WITH EVERY STITCH AND EVERY PATTERN, Jennifer Berg (Diné) weaves a little piece of Navajo culture into her work. “I want to tell the stories of my people,” she says. “I make wearable artwork that is a representation of my heritage so that it doesn’t disappear.”

An Albuquerque stay-at-home mom to three-year-old Emily and six-year-old Allister, Berg started knitting to relieve stress while she was a student at the University of New Mexico. She made hats for friends and eventually began highlighting her creations on Instagram, where she’s known as the Native Knitter. “The knitting community is a very big community,” she says. “But there wasn’t authentic representation of Native designs. Everything I saw was very appropriated and called something like ‘Aztec.’ ”

In 2018, with a desire to create truly Indigenous designs, Berg made a black-and-white Eye Catcher hat inspired by the eye-dazzler motif in Diné saddle blankets. “It plays with your eyes when you look at it,” she says. “The repetitive look of the shapes pulls your eyes in different ways.”

Her pattern holds true to the utilitarian purpose of saddle blankets as well. “I wanted to make something with that design that would be used,” says Berg, who grew up in Houck, Arizona. “Something you’re always grabbing.”

The Eye Catcher caught the attention of Making; the publication for knitters, sewers, and other makers wanted to develop and sell the pattern. “It really took off from there,” says Berg, who moved from hats and accessories to sweaters, which are her favorite to design. “It’s more of a challenge,” she says.

Jennifer Berg weaves Navajo culture into her work. Photograph courtesy of Jennifer Berg.

Now Berg has more than 95,000 followers on Instagram (@native.knitter) and travels to places such as Taos; Sedona, Arizona; and Madrid, Spain, giving knitting demonstrations and talking about her creative practice and Diné culture. “For so many years, we were forgotten people,” she says. “I want to make sure we stay relevant in the world.”

She points to her Sheep Camp sweater, which pays homage to her shimásání (grandmother). “A sheep camp is where the shepherd stays to protect the sheep,” she says. Berg channels her grandmother’s wisdom—gleaned from long, slow days in the field—into her work with an arrow image that draws inward and at the same time pulls outward.

“The sweater represents breathing in and out and taking things slow,” she says. “It’s a part of Navajo culture to make sure you’re living your life with each other. I like that slow pace about my culture, and I wanted to represent this lesson my grandma taught me.”

Berg is grateful for what knitting has brought her. “When I am designing, I am thinking about how I can help others connect to my people,” she says. “It’s given me a platform to talk about Native Americans and Diné and to remind people that these designs mean something and there are stories behind them.”

Read more: In a northern New Mexico village steeped in history, Los Maestros del Norte immerses the next generation in Spanish colonial arts and crafts.