers.  In the case of the North Vancouver Museum and Archives blanket, the predominant fiber is mountain goat.

Salish blankets were important items of wealth; one Salish woman is recorded as saying that only poor people used commercially made blankets.  Blankets such as this one, with positively identified wool dog hair are quite rare – it is only recently that SEM standard samples have been created, using Mutton, a  wool dog pelt owned by the Smithsonian, as the standard source.

CONDITION: Overall discoloration and surface dirt.  There are four major holes/tears in the body of the blanket, the largest of which is about 24”x18”.  At present the textile is rolled, but cannot be easily handled without increasing damage.

TREATMENT: No attempt was made to vacuum or wet clean the blanket to avoid removing clay particles (used by the Salish peoples for cleaning).

The major holes were blocked and rewoven, using neutral toned single ply sheep wool for areas where the original yarn was missing.  Replacement yarn was tied to original filaments with cotton thread. The original broken twill pattern was followed as possible.

After treatment, the textile was framed. A shaped sink mount was made to accommodate 3D elements using Coroplast, Ethafoam and needlepunched polyester padding, covered with a washed, neutral colored show fabric. The blanket was nestled in the mount, covered with acrylic sheet (Plexi), and framed. This system is called a Pressure Mount, and has been used by textile conservators for the past 30 plus years as a means of displaying fragile and other textiles.

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