Donald Yazzie, Ganado Rug, Navajo Handwoven, 48 in x 70 in
Donald Yazzie, Ganado Rug, Navajo Handwoven, 48 in x 70 in
In 1878 Juan Lorenzo Hubbell began his legendary career as a trader in Ganado, AZ. With an abiding appreciation for Navajo art and culture, Hubbell set out to restore Navajo weaving to its Classic Period of excellence, a time when Navajo textiles were the best, finest, tightest and most valuable in the land.
Hubbell admired the crimson red of old bayeta cloth and encouraged Ganado weavers to use a similar rich color– hence the origin of the name – Ganado Red. He also favored grey, brown, black, white and indigo. Early Ganado patterns were often Classic Revivals with Moki stripes and floating crosses. However, after 1910, the more popular Ganado rugs were large, black bordered textiles with red or grey backgrounds, and central design elements of terraced diamonds or crosses. These rugs included motifs such as latch hooks, terraced zigzags, swastikas and stepped triangles.
Contemporary Ganado Rugs retain Hubbell’s traditional color scheme, but may exhibit more elaborate patterns, double borders and terraced elements in the four corners.
The main Navajo weaving technique is classified as weft-faced tapestry. In this method discontinuous horizontal wefts go over and under vertical warps, completely concealing the warp threads.
Warp and weft are important because their coarseness or fineness, along with the skill of a weaver, determine the tightness of a weave. “Tightness” is what differentiates a loosely woven throw, a quality floor rug or museum tapestry. Tightness is defined by the number of weft threads per linear inch. The higher the weft counts, the tighter, finer and more expensive Navajo textiles will be.
You’ll find the lowest weft counts in coarsely woven Gallup Throws, approximately 12-16 threads per inch and the highest, 80-120, in superior Two Grey Hills/Toadlena weaves. The vast majority of Navajo textiles fall somewhere in between. These mid-range weavings have average counts of 30-60 wefts per inch. Textiles in this group are considered well woven, reasonably tight and ably crafted for long lasting wear and beauty.
To determine the weft count of a textile, place a ruler parallel to a vertical warp. With the aid of a magnifying glass count the number of weft threads in one inch. (Double that number to take into account the corresponding wefts on the back face.) Repeat this process in a number of areas since weft counts may vary with the different yarns in a pattern. Average the counts when you’re through. This gives you a good assessment of your piece.
Be aware that the tighter a weaver pounds down the wefts with her comb, and the finer her wool is spun, the higher the weft count will be. Keep in mind too, that the ratio between warp and weft is also important, with the finest textiles having both high warp and weft counts.
Caring for Navajo Textiles
Navajo textiles are items of great beauty and durability. Whether placed on the floor or displayed as wall hangings, Navajo textiles will last indefinitely with proper care.
Use a thin carpet pad with felt top and non-skid back to prevent slippage and cushion the rug from wear. (Durahold Rug Pads are a good example)
Gently vacuum floor rugs with a non-rotating attachment. Vacuum both sides and periodically turn the rugs over to insure even exposure to sunlight and wear. Never use an upright vacuum.
Vacuum wall hangings in the same manner and turn seasonally.
Keep rugs and wall hangings out of direct sunlight. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light causes fading and deterioration of wool fibers.
Inspect your rugs on a regular basis for evidence of harmful insects. Contact a professional Navajo rug cleaner if you see moths, carpet beetles or damage. Some websites recommend freezing a rug in a plastic bag to kill moth eggs, but this is not a fool proof method unless you keep the rug in the freezer for the full 30 day moth breeding cycle. To be on the safe side, and to protect your valuable investment, always consult with experts.
Never use mothballs or crystals. The chemicals in these products can damage your rug.
Do not whip, snap or vigorously shake your rug to clean it. These motions may break the foundation threads.
Do not wash your rug. Moisture may make the colors bleed and cause mildew. Immediately blot spills with a dry cloth. Consult with a professional Navajo rug cleaner if there is a permanent stain.
Do not slide dining room chairs or heavy pieces of furniture back and forth across your rug. Eventually you’ll wear holes in the textile.
The current recommended method for hanging a Navajo textile is to use 2” wide, self-adhesive Velcro strips. In order to avoid damage to your wall paint from the Velcro adhesive, first screw a thin wood batten (1/4” shorter than your rug) onto the wall. Then apply a “hook” strip of Velcro to the batten. Gently smooth and press the top edge of your rug into the Velcro strip. While this method is satisfactory and distributes the weight of the rug evenly, with repeated turnings for inspection and vacuuming, the Velcro may eventually cause damage to the rug fibers. A better solution is to hand sew a 2” cotton strip onto the back side of the rug and attach a “loop” Velcro strip to the cotton. Then press the “hook and loop” Velcro strips together. Keep in mind that while this method is better for the rug, it is more time consuming and requires re-sewing the cotton strip to the other side of your rug if you rotate it.
Most important to note is that nails or tacks should never be used to hang a rug as this will damage fibers and cause the rug to sag.
If your rug requires long term or seasonal storage, here are a few tips to ensure its lasting integrity and beauty.
Store your Navajo rug in a cool, dry place away from moisture, preferably in a cedar chest or closet. Roll the rug from the short end, around an acid free tube, and wrap with acid free paper. Never fold or flatten Navajo rugs or store them in plastic bags. If you are unsure about the cleanliness and condition of your rug before storage, have a professional Navajo rug cleaner inspect your textile.
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