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Antique Navajo Rugs

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Textiles have been a documented part of Native American culture for over two thousand years. For the Navajo, weaving was a gift of Spider Woman who taught the craft to the first Diné, or people. The loom was brought to The People by Spider Boy who taught them its meaning; the frame composed of the Sky and the Earth, the lashing of lightning, the warp of rain; the whole representing the weaver and her relationship between the Sky and the Earth. The first weavings of The People were made for personal use and as valuable trade items. Navajo rug blankets were renowned throughout North America for their beauty and utility, being soft and warm, and because of the natural lanolin in the wool, water resistant as well. Early Navajo rug weaving designs and yarns changed often throughout the years due to the influence of the many cultures active in the Southwest at the time. The beautiful hand woven Navajo Serapes show a great amount of Mexican and Spanish influence. The chief’s blankets, so named because their beauty and value often made them accessible only to the prosperous Plains Indian chiefs and the wealthy white and Mexican colonists, evolved over the years from simple striped blankets to block geometrics and eventually elaborate diamond patterns. The turn of the century saw cheaper manufactured wool blankets begin to supplant the Navajo blanket and demand for them began to wane. Early traders stepped in to encourage their local weavers to continue weaving in the fine artistic tradition of the Navajo blanket, opening Eastern markets. Since the demand for decorative rugs far outweighed the demand for blankets. The Navajo blanket became the Navajo rug, an art form produced today for wall hangings and floor coverings. Each is unique to the weaver and categorized in regional styles based on patterns and colours that have come to be identified as that area’s signature design. As in centuries past, Navajo rugs still are woven in the highest of artistic standards, on the same type of loom that Spider Boy presented. The weaving tradition is passed down from hand to hand, generation to generation, and the craft of the Spider Woman lives on today.