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Navajo Rug Guide

Introduction

When considering a Navajo Rug - the common terminology for all Navajo Weaving - it is important to realize that the product is one hundred percent handmade. Becoming an educated buyer and purchasing Authentic Navajo Weaving's helps to preserve the integrity and commitment of today's Navajo weavers.


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.

 

Rule Number 1: 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. You'll want to make sure the rug does not have built-in wrinkles. Besides, you'll want to get the rug's full visual effect.
While all Navajo rugs are "genuine" (so you need not concern yourself on that score) , not all Navajo rugs are examples of quality craftsmanship.

Rule number 2: 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.

Rule number 3: Smoothness is an important consideration. The rug thickness should be the same throughout, with no "thin" area in a "thick" rug and vice versa.

Rule number 4: Color uniformity. A rug may suffer when a weaver is careless in dyeing her yarn. Only a relatively small amount of yarn is dyed at a time, just what she thinks will be sufficient for her rug. So, sometimes when she has to dye more for her rug, she will get marked variations in what is supposed to be a single hue.

You should be prepared to pay more for quality weaving but in the long run, you will not regret it. A rug is meant to be utilitarian-it is not a curio.
Navajo rugs are just one of a kind. If you like a rug and the price is right-buy it. Don't depend on the rug waiting for your return. Rug turnover is great in most retail outlets.

While beauty is an intangible, quality is not.

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.

Care
Normal vacuum cleaning will keep a Navajo rug in good condition for years. Even an occasional cleaning with a beater brush 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.
 
Never wash a rug. Small spots can be removed with commercial lighter fluid-but the over-all cleaning job is a task for an expert. If the rug needs cleaning, go to your city's finest rug dealer and ask him to recommend a dry cleaner who knows his business.

If you spill water on a Navajo rug, blot it immediately. This will prevent the improperly set native dyed yarn from running. I know of no way to erase red dye that has run over into other colors. Also remember: wool shrinks and stretches.
Any good commercial moth spray can be used on a Navajo rug. Be sure to de-moth both sides. You may want professional help in de-mothing, in which case your dry cleaner most likely can help. It is well to remember that a floor rug in constant use-and regularly reversed-is in little danger of moth damage, but rugs that are displayed on walls or stored away must definitely be protected. I would suggest that rugs to be stored are rolled, rather than folded. Wall hangings should be reversed at least twice a year as an anti-moth precaution.
Never shake-out and snap your Navajo rug. Snapping such tapestries likely will break the end cords, thus allowing the warps to come loose. If you must shake your rug, hold it by its side and gently manipulate it.

At this point let me reassure you that a Navajo rug is not a fragile item. An ordinary Navajo rug was placed at the entrance to the New Mexico State exhibit hall at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition. Mud and dirt from outdoors and sand and grit from indoors was tracked across and ground into that rug by 2,800,000 pairs of careless shoes and boots-and that rug was as beautiful after the fair closed as it was on opening day. Not a single thread was broken. Depending on care and use or abuse, a Navajo rug in a home can last many years.

Any weaver can repair a small hole in a Navajo rug, but major repairs are another matter. Too often a rug owner will lose sight of the fact that most, old, beat-up Navajo rugs are simply old, beat-up rugs-period! Of course, a Classic period blanket or any other collector's item is worth saving, but usually the cost of repairing an ordinary Navajo rug will be greater than the cost of replacement, and the results less satisfactory.
I know of one or two experts in the field of repairing Navajo rugs, but they are backlogged with work, and it may not pay you to even consider trying to call them.

Navajo Rug Repair Co
http://www.navajorugrepair.com/

Many rugs will turn up at one or more of their corners and here is a repair job that you can do yourself. Simply untie the knots on the end cord (all Navajo rugs, except throws, have tasseled cords on ends of the four corners). Then gently pull and loosen the cords back toward the center of the edges of the rug. After you succeed in getting the rug to lie flat, pull the excess and loose, cords back to the corners and re-tie the tassel knots.

Sources of information and Bibliography for this guide.

Revised by Harold Carey

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