Wall Hanging

About this object

History of use

Salish weaving is a very old tradition. Traditionally blankets of mountain goat wool were very valuable possessions, and were important wealth items. They were presented as gifts at ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, naming ceremonies, and memorials. They were also used to compensate shamans and other specialists for services. Wealthy families wrapped their dead in these blankets, as well. Women who wove the blankets generally had a spirit helper associated with weaving skills and would undergo ritual purification before weaving. After contact, mass produced blankets flooded onto the Northwest Coast and by the early 20th century production of traditional blankets had virtually ceased. In the 1960's, there was a revival of blanket weaving at Sardis, and more recently at Musqueam. The weavers studied old blankets in museums, and were also aided by elders. In 1971, the Salish Weavers Guild was formed.

Cultural context

wall hanging

Iconographic meaning

Design is of swallows, symbolic of swiftness.

Specific techniques

Traditional blankets were made from mountain goat hair, supplemented with dog hair, Indian hemp and stinging nettle fibres. Now domestic sheep wool is used. The wool is washed, rinsed, dried and carded, then each fleece is separately hand spun. The spindle whorls are made by men. The blankets are woven on an upright 2 bar loom without a shuttle, only the fingers are used. The wool is now dyed with both chemical dyes and natural dyes (from native plants). The patterns are created by using discontinuous wefts of various colours, creating lines, bands, or blocks of colour. Geometric patterns are common, such as triangles and diamonds.

Physical description

Rectangular wall hanging in plain weave with design in discontinuous weft. The weft is lightly spun and the warp is machine spun. The design consists of four horizontal abstract swallows with outstretched wings represented by chevron shapes with yellow tops and dark brown bottoms, and the swallow design is on an off-white ground. The wall hanging has an interlooped finish on one of the longer sides with overhand loops on the opposite side. Blue label attached at bottom corner, on reverse.