How To Identify Navajo Rugs
The first step in identifying a Navajo rug is to look for a certain pattern or feature. Typically, these rugs are woven horizontally on a loom. A wool warp thread and continuous thread are the most common characteristics, as are yei patterns. If you aren’t sure which pattern to look for, keep reading to learn more. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the patterns and features that can help you spot a Navajo rug.
Navajo rugs are woven on a horizontal loom
Navajo rugs are woven using an upright loom. A continuous warp thread is used to weave the rug, beginning at the corner and continuing throughout its length. The weft weaves over the warp threads and under them, alternating in length. The warp thread is long and usually made of cotton or wool. Very few authentic Navajo rugs are made with synthetic yarn. Modern varieties use a combination of wool and synthetic fibers.
The design of a Navajo rug is often based on a cluster of horizontal stripes. Later, more complex patterning begins several inches from the edges. Some Navajo weavers plan their designs in this way. Usually, they weave small sections at a time, changing colors before moving on to the next area. However, despite the horizontal weaving method, visible lines remain, and these are not a part of the pattern itself.
They have a continuous warp thread
In Navajo rugs, the warp thread runs vertically from top to bottom. The warp threads are typically wool since cotton would not be strong enough for floor covering. The weft threads are horizontal and cover the warp threads. Wool is the preferred warp yarn. The warp thread is the foundation of the rug, so it must provide strength and resistance to abrasion caused by the weaver’s fork. It must also support the entire body of the woven wefts.
While the warp threads on traditional Navajo rugs have no knots, contemporary rugs typically feature a continuous warp thread. The weaver adds color to a rug by pounding balls of yarn onto the warp threads with a wooden weaving fork or comb. A complex design may include fifteen or more balls of yarn. The warp threads are attached to a dowel during the weaving process.
They have a wool warp
Despite the wool warps of Navajo rugs, some of their qualities are not very appealing. One example of this is a relatively high proportion of limp fibers. Another is a high proportion of kemp fibers. Regardless of the reasons for this variation, kemp wool has a rough, coarse texture. However, the characteristics of kemp wool do not necessarily mean it’s bad.
Usually, a Navajo rug has a wool warp. Although cotton and linen are softer and smoother than wool, both types of fabric have little fibers sticking out. Wool is the best option for a warp, but cotton and linen were commonly used until the late 1800s. Despite this, it’s still best to get a rug professionally cleaned. Nevertheless, they are durable enough to withstand some wear and tear.
They have a Yei pattern
Navajo rugs often feature the pattern Yei. Yei is the Navajo word for “holy one” or “deity.” These rugs are often decorated with images of square-headed female dancers holding feathers. These figures are stylized and have elongated bodies and short, straight legs. They originated from ceremonial sandpaintings. I bought my Yei rug during a trip to Shiprock, Arizona, in the 1960s.
The main raw materials for a Navajo rug are wool and work. Although some weavings contain distinctive patterns, each rug is uniquely created and is not a reproduction of another. Each Navajo rug weaver puts his or her heart and creative energy into each piece. While some rugs exhibit a regional pattern, the interpretation of the weaver is what makes it a unique and timeless work of art.