Although today "Rio Grande" encompasses the entire weaving tradition of Hispanic New Mexico, we use it to describe a weft-faced, striped, blanket, longer than it is wide, sometimes incorporating elements drawn from the Saltillo style within its stripes.
This style is really the root of the tradition. It was probably woven by the Spanish from their earliest years here in New Mexico, which was 400 years ago. Over the years it grew in importance as a trade item, with Rio Grande blankets becoming an important export item for the Spanish colony, and later for the Mexican region and still later when New Mexico was an American territory.
We can group Rio Grande style blankets in several different sub-types.
There are a group of blankets we call "Fresada del Campo", which, roughly translated, are camp blankets. We'd describe them as being simple blankets, with the background color being predominant.
Wedding blankets are another variation with very simple stripes. And they are the only Rio Grande fresadas that have any symbolism, at least that we are aware of. These are traditional gifts given to a newly married couple. So the two outer sets of stripes are about the bride and groom's families of origin and the center strips are about the newly formed family
Probably the most common form for Rio Grande blankets is this one, with five, seven, or nine stripes. Only these stripes are often complex, and one stripe can be hard to delineate from another.
The next sub-group of Rio Grande fresadas that we'll identify here is the moki. Mokis are banded a bit differently than other Rio Grandes. They have very repetitive two-color banding, that is interrupted by a third color. The banding colors that are traditional for Mokis are indigo-dyed blue and an undyed brown, interrupted by white. These were the colors most available in the early years of the tradition.
We know that the purely striped fresadas were much more common than weavings that incorporated tapestry within the stripes. These blankets were woven for local use and also for export. We have records showing that tens of thousands of blankets at a time left New Mexico on trade routes.