—Many different materials have been used in the process of weaving. Milkweed fiber has been employed, as well as small quantities of the hair of dog, mountain sheep, and bear, and even that of human beings. Early in the Basketmaker era it was discovered that a fiber could
be produced from the yucca plant. This "yucca fiber, alone or in combination with cotton, was of great importance as a weaving material. The fur of beaver, otter, or rabbit was incorporated with yucca cord or twisted around it to make warmer or more ornamental fabrics." Even today the leaves of the yucca are softened by boiling with cedar ash, and when cool are drawn between the teeth in order to separate and cleanse the fibers. When soaking makes them pliable for use, they are rolled into rope or spun into a stiff thread for weaving. Prehistoric remains have yielded us examples of bags, sandals, sashes, crude kilts, and clouts thus fashioned. Cedar bark was shredded and plaited and doubtless served the same purpose. Rabbitskins were cut while green into thin strips, and after drying and curing were woven into blankets and mats.
Materials so produced, however, were rough and clumsy: it was the use of cotton which introduced cloth and garments of an advanced kind. "Throughout the first four Pueblo periods cotton was the staple product from which cloth fabrics were made." Cotton cloth has been unearthed in prehistoric ruins and burial places.[*] Cotton was grown wherever it could be cultivated, over almost the entire Southwest from the San Juan River on the north as far west as the Colorado and along the Rio Grande to the east. In 1540 Coronado and his followers recorded its growth among the Tewa and its use at Zuñi . By 1582 we learn from Espejo and Luzán that it was in use among the Hopi, where, if we may judge by the great number and the beauty of the blankets displayed to them, weaving from cotton was undoubtedly a craft of long standing and high development.
About this time, also, feather mantles were in use. They were made by tying long eagle feathers in horizontal rows to a cotton base, in the process of weaving (pl. 2). The downy feathers of the eagle, the duck, and the turkey were twisted into the yarn in the process of spinning and this resulted in a cloth with a furry surface.
The Spaniards introduced sheep among the Pueblos, and thenceforth throughout their historic period woolen yarn and cloth played an important part; for all practical purposes woolen cloth replaced the former skin garments and the feather and cotton textiles. Cotton, however, has always been retained as a special ceremonial material, and it was always an article of luxury because of the small quantity which could be gathered within a single year and the tedious labor required to prepare it for use. Although it is not now grown, raw cotton and cotton batting are still sold to the Indians to be spun by hand into thread and woven by hand into cloth for certain sacred garments.
We are mainly concerned with the two fabrics, cotton and wool, which make up the principal woven articles of clothing.
Formerly this cotton (technically known as Gossypium Hopi Lewton), grew wild, a small boll with a tawny fiber. Later it was cultivated. "The cotton seed was planted in holes about one and a half inches deep and covered with white sand. The garden patches were divided into sections about a foot and a half square by little dirt borders to make watering easier." The bolls were picked, broken open, and the fiber sorted, cleaned, and straightened by hand. This cotton was a distinct species with plants presenting ripened bolls within eighty-four days from the time the seeds were planted.
Wool, after it was cut from the sheep, went through the same hand process of sorting, cleaning, and straightening, although it was often washed with suds made from the yucca root to remove all dirt and animal grease. With the coming of civilization the commercial wool card, a combing and straightening instrument, was introduced. This prepared the fibers of both cotton and wool for spinning.