Native American Navajo rugs were influenced by the Pueblo Indians and by the Spanish explorers.
Navajo rugs are handwoven on an upright loom. The wool is hand spun and dyed using natural dyestuffs.
Black or grey came from the natural colours of the sheep. Yellow was made from turnip roots or sage. Senna gave a rust colour and walnut was used for brown.
Navajo rugs are hand manipulated. Each thread is woven by passing it by hand over and under the warp threads. A few of the techniques, that are also common to other tapestries are described.
In the Slit technique, each colour is woven back and forth, separately. This is generally used in small sections as a slit is created in the rug.
Two colours can also meet by wrapping around the same warp thread. The Warp Interlock creates a jagged edge and is used in diagonal joins.
In the Weft Interlock, the two adjoining colours wrap around each other between two warp threads. It is used on long vertical joins.
Diagonal (or other) shapes are woven using a combination of interlocking techniques. The steepness of the diagonal determines when to change to the next colour.
D Begay – Weaver
D. Y. Begay described the process of weaving a Navajo rug. How the sheep are shorn, the wool is carded and spun on a Navajo spindle and dyed using natural dyes such as mistletoe fungus found on juniper trees, yellow from Chamizo stems and flowers, and rose colours from the prickly pear cactus fruit. She also uses black beans, walnuts, cedar bark, blood roots, onion skins and cochineal for her rich palette of colours.
Navajo Weaving Books
How to Weave a Navajo Rug and Other Lessons from Spider Woman
Patterns and sources of Navajo weaving
Weaving a World: Textiles and the Navajo Way of Seeing: Textiles and the Navajo Way of Seeing
Weaving a Navajo Blanket
Spider Woman’s Children: Navajo Weavers Today