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Rugs: North American Rugs - Navajo rugs, American Indian rugs and native American rugs

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Rugs: North American Rugs - Navajo rugs, American Indian rugs and native American rugs

  • North American is the name given to flat weave rugs and blankets woven by Native Americans in the Central Western areas of the US, mainly in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. These rugs are better known as Navajo rugs.
  • The weaving of Navajo rugs is the continuation of a long tradition of excellent craftsmanship that dates back nearly three centuries.
  • It is believed the Navajos learned the craft from the Pueblo Indians around 1700, as early examples of Navajo weaving show the close parallels between the two groups. The principal difference between Navajo and Pueblo weaving is that the Navajos used wool, while the Pueblos used cotton.
  • In the mid 1800s, the Navajos started using dye sources and yarns from the Europeans, especially the Germans and Spanish. Along with dyes and commercial yarn, the Europeans brought designs that could be incorporated into the flat weaves of the Navajos. These were usually Oriental patterns, which the Europeans apparently couldn't get enough of.

  • From the Navajo's own designs, the most famous examples were the 'Chief Blankets', which were worn on the shoulders of the tribe's chief. These items were extremely popular with the other Plain's Indians.
  • Navajo weaving changed radically in the last twenty years of the 19th century. Commercial ready-to-use yarns were available in a variety of colors, and by 1890 the Navajo Indians were weaving mainly for the trading posts and white tourists.
  • The traders were a great influence on the weavers, and the requests for pillow covers and bed covers to decorate white homes resulted in a proliferation of quickly woven, inferior pieces.
  • By 1890, after many years of blankets and bed coverings, white settlers were demanding covering for the floor. The Navajo rugs were born as the Indians were quick to oblige.

  • The Indians were now weaving less of their traditional simple and abstract geometric designs and more American pictorials designs including patriotic patterns and railroad scenes and houses. The traditional rugs are virtually lost and very rare today and designers seem todesire their 'Aztec' look for modern settings.
  • There are a few settlements that might still be weaving Navajo rugs, but much like all the other aspects of the Indians' culture, the Navajo rug is but a faint memory to them.
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