Navajo Loom




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by Ernest Thompson Seton   

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A profitable amusement in camp is weaving rugs or mats of inner bark, rags, etc., on a rough Navajo loom.

The crudest kind, one which can be made in an hour, is illustrated above. I have found it quite satisfactory for weaving rough mats or rugs. A and B are two trees or posts. C is the cross piece. D is the upper yarn-beam, wrapped its whole length with a spiral cord. E is the lower yarn-beam, similarly wrapped. F F are stout cords to carry the frame while the warp is being stretched between the yarn-beams. G G is a log hung on for weight. H H is a round stick fastened between the yarns, odds on one side, evens on the other, to hold the yarns open until the rug is all done, but about one inch when it is drawn out. 

Now, with a needle, the yarns or strings for the warp are stretched from one yarn-beam to another, as a continuous string. The exact method is shown on a larger scale in the upper figure I I. The batten or spreader J is a piece of light wood two inches wide and one half inch thick, with square edges, but thin, sharp point, and about as long as the yarn-beam. 

Now, we are ready to begin. Run the batten between the yarns under the sticks H H. Then drop it to the bottom and turn it flat-wise, thus spreading the yarns apart in two rows. Lay a line of soft bark, rags, or other woof in this opening on top of the batten, making sure that it projects a couple of inches at each end. Double these long ends around the strong cords FF then back along themselves. Now draw out the spreading batten and press the woof down tight. 

Run the batten through alternate threads again, but the reverse way of last, and this time it goes more slowly for the lack of a guide rod. (This is done much more quickly by help of a "heald-rod", that is, a horizontal stick as wide as the blanket, with every other strand of the warp loosely  looped to it by a running cord near the top. When this rod is pulled forward it reverses the set of the threads and allows the batten to drop in at once.)  Lay a new line of woof as above. When the rug is all finished, except the top inch or more, draw out the rod H H and fill the warp to the top. 

Finally cut and draw out the spiral cords on each yarn-beam. This frees the rug, which is finished, excepting for trim and binding, when such are desired. 

Those who want full details of the best Navajo looms and methods will find them in Dr. Washington Matthew's article on Navajo Weavers, 3rd Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, 1881-1882. Washington, 1884.

See Also:

Camp Loom

The Birch Bark Roll 






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Breech Clouts, Breech Cloths ] Buffalo Skull ] Buttons ] Canoe Decoration ] Drums and Shields ] Indian Graphic Arts ] Indian Names for Months ] Indian Moccasins ] [ Navajo Loom ] Painted Paddles ] Peace Pipes ] Picture-Writing ] Sign Language ] Painting the Tepee ] Pottery ] Teepee Plans 10' ] Tweezers ] War Bonnets ] Willow Bed ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.