N is for Navajo Rugs

The Navajo or Diné, Nation covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Diné Bikéyah (link), or Navajoland, is larger than 10 of the 50 states in America. The Diné in Arizona live north of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff.

Navajo weavers (link) have long been known for their beautiful hand-woven rugs.

Time Among the Navajo

Time Among the Navajo

According to Kathy Hooker in her book, Time Among the Navajo, it takes 2 months to make a single rug.  Many Navajo families raise their own sheep. After the weather warms in the Spring, the women and children will catch and shear a sheep by hand, using shears.  Then the wool must be cleaned by shaking and washing in a wash tub. The wool is rinsed in cold water several times, and then washed with soap in warm water heated in a kettle on the stove. After rinsing again, the wool is hung on a fence to dry.  Carding commences when the wool is dry, using wooden paddles with metal teeth to pull the wool and straighten the fibers. Typically it will take 2 weeks to card enough wool for a single rug. The batts of wool pulled from the teeth of the cards are spun into yarn using a twirling spindle. Another two weeks can be spent on spinning. Once spun into yarn, the yarn is washed again and is wrapped from one fence post to another to dry. The weaver will have planned her design which she holds in memory, and she knows what colors of yarn she needs to create that pattern.  The wool may be dyed from plant dyes or some store-bought colors, especially red.  For black and white, the natural wool is used.  Brown is created by boiling wild walnuts. Bark, roots and fruit of other plants are used to make additional colors. It will take 3 weeks of constant work to complete the tightly-woven rug.

The weaving loom is an upright design.

Navajo loom

Navajo loom, this is a miniature model

Ray Manley's Southwestern Indian Arts and Crafts photo shows weaving outdoors.

Ray Manley’s Southwestern Indian Arts and Crafts photo shows weaving outdoors.

No two Navajo rugs are alike.  The place of origin for a rug typically determines the type of design. The Navajo Reservation can be divided into 13 weaving regions. There are other distinctive designs as well. If you wish to purchase a Navajo rug, choose a reputable dealer or trading post so that you can enjoy an authentic Navajo rug.

Navajo Two Grey Hills Rug

Navajo Two Grey Hills Rug

Navajo Storm Pattern Rug

Navajo Storm Pattern Rug

Old rug from the 1930s

Old rug from the 1930s

Two similar contemporary design Navajo Rugs

Two similar contemporary design Navajo Rugs

 

 

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