Time Period: late 20th century

Category: clothing

Accession 2009.01.13

Donor: Margaret T. Ordonez


The image above is of a twentieth-century Chimayo Vest. This vest is woven in a tapestry-weave of 100% wool. The vest is primarily green with black, white, burgundy, and turquoise diamonds placed on the two front panels and on the center of the back panel. Four leather buttons are used to close the front. The front side panels are pointed at the hem and the interior seams of the entire item are lined with a dark blush silk. The donor files tell us that the woven label at the neck back includes a logo that is an original eagle design. This label reads "Ortega's / 100% ALL WOOL / HAND WOVEN / CHIMAYO, N.M." From the top seam to the bottom point on the front panel, the vest measures 20 inches (50.8 cms) and from one side seam to the other the vest measures 12 inches (30.5 cms) making this article of clothing an extra small, as told by the label.


The vest pictured above, known as a Chimayo vest, was woven in Chimayo, New Mexico in a shop now know as Ortega's Weaving Shop. The weaving technique used to create this vest is a type of Hispanic weaving. Hispanic weaving began in the late 16th century when settlers brought European weaving technology with them and constructed floor looms using local material. This style was influenced by Spain and Moorish weavings. The exact style of the vest is a style known as the "Chimayo Weaving Style." This specific Hispanic weaving style began in the late 19th century in the town in New Mexico known as Chimayo.[1]

Chimayo was established in 1696 as one of several communities occupied by the Spaniards following the reconquest. The reconquest ended when Diego De Vargas and his troops were able to persuade the Pueblos to give the land back to the Spanish. Following this peace making event in Sante Fe is when Spanish communities, like Chimayo, began to develop and grow.[2] Weaving soon became one of the areas major exports; and at the turn of the century, the type of weaving changed and developed to meet and capitalize on tourist demands for souvenirs.[3] In the year 1790, the town census showed that about 100 people listed their occupation as a weaver, and this number continued to grow. In 1878, the railroad was introduced allowing metal to be transported to this area. Weavers used this metal to improve upon their looms by taking out their hand-carved reeds and replacing them with more stable, finer, and wider metal reeds. With the new railroad also came an increase in tourists and the introduction of saw mills to the area. With this introduction came newer, smaller, and more manageable looms. The new looms allowed more women to begin weaving. Originally, women processed the wool and men wove. Weaving is a competitive family business, and as tourism in New Mexico grew, so did the art of weaving. Travelers see the woven objects as visual representations of the Southwest and as a representation of a treasured visit to a unique physical environment. But to the citizens of Chimayo who create the items, they represent their Hispanic culture, their individuality, family heritage, ethnicity, and also self reliance, pride, self sufficiency, versatility and skill. [4]

The classic Chimayo design format includes a band of variegated striping at each end with a central design element. These central designs of Chimayo weavings are usually a complex concentric diamond, lozenge, or scalloped circle. The classic design as a whole is seen on larger pieces such as blankets or serapes but the central design item can been seen on smaller items that weaving shops create such as the vest. This vest specifically has a concentric diamond as its central design element. The shops' weavings are usually made with commercial wool warp and weft in deeply saturated colors. The three most well known family shops known for Chimayo Weavings are the Ortega's, the Trujillos, and the Martinezes. These three Hispanic families in New Mexico represent commercialism, innovation, and inter-generational continuity. Weaving in these families has spanned generations, and the Ortega family has the oldest and largest weaving operation in New Mexico. [5]

The Ortega family is the family who made the Chimayo vest pictured above. Gabriel Ortega was the member of this family who started the family business. He came to New Mexico in the early 1700s. The settlers of New Mexico found it to be a difficult environment to survive in and soon developed the skill to weave. The Ortega family also farmed to survive. They still currently reside in Chimayo, New Mexico. Gabriel's great great great grandson Nicacio opened a general store and began selling their weavings in the early 1900s. The demand for their weaving increased and the business continued to grow. After WWII, the family business transformed from a general store to what is now known as Ortega's Weaving Shop . This is when the family began to make more out of their tapestries such as blankets, coats, purses, pot holders, and the vests like the one we see above.[6]


Madeline Soriano, TMD 224H S15

Last updated:

April 30, 2015

Other Images:

  1. ^ Baizerman, Suzanne. 1988. "Textiles as Primary Sources in the Study of 'Boundary Art': Hispanic Textiles of Northern New Mexico." Textile Society of America: 105-6
  2. ^ Torrez, Robert J. 2011."A Cuarto Centennial History of New Mexico: Chapter Three The Reconquista of New Mexico."
  3. ^ Lucero, Helen. "Commerce, Innovation, and Tradition: Three Families of Hispanic Weavers" in Nuevomexicano Cultural Legacy: Forms Agencies, and Discourse edited by Francisco A. Lomeli, Victor A. Sorell, and Genaro M. Padilla, 246-47. University of New Mexico Press, 2002.
  4. ^ Baizerman, Suzanne and Helen R. Lucero, Chimayo Weaving: The Transformation of a Tradition (University of New Mexico Press, 1999)
  5. ^ Lucero, Helen. 1994. "Hispanic Weavers of Northern New Mexico: Three Families." Nuevomexicano Cultural Legacy: Forms, Agencies, and Discourse. Accessed March 20, 2015. doi: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/20554
  6. ^ "The Tradition of Gabriel Ortega," Ortega's Weaving Shop, accessed March 20, 2015, http://ortegasweaving.com/history.php