Navajo Rug designs differ on the Reservation according to the region and clan who weave them. Each rug is woven to include one small flaw in the final product in order that any evil spirits residing in the rug may have a way of escape.


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Navajo Rug Weavers

Navajo Rugs woven by the grandmothers of the clan are held in great esteem and are in demand by the many tourists and collectors who visit the reservation each year. Local traders have made positive impact on the marketing of these beautiful rugs, as they have helped with feedback from buyers in the East, and around the world...

The advice in this guide comes from experts in the field of Navajo Rugs.

Every month I visit the trading posts on the Navajo Reservation and talk to the traders and weavers there and get great information and advice from them.

Also I am going to offer you my advice from my personal experiences,

Become educated, by reading books, magazines, web sites, and other publications about Navajo rugs, and by speaking to knowledgeable rug dealers and traders.

The more you know about Navajo weaving, the more you will enjoy collecting them.

I will list good books and web links in this guide.

Navajo rug and weaver

Navajo Weaving Terminology

A basic familiarity with Terminology of Navajo weaving also is essential to the savvy collector as it is the only reliable way to authenticate Navajo rugs.

Warp strings are the vertical strings which serve as the foundation of the rug. Wool yarn  is  prefered because cotton warp strings may not tolerate rough use as a floor covering.

Weft (or Weave)
Weft threads are the horizontal threads that cover the warp threads, or the yarn that is woven over and under the warp and from side to side.
Wefts per inch are counted on both faces of a fabric. When the wefts are counted on one side, this number is doubled, as there is a corresponding weft on the other side. It can vary at different parts of the rug. The better the weaver the more consistent this will be throughout the rug.

Most Navajo rugs have approximately 30 wefts to the linear inch. A weft count of 50 per inch is a high quality rug. A count of 80 or more qualifies a rug as a tapestry.

Selvage cords
Two or more yarns that twist about each other while interlacing with and reinforcing a fabric's edge. In Navajo textiles, two 3-ply selvage cords are usually twined together, forming a 2-strand edge. In Pueblo fabrics, three 2-ply cords usually form a 3-strand, twined selvage. There are also other variations.

Lazy line
A subtle diagonal break in the weave of many Navajo fabrics where a weaver has worked on adjacent sections of warps at different times; usually spaced apart no more than the length of the batten, lazy lines allow a weaver to weave a wide fabric without having to reach from side to side with each pass of the weft.

Weaver's Pathway (Sprit Line)
A small thin line that extends from the center design field across the border to the outside edge of some rugs; the line is frequently placed near a corner and made of the same color as the center field's background. Also called the spirit line. Associated with the belief of allowing the energy and spirit woven into a particular textile to be released in order for the weaver to have the energy and imagination to continue weaving other textiles.

Items that determines the price and value of a Navajo Rug

1. Size and Quality of Warp.
2. Size and Quality of Woof or Weft.
3. Quality and Harmony of Color.
4. Firmness and Regularity of Weave.
5. Originality and Attractiveness of Design.
6. The more well known the weaver is.
7. Vegetal dyed rugs are generally more valuable than commercially dyed rugs.

Choosing a Navajo Rug

When assessing a Navajo rug, open it fully and lay it out flat
Always open up the rug being considered to its full width and length on the sales room floor. Never buy a rug of which you've seen only a half or a quarter-the folded under portion may contain serious flaws. Disregard temporary wrinkles or creases, since they will be present if the rugs have been folded and stacked for a long time besides, you'll want to get the rug's full visual effect. While a Navajo rug may be Authentic, not all Navajo rugs are examples of quality craftsmanship. Only by examining a weaving in its entirety on both sides, can a buyer be sure there are no significant defects and that edges are parallel, straight and square at the corners.

Carefully check the weave.
Does the design have the same width at one end of the rug as it has at the other? Are the horizontal and vertical lines straight as well as uniform in width? Is the tightness of the weave uniform throughout the rug? Are the warp threads out of sight as they should be? No rug should or would be 100 percent perfect. Then it would look as though it were machine made and lose the charm of a hand made piece. Quality Navajo weavings can be coarse or fine, but it is always consistent. Warp threads should not show through. If they do, something went wrong in the weaving.

Quality and Harmony of Color.
Color is a most important factor in a blanket. In the first days of aniline dyes when the Navajos were suddenly awakened to the fact that the whole rainbow gamut of colors was open to them

The marvel of the infinite variety in Navaho blanket designs never grows less. The more one sees and knows the more the marvel grows. From the simple and plain alternate, of the common type, to the complex, highly ornate, and brilliantly colored designs created by a modern genius is a gigantic step in artistic development, and one for which the aboriginal weaver is entitled to our highest consideration and appreciation.
Naturally in choosing a fine blanket the quality of the design is a matter the importance of which cannot be too highly estimated. Personal taste, necessarily, largely enters into the choice of a design. What will please one may be displeasing to another. The place the blanket is to fill should be a helping factor in coming to a decision. As a rule, however, too great complexity is not desirable, the plainer and simpler the design, in reason, the more pleasing it becomes with time. In considering this subject of design the reader should not overlook the fact that the Navajos have proven themselves possessed of inventive genius in this department of art. There are no ''stock'' designs as far as they are concerned. Repetition of design comes from the desire of the white race for duplication.

Recommended Books About Navajo Rugs

Sources of information and Bibliography for this guide.

A Guide To Navajo Rugs - Susan Lamb

Dedera, Don, Navajo Rugs: How to Find, Evaluate, Buy, & Care for Them, 1975, revised edition 1990, Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, AZ.

Beyond the Loom by Ann Lane Hedlund Keys to Understanding Early Southwestern Weaving. Boulder, CO: Johnson Publishing Company, 1990.

Rugs & Posts - Story of Navajo Weaving and Indian Trading - H. L. James

One Hundred Years of Navajo Rugs - Marian E. Rodee

Navajo Weaving, Three Centuries of Change- Kate Peck Kent

Navajo Textiles- The William Randolph Hearst Collection

Winter, Mark, Dances with Wool, Toadlena Trading Post, 2002.

Woven by the Grandmothers:Bonar, Eulalie H., editor, Nineteenth-Century Navajo Textiles

Where to buy rugs

On eBay


Echoes Past to Present

28 Kiowa Road
Des Moines, New Mexico 88418 (505) 278-2400

Off eBay

Foutz Trading Company
Highway 64, Shiprock, NM 87420 (505) 368-5790

Two Gray Hills Trading Post
Tohatchi, NM 87325 (505) 789-3270

Shonto Trading Post
6 Mile East Highway 98, Shonto, AZ 86054 (520) 672-2320

Shonto Trading Post
6 Mile East Highway 98, Shonto, AZ 86054 (520) 672-2320

Twin Rocks Trading Post
P.O. Box 330
913 E. Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, UT 84512 (435) 672-2341, 800-526-3448

Richardson's Trading & Cash
222 West Highway 66, Gallup, NM 87301 (505) 722-4762

R.B. Burnham & Co.
Highway 191, Sanders, AZ 928-688-2777


After you take it home

If you use a rug on a bare floor, I recommend you place a pad under it to keep the rug from slipping. While the Yei, Yeibichai and tapestry weave Two Gray Hills rugs are commonly used as wall hangings, I have seen common saddle blankets hung on walls with pleasing effect. The owner loved his saddle blanket-and that is quite enough.


Normal vacuum cleaning will keep a Navajo rug in good condition for years. Even an occasional cleaning with a beaterbrush vacuum (Hoover, Kirby, etc.) will not reduce the rug's life expectancy'. ,.Some of the heavily used rugs in my home waited 10 years before their first trip to the dry cleaners. One tip: after each vacuuming, reverse the rug or turn end for end. This insures a uniformity of wear on both sides and ends. And too, some of the rug colors are bound to fade, especially in the bright colors. Regularly reversing a rug insures a uniform "mellowing" of color.

Ganado Navajo Rug

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