Historic Navajo Weaving’s from an estate mostly collected in the 1940-50’s.
Navajo rugs and blankets are textiles produced by Navajo people of the Four Corners area of the United States. Navajo textiles are highly regarded and have been sought after as trade items for over 150 years. Commercial production of hand-woven blankets and rugs has been an important element of the Navajo economy. As one expert expresses it, “Classic Navajo serapes at their finest equal the delicacy and sophistication of any pre-mechanical loom-woven textile in the world.”
Navajo textiles were originally utilitarian blankets for use as cloaks, dresses, saddle blankets, and similar purposes. Toward the end of the 19th century, weavers began to make rugs for tourism and export. Typical Navajo textiles have strong geometric patterns. They are a flat tapestry-woven textile produced in a fashion similar to kilims of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, but with some notable differences. In Navajo weaving, the slit weave technique common in kilims is not used, and the warp is one continuous length of yarn, not extending beyond the weaving as fringe. Traders from the late 19th and early 20th century encouraged adoption of some kilim motifs into Navajo designs.
Traditional Navajo weaving used upright looms with no moving parts. Support poles were traditionally constructed of wood; steel pipe is more common today. The artisan sits on the floor during weaving and wraps the finished portion of fabric underneath the loom as it grows. The average weaver takes anywhere from 2 months to many years to finish a single rug. The size greatly determines the amount of time spent weaving a rug. The ratio of weft towarp threads had a fine count before the Bosque Redondo internment and declined in the following decades, then rose somewhat to a mid-range ratio of five to one for the period 1920-1940. 19th-century warps were colored hand spun wool or cotton string, then switched to white hand spun wool in the early decades of the 20th century. Weaving plays a role in the creation myth of Navajo cosmology, which articulates social relationships and continues to play a role in Navajo culture. According to one aspect of this tradition, a spiritual being called “Spider Woman” instructed the women of the Navajo how to build the first loom from exotic materials including sky, earth, sun-rays, rock crystal, and sheet lightning. Then “Spider Woman” taught the Navajo how to weave on it.
Use of traditional motifs sometimes leads to the mistaken notion that these textiles serve a purpose in Navajo religion. Actually these items have no use as prayer rugs or any other ceremonial function, and controversy has existed among the Navajo about the appropriateness of including religious symbolism in items designed for commercial sale. The financial success of purported ceremonial rugs led to their continued production.