Jerga

Jerga

A part of the Rio Grande weaving tradition that goes back to Spanish Colonial times is called jerga. Historically, jerga was woven as a utilitarian fabric, used as a tarp, or carrier, or for wrapping things up. It was strictly a wool textile. Someone with wealth might demonstrate that by putting jerga down as a floor covering. It was woven in long strips and cut and seamed to make a piece of fabric of the desired size. And many of the jergas that survived to the present are very large. The Spanish Colonial jergas were woven on simple four harness looms made of raw lumber like these.

 Old Spanish Loom

Two Rio Grande looms, a four harness loom on the left and a two harness loom on the right.
The Spanish Colonial jerga was woven on four-harness looms using a straight twill, or, less commonly, as a diamond twill. Moving into more modern times, the jerga slowly evolved into a uniquely New Mexican variety of rag rugs.
diamond twill detail
Diamond twill jerga detail
straight twilll
Straight twill jerga detail

Originally, jergas were probably pretty colorless, but many of the examples that survive have quite lively colors.

 Jerga with three widths
Three panel jerga with undyed yarns.

Moving into more modern times, the jerga slowly evolved into a uniquely New Mexican variety of rag rugs.

Jerga with rag weft.
Jerga with rag weft.
rag rug jerga
More jerga with rag weft.

During the twentieth century jerga became something very different than what it had been in Spanish Colonial times.  It became a two harness, weft-faced rag rug.  The rags were cut up to make the weft, and, at least in our little part of the tradition, was spun on a malacate (spindle) to make it strong.  And, as a weft-faced weave, it would protect the warp, the structural part of the fabric.  I'm not aware of other rag rug traditions that spin the rags, or make a weft-faced rag rug, although it is likely to be done elsewhere too.  But most rag rugs, including the ones we sell here, are more like a balanced weave, with warp threads exposed on the surface.

TC28
Weft-faced rag rug with spun rags used for weft.