What’s going on here? The Quirkiness of the Navajo Weaver’s Mind

There is not much written about a very peculiar oddity done by mostly Classic and Late Classic weavers and seldom seen on Transitional and floor rugs Navajo textiles. We all have noticed and if not understood, we have accepted the weaving pattern called variegation. This is the use of different shades of wool colors; mostly brown, red and the infamous grey! Often stripes and wide bands on blankets are of a variegated color, giving them an organic, even vegetal tone and design. It is fairly easy to picture the weaver sitting in front of her loom with 2, 3 or more handspun brown or raveled bayeta skiens of yarn and choosing one or the other, alternating them as she goes along, creating a rich, deep, textured color field. Even the white stripes on Chief’s blankets are not uniform in color and acquire this same richness and texture.

This is one of the reason why these Classic textiles are so beautiful, intriguing and unique. The human and artistic touch can be read throughout the weavings, one weft at the time. Her feelings and soul are right there on her woolen canvas. Happy, sad, mad or whatever else she was feeling.

But there is something else that can often be found on these amazing Classic weavings. The “Spirit Line” is of course a common feature that has a purpose and meaning, but what about these seemingly random lines, dots or even holes found on these old blankets and sarapes? If one looks closely at them, one is almost certain to find at least one of them. We have selected a few of these intriguing, “quirks” of Navajo weavings.

Here, on a Classic 3rd Phase, is a short strand of red bayeta yarn incorporated into the variegated field of brown! Why? What is the meaning of such a sign? Is there a meaning? It is obvious that it is not an accident, it was put there on purpose, for a reason, whatever it might be.  


On this same blanket, we can see this faint dark line within a white stripe. Why did she add this brown yarn in there? It looks like a zip on Barnett Newman painting “The Voice” 1950, his a vertical zip, hers a horizontal one, but so similar in visual feel and sensation.


In this Late Classic Child’s Blanket, we have an example of single dots or beads and small lines spread on the red field! What was going through her mind for her to add these to her work? These are not features that seem to alter the design of the weaving but maybe they do. 


This last example is maybe the most amazing and intriguing. Holes! She deliberately created holes in the center of this Late Classic sarape! These are not breaks or repairs in the wefts, she did it on purpose, wraped some wefts around warps and left gaps! Again why? Why did she go through the trouble of doing this? Is it another form of spirit….hole to let her creativity escape? But why in the center of her work? Is there a pattern to it?


I do not have answers to these questions, but I sure enjoy finding these unusual design creations by the Navajo weavers. Maybe if one of them read this, she could enlighten us on the significance of them.