Navaho rugs have
a tremendous visual impact, which reflects the strength of
the Navaho culture and their tradition as people. Weaving
designs evolved from simple beginnings in the 18 Century,
and became more elaborate in response to changing demands
during the second half of the 19 Century. Today, they have
returned to a newfound simplicity. The method of weaving has
remained virtually unchanged, and is basically the tapestry
flat weave technique used in Middle Eastern kilims.
The Spanish introduced sheep
into Old Navaho land near New Mexico in the 16 Century, and
the nomadic Navaho acquired large flocks from them and became
famous for the blankets that they wove for their own use.
During the complex history of banishment and then their return
to a diminished territory, Navaho's weaving was influenced
by many factors, including shortage of wool and weaving of
their neighbors, the Pueblo.
When the Navaho first acquired their flocks, they spun the
yarn from their own fleece, and they have returned to this
today. During the intervening period, they bought commercial
yarns that were available in a choice of strong, bright colors.
Today's pieces are brightly colored, sturdy, and largely made
up of stripes or diamond motifs. Unlike Middle Eastern works,
individual Navaho wearers may become well known for the quality
of their weaving and designs and a particular weaver's work
can be more expensive than that of other wearers. The weaving
is done by women who learn through a "watch and do"