Friday, June 6, 2008

Weaving a Navajo rug, not exactly

At one time or another, you've probably seen and loved the beautiful Navajo rugs woven of wool, with earthy tones-- deep greens, rich reds, many shades of tan, mocha and sand-- that you can only get from natural colored fleeces or natural dyes. These Native Americans use an upright loom, very tightly warped. That's how they get the very tight, thick texture, needed for a strong Navajo rug. It must take them weeks, if not months to make a good rug, when you consider that they have spun the wool by hand, most likely on drop spindle, or something very primitive.
Inspired by a stash of fleeces from our sheep and goats, I have decided to try weaving a good woolen Navajo rug using handspun yarn. I'm using my rug loom--a simple, two harness contraption that I have used to make countless colonial style rag rugs over the last fifteen years. I've never tried a Navajo rug.
After some thought, I decided to use a dark brown cotton warp. I prefer wool, but most of my handspun is too soft, and my commercial yarns are either too thick, or too springy to make a good warp. My daughters and I warped the loom at six ends per inch, and decided to make it twenty-nine inches wide. As you might have guessed, we spent much time trying to get the warp on as tightly as possible. I'm afraid it is not as tight as an upright loom. I am sure the Navajo rug weavers would not approve. (To be continued)