~ Guide to Authentic
Navajo Rug Weaving Styles~
This page serves as a broad guide for the great variations
that exist among and within traditional and contemporary Navajo rug weaving
styles. Most of the styles are named for the local trading post for the area
in which those styles were developed, such as Chinle, Crystal, Ganado, Klagetoh,
Red Mesa, Teec Nos Pos, Two Grey Hills, and Wide Ruins. Additional examples
of rugs and expanded text will continue to be updated. Please check back.
Navajo Rug Styles
||The Burntwater style is among
the newer ones to develop. It has evolved from the traditional Ganado,
Two Grey Hills/Toadlena styles that feature bordered, geometric designs
with central, terraced diamonds, but woven in the native vegetal colors.
The style arose out of the Wide Ruins/Burntwater area south of Ganado,
"Weaver Philomena Yazzie is credited with creating the first such
rug in 1968, using vegetal-dyed colors. Burntwater trader Don Jacobs encouraged
this innovation, and the Arizona Highways rug issue of July 1974
made it famous." Quoted portion from, A Guide to Navajo Weavings,
by Kent McManis & Robert Jeffries
|First Phase Chief
First Phase Chief blankets (1800-1850), elaborated on
the simple white and black or brown handspun striped weavings of the late
1700's. Indigo stripes were added and the use of red (from raveled baize
or bayeta yarn), bordering the indigo stripes was a variation especially
in demand as a trade item. This addition of red likely occurred in the
latter half of the period.
Second Phase Chief blankets with twelve small red bars or rectangles overlapped
the same time frame, but were woven up through 1865 or 1870, as the 3rd
Phase Chief patterns emerged with a central terraced diamond, quarter
diamonds in each corner and half diamonds midpoint at each end, and midpoint
along the top and the bottom edges. Each pattern was woven wider than
tall as a wearing blanket.
Second Phase Chief
||The 2nd Phase Chief pattern
refers to the addition of twelve small red bars or rectangles woven into
wearing blankets of the mid to late Classic Period (1840 - 1863). The
period ended abruptly when the Navajo people were rounded up and imprisoned
at Bosque Redondo, Fort Sumner, NM (1863-1868). Blankets made with this
pattern and with the spectacular 3rd Phase Chief pattern were popular
trade goods and continued to be woven into the Transition Period from
1863 to 1890. Still popular today, these designs are woven now as rugs.
2nd Chief blankets overlapped the same time frames as 1st Phase and 3rd
Phase, as the patterns of the latter emerged with a central terraced diamond,
quarter diamonds in each corner and half diamonds midpoint at each end,
and midpoint along the top and the bottom edges.
The Navajo people did not have chiefs, but the blankets they wove with
the striped patterns (1st, 2nd, & 3rd Phase Chief), were highly regarded
as a trade item and worn by chiefs of other tribes, and were particularly
prized by the Plains Indians.
|Third Phase Chief blankets were woven
towards the end of the late Classic Period (1840-1863), first appearing
around 1860, and were still woven into the 1870's and beyond, well into
the Transition Period (1863-1890). The bars of the 2nd Phase Chief blankets
gave way to the 3rd Phase patterns which emerged with a central terraced
diamond, quarter diamonds in each corner and half diamonds midpoint at
each end, and midpoint along the top and the bottom edges. These blankets
were truly stunning in all regards and continue to be a striking design.
It's important to note that the Classic Period of Navajo weaving (1840-1863),
ended abruptly when the Navajo people were rounded up and imprisoned at
Bosque Redondo, Fort Sumner, NM (1863-1868), under the harshest of conditions.
Speaking of the elaborately woven 3rd Phase Chief pattern, "An estimated
90% of 'chief' and other wearing blankets were traded to Cheyenne, Kiowa,
Sioux, and Arapaho Indians rich enough to afford them, and to other men
who wanted to appear larger than life." "Navajo Rugs, The Essential
Guide," by Don Dedera
||One of the three styles of
banded rugs is the Chinle, originally named for the town in Arizona near
Canyon de Chelly, but it is the most commonly woven style due to its simplicity
and is now woven across the Navajo reservation. Typically, it's borderless
and the least complex of the banded styles alternating plain color stripes
with horizontal bands of geometric designs including diamonds, squash
blossoms, and chevrons. They will often times contain the distinctive
design element of "railroad tracks." Colors are usually pastel
or earth-tones in conjunction with white, natural gray, golds, and greens
but they can also be bright colors. "Chinle weavings continue in
the banded style in earth-tone colors, but their identification by pattern
has become difficult at best, as they share many characteristics of Wide
Ruins and Crystal textiles." Quoted portion is from, "A Guide
to Navajo Weavings," by Kent McManis & Robert Jeffries, published
by Treasure Chest Books.
|One of the three styles of banded rugs
is the Crystal and features the distinctive design characteristic of "wavy"
lines created by alternating weft threads of two or three different colors.
Not to be compared to the old Crystal style, this newer pattern also was
developed in the Western New Mexico area of the Crystal Trading Post since
the late 1930s and was promoted by by Don Jensen when he took over the
Crystal Trading Post in 1944. Popular design elements include bands of
squash blossoms, diamonds, triangles, or stars between narrow bands of
wavy lines. Colors are usually muted earth tones, but may include pastels,
pinks, or yellows. The Chinle and Wide Ruins rugs are the other two banded
styles of Navajo weavings.
Eyedazzler Style Navajo Rugs
Klagetoh, which means "Hidden
Springs" is a community south of Ganado, AZ and about 10 miles north
of Wide Ruins on the Navajo Reservation. The use of a single or double
central diamond motif is seen in Two Grey Hills, Burntwater, Ganado, and
Klagetoh style weavings with the distinction between one and the other
being made strictly on the use of color. Some consider this style to be
a subtype of Ganado rugs. The distinctions have become blurred between
several styles today. Generally, the Ganado and Klagetoh styles have less
complex designs than Two Grey Hills and Burntwater style weavings.
||Perhaps the best known of
all Navajo rugs, the Ganado style always features a red background. A
central design element such as a single or double terraced diamond or
a cross is generally always present. Terraced triangles, zigzags, and
other geometric shapes occupy each corner. A black or dark outer border
is usually present and is often joined with a white or light colored inner
border. Juan Lorenzo Hubbell began trading with with Navajos in the late
1870's and from his trading post in Ganado he began to encourage the area's
weavers to produce a higher quality weaving. For additional strength he
insisted on the use of wool warp rather than a cotton string warp and
he discouraged the use of bright colors, preferring the deep aniline dyed
red and natural wool colors.
Additional Ganado Patterns
Klagetoh Style Navajo Rugs
Klagetoh, which means "Hidden Springs" is
a community south of Ganado, AZ and about 10 miles north of Wide Ruins
on the Navajo Reservation. The use of a single or double central diamond
motif is seen in Two Grey Hills, Burntwater, Ganado, and Klagetoh style
weavings with the distinction between one and the other being made strictly
on the use of color. Some consider this style to be a subtype of Ganado
rugs. The distinctions have become blurred between several styles today.
Generally, the Ganado and Klagetoh styles have less complex designs than
Two Grey Hills and Burntwater style weavings.
|The manta began as a one piece wraparound
blanket dress woven wider than long. This popular style of dress, woven
by 18th century Navajo women gave way to a two piece dress. This newer
item was made from two identical blankets that were sewn together at the
top and sides leaving places for the head and arms to pass through. A
belt or sash was worn with it. This dress was only worn by Navajo women
and was never traded to or worn by other Indians.
Sources of information include "Navajo Weaving Tradition, 1650 to
the Present," by Alice Kaufman and Christopher Selser
Some additional examples of Non-regional, Geometric, and Specialty Rugs
Non-Regional & Geometric
||Patterns of Non-regional and
Geometric rugs vary widely and incorporate amazing examples of the weaving
skills of the Navajo. The geometric pictured on the left was woven of
all natural handspun and hand carded wool with the use of no dyes. Specialty
rugs such as pieces woven in round and cross shapes show great innovation.
The Twill weave, as shown below in the image on the far right, is a complex
pattern using multiple heddles to manipulate the vertical warp yarns enabling
the horizontal weft yarn to be utilized in an uncommon manner to create
design effects that include diamonds, herringbone, and other geometric
patterns. Twill weaving is also called double weaving because the front
and back are mirror images of each other (see photo showing both sides
of twill weave). Saddle blankets are part of this category as well, since
they are woven all over the Navajo Nation.
|"Weavings with pictorial elements
may have first appeared as early as the 1840s. Four small birds can be
seen on a wearing blanket owned by the Cheyenne chief White Antelope when
he was killed at the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. A photo dated to 1873
shows a Navajo weaver with a U.S. flag-design she had made. By the 1880s
and 90s, textiles with trains, animals, people and letters from the alphabet
started to appear. At first these were usually only floating design elements.
But soon the pictorial pattern became the main focus of the weaving, and
some featured fully developed scenes." From, A Guide to Navajo
Weavings, by Kent McManis & Robert Jeffries
And a few more Pictorials...
|Additional Pictorial Patterns
And, just one more!
||Red Mesa Outline
The Red Mesa Outline evolved from the Eyedazzler weavings
of the Transitional Period (1863-1890), and is sometimes associated with
Teec Nos POs weavings due to their physical proximity, though their origins
and styles are different. Red Mesa outline rugs feature serrated diamonds
outlined in multiple colors for a dizzying effect. Many of these weavings
have a very nice border treatment.
|The revival of earlier textile patterns
is an on-going process. In the late 1870's Juan Lorenzo Hubbell encouraged
weavers at his trading post in Ganado, AZ to weave rugs with blanket patterns
from the Classic Period (1840-1863). Hubbell had artists paint pattern
samples for weavers that can still be viewed today.
J.B. Moore at the Crystal Trading Post in 1910, produced a color catalog
of rug styles that is available in reprint.
In the 1920's, H.L. "Cozy McSparron and Mary Cabot Wheelwright prompted
a revival with their efforts to return to the Classic Period of borderless
banded rugs and revived interest in natural vegetal dyes.
In the 1990's, trader Bruce Burnham began a revival of Germantown patterns
woven from replications of the yarn used in this style during the last
30 years of the 1800's. Also, weavers on their own pay tribute to classic
Hubbell designs with stepped diamonds, crosses, and deep red colors as
well as to other regional styles that developed at trading posts around
the Navajo reservation. And Steve Getzwiller has helped revive the use
of churro wool in Navajo weavings.
|A Storm pattern rug was first pictured
in a color catalog produced and distributed in 1911, by J.B. Moore of
the Crystal Trading Post in New Mexico. In the catalog he represented
these weavings as being "legendary designs embodying a portion of the
Navajo mythology." Other accounts of the style have it that the design
may have appeared on flour sacks or the tags of the sacks in the Western
Reservation area, possibly around Flagstaff, Arizona or that a trader
at Tuba City or Tonalea, Arizona or at the Red Lake Trading Post may have
developed it around the turn of the 20th century. Whatever the origin,
the design has remained a very popular one and weavers attribute meanings
to the various design elements inherent to this pattern.
Additional Storm Patterns
Teec Nos Pos
||Teec Nos POs is a settlement
in Northeast Arizona and the name means "Circle of Cottonwoods."
A trading post was first established there in 1905 by H.B. Noel. The pattern
of weaving that developed in this area shows a definite Persian influence.
Always featuring a wide border with elaborate repeating geometric motifs,
these rugs are often large. They exhibit bold colors that are often outlined
with a contrasting color, and intricate and exciting design work that
includes diagonal, hooked, and forked zig-zag lines. Other commonly used
design elements include prayer feathers, arrows, and central double diamonds.
|The Tree of Life pattern is a pictorial
style that first appeared around the turn of the 20th century and is also,
referred to as a "Bird Pictorial." Many variations in design
from the quite simple to the most complex can be found. Flowers, bees,
and butterflies also may appear along with the birds. Various species
of birds may be represented such as blue jays, cardinals, finches, hummingbirds,
or even woodpeckers, and sometimes rabbits or squirrels may be included.
"Although its provenance is unclear, this pattern may have been derived
from certain sandpainting designs. The weavings show birds perched on
corn stalks, trees, or generic plants, sometimes with the vegetation growing
out of a Navajo wedding basket."
Quoted sections are from, A Guide to Navajo Weavings, by Kent McManis
& Robert Jeffries
Tree of Life or Bird Pictorial
Two Grey Hills Navajo Rugs
Two Grey Hills rugs are typically woven of natural,
undyed, handspun wool in designs of white, black, brown. Some do utilize
varying amounts of commercially prepared wool yarn and some of the black
yarn may be enhanced with dye to make it uniformly black. Shades of the
three basic colors are produced by carding the wool of different sheep
together and by carding colors together, such as black and white together
to produce shades of gray. The yarn in Two Grey Hills weavings is generally
finer and the resulting design is generally crisper.
||The Wide Ruins style rug is
one of the three banded patterns of Navajo rugs and it is the most complex
in design and colors of the three (Chinle and Crystal are the other two
banded rugs). Featuring vegetal dyed yarns in soft and somber, pastel
earth tones, these rugs evolved from the Chinle style after 1938, when
William and Sallie Lippincott bought the Wide Ruins Trading Post. They
set a standard of quality in their trading area that persists to this
day as the Wide Ruins rugs are generally the most finely woven of the
three banded styles.
|"Ye'ii (YEH-ee) figures appeared
on rugs before the turn of the (20th) century. (A Ye'ii is a Navajo holy
person or deity.) At first the Navajo considered putting a Ye'ii into
a rug design taboo. Near the turn of the century Navajo weaver Yanapah,
married to Richard Simpson (a trader near Farmington, NM), wove large,
single and double-figure, vertical Ye'ii rugs. (The figures were standing
upright as the rug was being woven.)"
"Ye'ii rugs developed in two other regions a few years after the
turn of the century. At Shiprock, NM, trader Will Evans helped develop
multiple-figure Ye'ii weavings in the 1920's. They usually had white or
light-colored backgrounds with several figures positioned horizontally
across the rug as it was being woven. (The figures stood upright when
the rug was turned sideways after weaving.) They had a multitude of bright,
aniline-dyed colors and frequently used a great deal of commercial yarn."
A Guide to Navajo Weavings, by Kent McManis & Robert Jeffries
(The other area or origin noted above for Ye'ii rugs was Lukachukai, AZ.)
||These are not actually a different
style, but rather a Ye'ii weaving with an additional design element. On
many Ye'ii rugs, stretched along three sides of the rug, an elongated
figure referred to as a "rainbow Yei" or "guardian"
or "rainbow goddess" appears. Corn plants, pine boughs, rattles,
snakes, and yucca strips are additional design elements that may be including
in the weavings.
|Though the spellings of this style may
change, the pronunciation is essentially the same, "yay beh chay."
In these rugs, the figures are always portrayed in profile rather than
face forward as in the Ye'ii rugs, and the figures are human dancers representing
the Navajo deities rather than being the deities themselves. The dancers
in the Ye'ii Bicheii weavings are participants in the Nightway Chant,
a 9 day Navajo healing ceremony. Ye'ii Bicheii is known as "Grandfather
of the Gods," or as "Talking God" and appears on the last
night of the winter ceremony. He is portrayed with a white mask and is
at the lead of the dancers. The figures, realistically portrayed as human,
usually include a medicine man (Hatathli) facing a lead dancer (Ye'ii
Bicheii), followed by 6-12 dancers who are followed by a following clown
who is known as a water sprinkler. Sometimes the medicine man tends to
a patient who holds a ceremonial basket. The dancers are often shown with
one knee bent and a foot raised showing the action of dance, and they
may be all men or alternate with an equal number of women dancers. These
rugs use realistic colors and much detail to portray the characters. They
often times have a detailed border.
See books for sale about Navajo rugs.
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