Blanket, Mexico, 1930-1939, wool.
April Hoh-Alfaro is completing her undergraduate degree in Textiles and Fashion Design in the School of Human Ecology; she has also worked as an intern in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.
I wanted to write about a Mexican textile because I am Mexican, and have grown up with textiles from Mexico most of my life. For as long as I can remember, my family always had textiles around the house that were brought back from trips to Mexico.
This textile is a Mexican blanket made of wool, from the 1930s. It is a rib weave, made of two strips of woven fabric stitched together. This specific blanket was interesting to me because the Mexican textiles I am familiar with are very colorful and bright. This blanket, however, uses neutral colors in mostly natural shades. From my observation, Mexican textiles tend to have a central motif, while this one is quite plain with a design around the border of a blank area in the center. Some contemporary Mexican textiles are made from acrylic and cotton fibers and synthetic dyes, which is what allows them to have so many different colors and such bright hues. Natural dyes, which were used more frequently in the past, cannot create as wide of a variety of colors as I am used to seeing. The technique, fiber content, and colors suggest that this textile may have been woven on a backstrap loom by someone from an indigenous group. Backstrap looms are not commonly used outside of descendants of indigenous groups and restrict the width than can be woven, which may be one reason why the two strips of fabric are stitched together.
In 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology launched a yearlong anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Over the past half century, the collection has grown from an original 4,000-piece gift to more than 13,000 objects that have inspired and informed thousands of students, researchers, historians, and textile aficionados. The 50-year celebration began on January 27, 2019, with the opening of new Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, a space dedicated to year-round displays of the collections. Activities continue into 2019 with a calendar of public exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and public workshops.