Weaving a Rug

The Wool

The skills and philosophies of weaving are taught to Navajo girls by their mothers, grandmothers, and other older women. The fine details of weaving are seldom taught to non-Navajos (since some feel that would dilute the value of their weaving). In this section, we will discuss some of the basics of how Navajo rugs and baskets are created.

1. Wool needs to be collected by shearing the sheep. The wool from two to three sheep are needed to make a 3 x 5 foot rug. The wool will then be washed.

2. The wool fibers need to be straightened to remove tangles. This process is called 'carding', which is something like combing hair.

3. Next is the very long process of spinning the wool on a spindle. The fibers need to be spun two to three times in order to produce a yarn that is fine enough to be used for making a rug.

The Loom

4. The loom is prepared and the vertically-oriented warp (the fine-spun yarn that is the foundation of the textile) is tightly wound.

5. Weaving is done by threading the wefts (less finely spun yarn, usually colored) horizontally over and under the warp yarns.

Using different colored wefts allows the weaver to create various designs and patterns. A long stick called a "batten" is used to hold open the warp temporarily while wefts are put into place. A weaving comb is used to tightly pack the wefts after they have been placed.

This entire process represents many hours, days, and months of work just to create a single rug or blanket, which is one reason why weaving is such an integral aspect of Navajo life.

With the Navajo Rug Weaver software, even though you aren't actually weaving in the traditional Navajo way, you can simulate Navajo rug designs. Keep in mind, however, that copying other people's designs is frowned upon by many Navajo weavers, so once you get the hang of it, we recommend that you create original designs of your own.