Regional Navajo Rugs History

Below follow a brief history of Navajo weaving regional rugs and their styles.

Navajo Weaving Regional Styles

Since around 1920 the different styles of Navajo Rugs came to be identified with the region in which the distinctive pattern was originally woven. The Indian Traders who ran the trading post in the different areas usually influenced the type and quality of rugs in that area.

  1. Toadlena / Two Grey Hills
  2. Crystal
  3. Ganado
  4. Klagetoh
  5. Chinle
  6. Burntwater
  7. Teec Nos Pos
  8. Wide Ruins
  9. Bisti
  10. Old Crystal
  11. Yei & Yeibichai
  12. Navajo Saddle Blankets
  13. Navajo Chief’s Blanket

Toadlena / Two Grey Hills

This regional style was started in 1914 by George Bloomfield and Ed Davis at the Toadlena and Two Grey Hills Trading Post. These Navajo rugs are characterized by natural browns, tan, gray, ivory, white, and black. It is not unusual for the blacks to be oven-dyed. Very rarely small amounts of red, orange or blue are used.

The patterns usually have a central diamond motif and intricate patterns.  The Two Grey Hills weavings are noted for their high quality. The trading post is located in northwest New Mexico, south of Shiprock and northeast of the Crystal area.

Toadlena / Two Grey Hills Examples

  • Two Grey Hills Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    Circa 2014
  • Two Grey Hills with Blue Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    Circa 1930
  • Two Grey Hills Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    Circa 1920 to 1930
  • Two Grey Hills Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    Circa 1960
  • Two Grey Hills Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    Navajo Rug Weaving
    Circa 2000
  • Two Grey Hills Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    Circa 1950
  • Two Grey Hills with Blue Navajo RugTwo Grey Hills
    with Blue
    Circa 1940
  • Two Grey Hills Navajo Rug Two Grey Hills Navajo Rug Weaving
    Circa 1960

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Crystal

The regional pattern Crystal starts in the mid 1930’s. The pattern is borderless with horizontal bands of geometric designs.  The bands are separated by “wavy lines”. This is created by alternating and crossing the color of each weft. The colors are of natural wool with vegetal dyed colors.

The contemporary Crystals are drastically different from the old J.B. MOORE crystals, which made the area famous in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. (See more below on the old Crystal Navajo Rugs.)

Crystal Examples

  • Crystal Navajo WeavingCrystal Navajo Weaving
    Circa 1981
  • Crystal Navajo Weaving Crystal
    Circa 1990
  • Crystal Navajo Weaving Crystal Navajo Rug
    Circa 1990
  • Crystal Navajo Weaving Crystal Navajo Weaving
    Circa 1996

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Ganado

Located southwest of Crystal in the geographical center of the Navajo Reservation the Ganado style of weaving was established by Lorenzo Hubbell in late 1800. The motif generally consists of one or more stepped diamonds or stepped and embellished triangles. The colors are usually dominated by a red background with gray, ivory, black and red designs surrounded by a geometric border.

Ganado Examples

  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 1995
  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 2004
  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 1977
  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 1930
  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 2000
  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 1930
  • Ganado Navajo RugGanado Navajo Rug
    Circa 1970
  • Crystal Navajo Weaving Ganado Double Diamond Navajo Rug
    Circa 1930

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Klagetoh

Klagetoh is located just south of Ganado and 10 miles north of Wide Ruins. The English translation is “hidden springs”. The Klagetoh weaving is very similar to the Ganado rugs, but with a predominantly gray background instead of the Ganado’s red. Some experts do not consider Klagetoh a specific regional rug but a sub-type of Ganado.

Klagetoh Examples

  • Klagetoh Navajo RugKlagetoh
    Navajo Rug
    Circa 1935
  • Klagetoh Navajo RugKlagetoh Weaving
    Circa 1920
  • Klagetoh Navajo RugKlagetoh
    Circa 1960
  • Klagetoh Navajo Rug WeavingKlagetoh
    Navajo Rug
    Circa 1950

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Chinle

This regional Navajo Rug style is named for the town of Chinle at the mouth of Canyon de Chelly.

The Chinle style was developed by Mary Cabot Wheelwright and Cozy McSparron, a trader at Chinle. They sought to revive weaving using classic period designs with vegetal dyes.

The Chinle characteristics are horizontal bands containing Chevrons, Chinle Stars, Squash Blossoms and Diamonds in muted colors of gold, green, tan, ivory and pink.

Chinle Examples

    • Chinle Navajo RugChinle
      Navajo Weaving
      Circa 1940
    • Chinle Navajo RugChinle Squash Blossom
      Navajo Weaving
      Circa Contemporary
    • Chinle Navajo RugChinle
      Navajo Rug
      Circa 1930
    • Chinle Navajo RugChinle
      Navajo Weaving
      Circa 2012
  • Chinle Navajo RugChinle
    Navajo Weaving
    Circa 1950
  • Chinle Banded Navajo Rug Weaving Chinle Banded
    Navajo Rug
    Circa 1960

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Burntwater

The Burntwater Navajo Rug style was developed by Don Jacobs in the late 1960s.

Burntwater designs have similar characteristics to the Two Grey Hills area, but are woven using vegetal dye colors. The colors are warm rich colors of brown, mustard, tan and rust, accented by rose, green, blue, lilac and white.

Burntwater Examples

  • Burntwater Navajo RugBurntwater
    Navajo Rug
  • Burntwater Navajo RugBurntwater Navajo Rug
    Circa Contemporary
  • Burntwater Navajo Rug WeavingBurntwater Navajo Rug Weaving
    Circa 2000
  • Burntwater Navajo Rug WeavingBurntwater Navajo Rug Weaving

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Teec Nos Pos

The Teec Nos Pos Navajo rugs show a substantial influence from designs of Oriental origin.

These bold, exciting and elaborate rugs are always surrounded by a wide border or borders of different Oriental motifs.

The elaborate centers are of stylized feathers and arrows, steps and angular hooks extended from points of diamonds and triangles.

Many different brightly colored yarns are used in these weavings.

Teec Nos Pos Examples

    • Teec Nos Pos Navajo RugTeec Nos Pos
      Navajo Rug
    • Teec Nos Pos Navajo RugTeec Nos Pos
      Navajo Rug
    • Teec Nos Pos Navajo RugTeec Nos Pos
      Navajo Rug
      Circa 1920
    • Teec Nos Pos Navajo RugTeec Nos Pos
      Navajo Weaving
      Circa 2002
  • Teec Nos Pos Navajo RugTeec Nos Pos Water Bug
    Navajo Rug
    Circa 1970
  • Teec Nos Pos Navajo WeavingTeec Nos Pos Navajo Rug
    Circa 1995

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Wide Ruins

The Wide Ruins Navajo rugs borrow from the Chinle rug designs but tend to be much more intricate in design with more colors. This style of weaving uses a bead stitch of alternating weft colors called railroad tracks in some of the bands.

Wide Ruins Examples

  • Wide Ruins Navajo RugWide Ruins
    Navajo Weaving
    Circa 1990
  • Wide Ruins Navajo RugWide Ruins
    Navajo Rug
    Weaving
    Circa 1990
  • Wide Ruins Navajo RugWide Ruins
    Navajo Rug
    Circa 2005
  • Wide Ruins Navajo Rug WeavingWide Ruins
    Navajo Weaving
    Circa 1980

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Bisti Region

Bisti means badlands in Navajo. The region is located just off NM Route 371 about an hour south of Farmington and 90 miles North of I-40. The Old Bisti Trading Post has been closed for some time.

It was not until recently that this area was recognized as a Regional Navajo Rug Style. Previously they were thought to be a variant of the Teec Nos Pos. The rugs were woven by four extended Navajo families in the area.

The Bisti Navajo Rugs are the rarest of the Regional Navajo Rugs. Characteristic of the Bisti weavings are numerous borders surrounding a center field, sometimes up to nine borders. A thin checkered border is common in these rugs. Circles, Prayer Feathers and intricate complex geometric designs make up the field.

There is a definite Oriental influence in these rugs.

Bisti Examples

    • Bisti Navajo RugBisti Navajo Rug Weaving
    • Bisti Navajo RugBisti
      Navajo Weaving
    • Bisti Navajo RugBisti Navajo Rug
  • Bisti Navajo RugBisti Navajo Rug Weaving
    Circa 1930
  • Bisti Navajo RugBisti
    Navajo Rug
    Circa 1930
  • Bisti Navajo RugBisti Fancy
    Double Navajo
    Saddle Blanket Navajo Weaving Circa 1920

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Old Crystal Trading Post Navajo Rugs

Originally the Old Crystal trading post was established in 1894, in this remote part of the Navajo Reservation Southwest of Two Grey Hills and Northwest of Gallup.

In 1896 J.B. Moore purchased an interest in the trading post and re-named it Crystal after a pure sparkling mountain spring that was in the area.

J.B. Moore realized the rugs being woven on the reservation needed to be upgraded. He started paying more for the rugs with better workmanship and design. This caused the weavers in the area to produce better quality rugs.

Due to the remoteness of the Trading Post he started using a mail order catalog to sell his rugs to the Eastern market. The first catalog came out in 1903, with another in 1911. He left the reservation in 1911. During his stay at Crystal he greatly influenced the change in styles of Navajo rugs being produced at the Crystal Trading Post. The rugs had an Oriental motif with multiple borders, large central medallions and numerous hooks.

Old Style Crystal Examples

  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal
    Circa 1930
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal
    Circa 1930
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal
    Circa 1920
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal
    Circa 1920
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal Circa 1900
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal Circa 1900 to 1910
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal Circa 1910
  • Old Crystal Navajo RugOld Style Crystal Circa 1920’s 1930’s Almost identical to Plate XXX of the JB Moore 1911 Mail Order CatalogNow Resides in California
  • Crystal Navajo Weaving Historic J.B. Moore Crystal Trading Post Navajo Weaving
    Circa 1900 – 1910

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Yei & Yeibichai – Shiprock & Lukachukai

Shiprock – Red Rocks and Lukachukai Yei’s and Yeibichai’s

The Yei Navajo rugs begin in the Northwest corner of the reservation, in the early part of the 20 century Developed by Will Evans Trader and owner of the Shiprock trading Company. Yei are religious deities taken from the Navajo Sand paintings. But these weavings do not have any religious significance.

In these weavings the male Yei have round heads & the female Yei have square heads. Usually the these weaving have a stylized rainbow down the sides and across the bottom and no border.

Less common are the Yeibichai weavings. These weavings depict Navajo dancers impersonating Yei in Human form. In the actual Navajo ceremony there are 14 dancers, The Talking God, six male dancers six female dancers and Water Sprinkler The God of precipitated Waters. This Nightway ceremony lasts nine days and is only preformed in the cold months of the year

The Shiprock – Red Rock Yei & Yeibichai weavings our distinguished from the Lukachukai ones by usually having a white or gray light colored background. In these weavings the Figures and quite colorful, using numerous different bright colors. Making extensive use of commercial wool most of these weavings are used as wall hangings, 3 by 5 feet is considered large.

The Lukachukai area is west and south of the Lukachuka mountains from Shiprock. The Yei and Yeibichai weavings of this area are usually of a larger size, less colorful, made with handspun wool and the backgrounds are much darker that in the Shiprock Yeis & Yeibichais.

Yei Yeibechei (Yeibichai) Examples

    • Yei Navajo Rug Yei Navajo Rug Shiprock Area
      Circa 1960
    • Yeibichai Navajo Rug Yeibichai Navajo Rug Lukachukai Area
      Circa 1930
    • Yei Navajo RugYeibichai
      Circa 1960
    • Yei Navajo Rug Yei Navajo Rug 33″ x 47″
      Circa 1960

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Navajo Saddle Blankets

Navajo weavers have been producing numerous examples of Saddle Blankets from around 1880 to the present.  These types of Blankets have also been used as Rugs for many years. Single Saddle Blankets are usually about thirty inches square.  Double Saddle Blankets are meant to be folded in half, and are about thirty by sixty inches.

A good portion of the Saddle Blankets were woven using a twill weave because it is stronger and thicker. Good Navajo Saddle Blankets used as a saddle blanket last in excess of 30 years.

Navajo Saddle Blanket Examples

  • Navajo Saddle BlanketNavajo Weaving
    Saddle Blanket
    Circa 1930
  • Navajo Saddle BlanketNavajo Weaving
    Saddle Blanket
    Circa 1920
  • Navajo Saddle BlanketNavajo Weaving
    Saddle Blanket
    Circa 1950
  • Navajo Saddle BlanketNavajo Weaving
    Saddle Blanket
    Circa 1988

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Chief’s Navajo Blankets

During the late 1700s and early 1800s the Navajo Chiefs’ blankets started to evolve. The Chiefs’ blankets were woven wider than long. The name came about due to the fact that they were prized by wealthy members of the Indians of the American Plains. Noted archeologist and Navajo weaving authority Joe Ben Wheat once wrote, “The Chiefs’ blanket is one of the finest achievements in Navajo weaving”. Click for Chief’s Navajo Blankets History

Chiefs’ Navajo Blanket Example

Chief’s Navajo Blanket

Chief's Navajo Saddle Blanket