The History of Navajo Weaving

navajo carpet

Navajo weaving has become mainstream in Navajo society and is an essential form of art in today’s modern culture. Historically, generations have passed down Navajo practices, and evidence of this can best be seen in the designs’ high-quality craftsmanship.

Navajo weaving doesn’t follow a standard pattern, and it certainly isn’t an exact science. It’s more of a personal journey between the works being created and the spiritual weaver than it is about the pattern itself. Moreover, a raw aesthetic can still be found in authentic Navajo textiles on some home care product labels, but specific colors can also impact Navajo weaving designs.

Earth tones such as black, gray, brown, and red reflect the pigments associated with the Navajo culture’s regions. Let’s explore some more about these significant artistic motifs and what it has meant to the Navajo and its history over time.

What is Navajo Weaving?

During the 17th century, the Spanish first introduced sheep’s wool to the Navajo. Ever since Navajo blankets made with wool have become an essential part of the indigenous Navajo culture. Navajo weaving is an ancient art form of handcrafting with textiles, much like other cultures known for producing and exporting certain goods.

navajo weavingFor example, the Japanese are known for making precision swords and world-class ceramics, while Italy is renowned for its award-winning vineyards and fine table wines. This trend also carries over to the American Southwest and other regions where the Diné (Navajo) call home.

Navajo weaving is a staple in the Navajo society and its global influence in other foreign countries. The Navajo may be well-known for weaving; however, they are the second-highest on the federal government’s list of recognized tribal Amerindian Nations in the US. Therefore, they hold significant historical value as a native American culture.

While Navajo weaving includes many forms of artwork, below are just a few of the most popular:

  • Dine weavings
  • Navajo rugs
  • Dyed Churro sheep yarns
  • Card and spin designs
  • Rare fine-wool for custom orders

Navajo textiles are an expression of art, community, spirituality, and cultural continuity. Their most significant influence can be seen in their weaving designs.

Navajo Weaving Origins Over Time

tribal patternsAccording to Navajo legend, weaving is the most sacred and ancient practice of their culture. Traditional evidence also points to two spirits: Spider-Woman and Spider-Man, who are both Spider-People.

The myth says Spider-Women taught the Navajo how to weave while Spider-Man showed them how to manufacture the loom. Despite legend or myth, the Navajo origins started in their native homeland.

Heading into 2021, it has evolved into a well-balanced society of Navajo weavers. Historically speaking, weaving for the Navajo takes higher priority over hunting and farming combined.

In terms of importance, weaving is such a pivotal component to the Navajo culture that many newborn females have their arms and hands rubbed with spider webs. In theory, a new Diné weaver is born to carry on the centuries-old tradition of Navajo weaving.

For the best Navajo weavings, it’s always wise to purchase your artwork from a reputable Navajo weaving business.