How To Buy a Navajo Rug
Don't be overwhelmed at the thought of buying a Navajo rug. Listen to your heart when you fall in love with a certain pattern or color combination, and listen to your head when you begin the process of educating yourself on how to shop wisely and safely. A Navajo rug will make a wonderful addition to any room in your house, and finding "just the right one" will be a wonderful adventure.
How is a rug made?
Navajo weavers often raise their own sheep. They shear, clean, card, spin and dye their wool by hand using techniques and dye recipes handed down from generation to generation. The wool is spun on a light hand spindle, not a spinning wheel, and the loom is vertical. Often the same loom has been used from generation to generation in a weaver's family.
As a Navajo woman weaves, she sings Spider Woman's weaving song or a prayer for rain or a good harvest. Many of the elements woven into a rug have to do with symbols of prosperity and good health.
Where do the colored dyes come from?
The subtle grays, heathered browns, blacks and whites used in some rug patterns are natural wool colors. The bold colors in older rugs were obtained from aniline (synthetic) dyes which are still being used.
The lovely pastel shades seen in some rugs today began in the 1930s with Navajo weaving teacher Nonabeh Bryan. She experimented and re-created recipes for dye colors made using plants from all over the vast reservation. Over the years, more and more plant dye recipes have been developed, and today's vegetal dyed Navajo rug is a symphony of gentle shades.
How do I care for my rug?
Turn your rug regularly, and avoid placing it in bright or direct sunlight. Using a drapery or fabric attachment, vacuum gently. Do not use the beater bar on your vacuum as it is too rough on the rug yarns. And take it on occasion to a professional rug cleaning facility.
You can drape the rug over a clothesline and beat it with a broom or old racquet, but do not shake your rug as you risk breaking the end threads.
If you hang your rug on the wall, turn it frequently, and inspect it for the moths that love to hide between the rug and the wall.
Cedar wood is a good moth deterrent. It comes in boards, chips, and small blocks. To freshen the cedar, just sand it lightly. Moth balls work well too, but they don't smell quite as nice as cedar!
How do I know my rug is a genuine Navajo rug?
- First and foremost, buy from a reputable source. Avoid places that offer large discounts and continuous sales. Insist on a certificate of authenticity, and a completely filled out sales receipt.
- Inform yourself as much as possible before setting out to purchase a rug, and ask lots of questions. A reputable dealer will willingly spend time with you--showing you rugs, answering questions, and explaining patterns and weaving regions.
- Examine the entire rug. Lay it out on the floor or table so that you can examine it closely.
- Check the weave. A quality Navajo rug will be tightly woven and it will be difficult to separate the weft (horizontal) threads enough to see the warp (lengthwise) threads. Check for uniformity of corners, width, and stripes or patterns. Remember that a rug is handmade and unique, and that it should not be 100% perfect. The rug should be consistently smooth.
- Natural wools will show some shading variations in color. Look for uniformity in dyed colors-this shows that the weaver dyed enough yarn to continue the same dye lot throughout the rug.
- And finally, let your heart pick the rug. Each rug is a unique and complex combination of pattern, color, feel, size, and visual impact. Let a rug "speak" to you, and you will treasure it for years to come.
Why are Navajo rugs so expensive?
The creation of a Navajo rug is an extremely labor-intensive process. Many weavers raise their own sheep. They shear the sheep, clean, card, and spin the wool, and dye the yarn. If the dyes are vegetal (plant based) there is the additional time spent gathering the plants from the far corners of the reservation. Vegetal dyes all have unique recipes for the colors, and some colors require extended dyeing times of two or three weeks.
Before a weaver can begin weaving, the warp thread must be put in place. Once weaving begins, the weaver can average about 1 inch of length every 40 hours or so, depending on the complexity of the rug pattern. The patterns exist in the weaver's imagination, they are not written or drawn out before weaving begins.
Why buy from Chief Dodge?
When you buy a Navajo rug from Chief Dodge, you can be sure that the rug is of the highest quality and is guaranteed authentic. And since each weaver determines the price she wants for her rug, you can be sure she was fairly paid. Every purchase you make at Chief Dodge contributes directly to the artist's economic self reliance.
Remember--if a rug is offered at a remarkably low price or with an enormous discount, there is likely something amiss. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.