Navajo techniques

After 7 weeks of classes with Mary Walker, I am smitten.  I am enjoying the Navajo style weaving process and see it as my quiet, thinking time.  The various techniques require focus, thought and attention.  Designs like the diagonal turned join are not simple to achieve, believe me I'm still working on figuring it out. 

This is one example of Slow Cloth, an idea that is growing in the weaving community.  I read Elaine Lipson's article and feel certain that any weaving can be viewed as Slow Cloth but Navajo and tapestry techniques are the personification of this method.  Elaine's definition is "Slow Cloth is not a project or a technique; it’s a relationship to your work and life with textiles and fiber".  While sitting on a pillow, on the floor in front of my Navajo style loom my position alone forces me to relate differently to this project than the ones I have on any other style loom.  While it may not be necessary to be on the floor, it puts me at eye level with my work and gives me a small sense of how Navajo weavers approach their work.

The other advantage to being on the floor (pillow required at my age) in front of the loom is that I develop a close relationship with that project, that loom, that yarn, that diagonal turned join I am working to learn.  The physical relationship encourages the visual, tactile, emotional connection to this weaving project which is very different from all others.

Thanks Mary Walker for helping me learn a new way of "seeing " my weaving.  And to Elaine Lipson, thanks for putting it into words.



Posted on Thu, 03/18/2010 - 21:49

Glad I'm not the only one still working on the turned join! This isn't coming easily for me, but the process is meditative, so I don't feel rushed or stupid for not getting it. I have five little hourglass rugs with --oh, lets just call them abstract -- designs on them which are going in the new dollhouse.

I'm retired and reclusive, by the way. I try to leave the house at least once a week, but that doesn't always happen...



Posted on Fri, 03/19/2010 - 02:23

Hi Jayne,

Oh,you made me feel so much better.  I was sure I was the only one who just couldn't get it.  Please take some pictures and post them.  I will do the same, although I haven't finished yet, my goal is to get more done this week.  I'm with you, I don't feel rushed and like to work on the rug when I know I can be quiet and enjoy the process and not focused on the product.


Posted on Fri, 03/19/2010 - 05:42

I just posted a picture of my "Hourglass" miniature rugs in my projects.. The two in the middle are finished properly. The outside two were chopped off and fringed. As soon as I paint the dollhouse room they're going in, I will declare that an artistic choice.

As soon as I finish spinning up enough weft, I'm going to put up the 24x36 loom I got off eBay and weave some plain stripes. I'm pretty sure I can do that.


Posted on Fri, 03/19/2010 - 15:38

Hi all...

Isn't weaving navajo style fun? Even when your rows are not quite straight and your weaving pulls in, it's still fun.

I am on my big loom and have about 1" done maybe I can get more done this wekend. I am going to work on a border on this rug. Mary did a fantastic job with the online class. I learned a few tricks. When Mary told me how Jennie finishes a rug by shaving and ironing her rugs, I went down an picked up a good iron and a sweater shaver to use. Going to give it a try this weekend.  I am realy looking forward to a week long class with Mary and Jennie.


happy weaving


Posted on Fri, 03/19/2010 - 17:19

Dear Mike,

You lucky bum! a whole week of Navajo style weaving.  You are an excellent weaver already, I look forward to seeing and hearing about the class.  Please keep a journal to share with us. Perhaps you should start a thread in this group to recount your experiences.  It also sounded like Mary plans on showing you around the community and having you meet some of the Navajo weavers she works with.

All I can say is have a great time, I am a little jealous : )


Posted on Mon, 03/22/2010 - 12:55

This is a short note I posted in the Contemporary Hand Weavers bulletin of Houston about my classes last year.


Weaving In Beauty

By Mike Barnette

After collecting Navajo rugs for 20 + years it was inevitable that I started trying to weave a rug. And since my wife Peggy spins and weaves it just fell into place. Spinning Churro wool also came along with the weaving process. This meant purchasing a new wheel since my wife wanted hers back. But that’s another story.
   I weave in the traditional Navajo style using traditional tools. My loom was made by Mark Deschninny (from Window Rock Arizona) and is a modern traditional loom. You warp and weave your selvage on the loom. I thought now that you have the equipment I can start weaving, not so fast, as I soon found out. My first stab at weaving did not make it half way through the weaving process. Boy, did I need help!
   Realizing that, I needed instruction of some kind. Reading books and watching CD’s helped. But an actual hand on instruction is what was called for. Taking the one day course on Navajo weaving at the CHT conference in San Antonio just reinforced this fact. I found a course that teaches Navajo weaving at the Taos Art School. Seven days of weaving instruction with Pearl Sunrise (noted Navajo weaver). The school was held at the San Geronimo Lodge in Taos New Mexico. The school arranged breakfast and lunch for us at the lodge, because the classes went from 9:00 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 3:00 Sunday trough Friday. There are just too many temptations to run off somewhere. And just too many good fiber stores around, which I paid a visit to. So I booked the course and planned my trip.
     Driving up to Taos I went on part of the “New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails”.  This could be expensive and I was right. I visited Tapetes de Lana in Mora, Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center in Espanola, Terra Wools in Los Ojos and every fiber shop in Taos.
The experience was fantastic needless to say. Even though it was a beginner class I learned more than I could hope for. The instructor was patient and informative and the hospitality at the lodge was great. Not to mention the weather.
     There were times I wove until late afternoon ate supper then continued weaving in my room. During the day we all set up weaving under the cotton wood trees behind the Lodge. In the shade of these big trees it was cool but you had to follow the shade which meant moving tables every few hours. Then the afternoon rains came which meant really moving the tables, inside the lodge.  One of the ladies dubbed us “running with tables”.
     By watching and listening to a great weaver I learned things I never though of and questions still unanswered. I still have a lot to learn about this style of weaving, but I am on my way. Next year (May and August 2010) I have more classes to take, this time in Window Rock Arizona

Posted on Sun, 03/28/2010 - 01:06

I enjoyed reading all of your comments about Navajo weaving.  I am booked in to attend Mary and Jennie's class in Window Rock this July.  I have always wanted to take a class like this but really didn't think it would ever be possible after I moved to Western Australia in 2000.  The timing of this class worked out perfectly as I will be in the US visiting and planned on heading back home about that time.  The best part is that my daughter has decided to join me.  She is not a weaver but has a great appreciation for beautiful things and handmade things.  In any event it will be fun for us to do this together. The Cultural field trips will be as interesting as the weaving class. 

I have two four shaft looms and never thought I would be interested in tapestry weaving.  But since I became interested in Navajo rugs I have changed my mind about that and am thinking about doing some tapestry weaving before July.  I have to build myself a small frame loom first.  That should be easy enough.

I'll go dig out my book and look up "turned join" so that I know what you are talking about. 

Mike, are you spinning all the yarn that you use in your weavings?  I would like to hear about that as I am a spinner too and find it hard to get yarn here that I like.



Posted on Sun, 03/28/2010 - 05:33

Small victories are victories nonethless! In my ongoing batle with the dreaded turned join, I have achieved something three-quarters of which is very nearly correct...


Posted on Sun, 03/28/2010 - 12:36

Nice job, Jayne.  That looks really good and, to my eyes, a perfect turned join.

Thanks for sharing.  You have given me the impetus I needed to get my butt back to the loom. 


Posted on Sun, 03/28/2010 - 14:26

I'm using a teeny-tiny 12"x16" loom, so I make my mistakes quickly and throw them in the dollhouse where they look very artsy.

I'm not going to start a people-sized project on my 24x36 eBay loom until I'm comfortable that I won't be staring at something that frustrates me for weeks. I can do a dollhouse throw in two days.

Plus I have a lot of spinning to do. I've been using scrap yarns and there's a lot of variability, especially since most of my singles yarns are from early in my spinning life, thus not all that even.


P.S. For spinners, what I am finding is that I have to dig in my rare breed collection for coarse longwool, the type of stuff that is not fun to spin on the type of tiny top-whorl spindle I favor. My first attempts on the Navajo spindle were discouraging, but after I saw that I'd need a different type of yarn than I was used to making, I pulled out the ol' Navajo spindle and tried again -- eureka! Now I have three different colors carded up and three spindles working. My Norwegian Princess wheel spins too fine for weft; maybe I'll get the Ashford Scholar out of storage and try again on that.

Posted on Thu, 04/01/2010 - 19:21

If your close this will be fantastic

University of Denver

Department of Anthropology

2000 E. Asbury, Room 146, Denver, CO 80208


Monday March 8, 2010

Weaving Exhibition Brings Navajo Culture and Cuisine to Denver

DENVER – A Holistic Journey with Diné Weaver Roy Kady opens April 2nd, 2010, at
the University of Denver, Sturm Hall. The exhibit, Na'ashjé'ii Bik¹' Biyiin
(Chant of the Male Spider), is co-curated by Teresa Montoya, Diné (Navajo)
graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, and Mr. Roy Kady, a Diné
weaver from Tees Nos Pos, Arizona.

Exploring the interconnected spiritual and technical processes of Diné weaving,
the exhibit presents the unique perspective of one Diné weaver. While the
practice of weaving is intergenerational in the Dine' culture, the featured
weaver will primarily share his own personal stories, traditions, and
relationship with the natural environment that inspire his creative process.
Visitors are invited to touch, smell, and participate in this reflective
exercise through an interactive exhibit environment.

The opening reception will feature a lecture and demonstration of weaving by Mr.
Kady. Mr. Anderson Hoskie, Diné medicine man, will also present facets of
traditional knowledge about the weaving process. Mr. Freddie Bitsoie,
professional Diné chef, will prepare a contemporary interpretation of
traditional Diné cuisine including: Seared Churro Lamb, Blue Corn Puree,
Butternut Squash Tarts, and Navajo Tea for attendees to experience, providing a
holistic taste of what Diné culture has to offer.

Na'ashjé'ii Bik¹' Biyiin, Chant of the Male Spider - A Holistic Journey with
Diné Weaver Roy Kady

April 2, 2010 - April 22, 2010

Opening reception and lecture: Friday, April 2, 5:30–8pm

Regular gallery hours: 9 am – 4 pm, Mon-Fri

Museum of Anthropology, University of Denver

2ooo E. Asbury Ave., Sturm Hall, Room 102

Always free

Posted on Mon, 04/12/2010 - 13:42

Sorry about the late reply Paula,

Yes I spin some of the yarn I weave. But I buy most of my rug yarn (churro) from trading post now. It's hard to beat the price and the consistency of the yarn. My wife keeps telling me my stash is big enough now. I just keep reminding her of her stash size.    While I am out in Window Rock taking the class I ask Marry if she would show me how to spin on a navajo spindel. I keep spinning to fine of yarn on it. Remember when you started spinning we all spun rope. I keep trying to spin a bulky yarn and it keeps comming up to thin, so I just ply it. I have found that this type of weaving is very cerebral. There is a pattern to the weaving that you have to keep track of. Whehter you use turned, interlocking or smooth diaginal joiints it just takes practice and thought as you weave.

"Weave in beauty"


Posted on Mon, 04/12/2010 - 13:49

Hi Mike,

Where do you purchase the fiber to spin for your Navajo weaving?  I was using some churro last fall when I was in Todelena and Marilyn was teaching me to spin.  She did not like the churro and commented that she takes the processed yarn and respins it for use in her weaving.  I have tons of Brown Sheep yarn and tried to respin some but made a but mess.

I'd love to get back to doing using my hip spindle but am uncertain which fiber to purchase. 

All suggestions greatly appreciated.  Maryland Sheep and Wool is coming up on May 2 and 3 and I am hoping to buy what I need there.  Saves on shipping and you get to see and feel what you are purchasing.


Posted on Mon, 04/12/2010 - 14:34

Hi Claudia.

The last yarn I purchased, and using now was from the Burnham trading post.

I imagine I will come back from Window Rock with a considerable increase to my yarn stash.

This is there link. The roving I get from different sources and my wife has brought me back roving from different fiber festivals.

Not all fiber festivals have churro roving. When my wife went to Maryland she did not find any. But I am not so sure how hard she looked. Since I was just about to start spinning and weaving.

I have had good luck with the churro from this place.

Talk to you later,



Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 11:56


The class your taking in Window Rock is the one is the one that ends August 1st. I am going to be out there taking the advanced class the next week starting August 2nd. But I will be in Window Rock on August 1st. Maybe we can meet up for a cup.



Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 11:56


The class your taking in Window Rock is the one is the one that ends August 1st. I am going to be out there taking the advanced class the next week starting August 2nd. But I will be in Window Rock on August 1st. Maybe we can meet up for a cup.



Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 23:14

Hi Claudia,

The Maryland Sheep and Wool festival used to be one of my old haunts.  I haven't been there in probably 15 years but if you can't find any Churro there you will have to probably order some from out west.  I know I have seen a couple of websites that have it just not sure where.  Do an internet search.

I would also be interested to hear what people recommend for alternative wool sources for Navajo weaving.  I know that they used merino for their blankets when they didn't have any Churro.  Lambs Pride is Merino and Mohair.  The long wools would make strong rugs but might be a bit heavy.

Do any experienced weavers have any thoughts on this matter?




Posted on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 23:22


My daughter will be traveling back to Albuquerque on the Monday to catch flights east and me heading west back home to Western Australia.  I think we will be trying to catch a ride with someone to Gallup to catch the train.  Hopefully we will be around on Sunday evening.  I wish I had more time.  I would stay for that second week of advanced weaving.  But I guess I will have to save that for another time.

Yarn stash is a tricky thing.  I now smuggle it into the house when the husband isn't looking!  Fortunately I can only carry so much in my suitcase.  Mind you if there is a post office in Window Rock I might be in a state of anguish......should I or shouldn't I.

I find it very hard to getting weaving yarns in Australia.  Limited choice and by the time I have it mailed from Perth, Sydney or Melbourne it ends up being more expensive than getting it sent from the US especially with the current exchange rate.

I got out my navajo spindle a while back and spun some very respectable looking yarn but decided it was probably too thick for rug warp.  I also think my spindle is too is an old Cleme and Clemes spindle and has a very big and heavy whorl.  I will be interested to try one of the ones that Mary has for sale on her website.  But I cannot really imagine myself spinning a lot of yarn on one if I can do it on a wheel.



Posted on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 01:09


To all enrolled in Mary's class (es)

You are in for a treat!   Jennie & Mary are awesome - both equally patient &, knowledgeable.  I've been lucky to attend twice (slow learner you might say).  Once with hubby, so he now understands my addiction; and once with weaving friend who was previously addicted! 

And yes, Paula, there is a PO in Window Rock.

I'm new to group, my name is Marsha and I'm hooked on Navajo weaving...........



Posted on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:18

Hi Marsha,

I am really looking forward to the class and cultural experience.  My daughter who has never woven anything is getting excited too.  I feel very lucky to have managed to organize getting there. I have wanted to take a Navajo weaving class for a long time.   I think there is no doubt that I will have to visit the Post Office in Window Rock.  I laughed at Mary's most recent post about yarn.  Yeah, we always need to get more yarn.

Hi Franco, is that an angora rabbit in you profile picture?  What a lovely color.


Paula, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia


Posted on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 16:54

I am back from Mary's weaving class. It was fun and I learned a lot. We were going all day from 7:00 in the morning till 9;30 at night. Not only did we weave but visited trading post, canyon De Chelly for a half day tour. That got expensive (buying yarn and rugs). We also went to "Hubbles" auction. That cost also. I am going back out in August for the advance class. I need to save money up agaiin for that trip. I would rocommend her class to every one. Jennie & Mary are great instructors and are very patient with beginners.



Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 16:45

Marry Walker has her Navajo instruction Weaving Book for sale on her web site
It is a required book if you want to learn Navajo weaving or just use as a good refrence book. This is the book developed for her on line classes, very informative great color pictures.
I have a copy and I go to it every now and then.
Weaving update, I am still working on my storm pattern, over half way through. I am hoping to make some headway this weekend and over the long holiday weekend.

keep weaving


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 17:02

Hi Mike,

I got mine!!  It's a fabulous resource and full of so many good techniques.  Thanks for posting about Mary's book.

BTW, have you taken a couple photos of your storm pattern project and posted it yet?  I would love to see what you are working on.  I really admire your work and it's a pleasure to see as it develops.


Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 20:14

No photos yet. I will take some this weekend. I have all of my butter flys (navajo dolls) hanging down now and you can't see the rug.



Posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 20:18

I will buy the first round off coffee. I will arive a day early July 31. That way I can go to Burnhams to buy more yarn. I too am taking the advance class and staying for the 2 day dying class.



Posted on Tue, 07/06/2010 - 12:38

If I sit on the floor for more than 10 minutes, even on a pillow, I can't get up for the pain. ;-( 

I do have a question though.  I have always wanted to try Churro but after extensive research I was told that it can act very funny in a humid climate, having originated in the desert.  Navajo sheep were raised on different food and their sheep have been raised to flourish in that climate.  As a result, if I understand it correctly, the wool is different as a result.  I think they even roll a ball of yarn wet to set the twist and then let it dry while in a ball.  Here it would simply mold.  I am originally from St. Augustine, FL., and surrounded by water between the river and the ocean and Matanzas River.  Talk about humidity.  Now I am in S. W. GA., and it is just as humid.  

I would appreciate any information.  I have Tiana Bighorse's book  "Navajo Weaving way", The Path from Feece to Rug.  I think this is where I got most of my info.  I bought the book to learn to spin their way and then moved on to a drop spindle and weaving with my own hand spun yarns.

This is also the book I am using to follow the Gecko pattern I am working on.  This is the only book out of all of the books I have that I could understand how to weave from a graft pattern instead of a cartoon.  (Haven't tried cartoon)  I have always just let the loom decide which way to go with the design.  Once I did their starter pattern and found that I didn't like how limiting following someone else's pattern was.  But this one is to be my design.  We'll see how it goes.  The beginning is on the projects page.  It will be done on my tapestry loom which is a cross between a Navajo loom and a Mirrix Loom, built by me and the piece will be in cotton.

Any comments and pointers are appreciated.

Posted on Thu, 07/08/2010 - 11:11

I would not leave spun and wetted wool in a ball to dry.  Everything I've seen recommends drying under tension - that is, spread the yarn thinly but wrapped  tightly around a wire frame or posts and let it dry.  Mary Walker's new book  recommends immersing the yarn in water and soaking for several hours to set the twist.  Other sources recommend skeinning the yarn and wetting briefly before hanging it to dry.  Having tried it both ways, I do think the longer soak does a better job, even though it adds significantly to drying time.  But then my experience is with plied yarn, so maybe singles handle differently. 

My one attempt to use the sweater rack in my dryer to speed up drying was a mixed success.  It worked, but wrapping around the sweater rack under tension was a nightmare and the twist was not set uniformly.  The less handling of the wetted wool you have to do to get it tensioned for drying, the better.  Then, the trick is to leave it alone for longer than you want to.

 I hear there is a Dine' taboo against weaving during rainstorms.  Although this is for religious reasons rather than weaving practicalities, I can confirm that the added humidity of a rainy day significantly affects Navajo-style weaving with churro.   I imagine this is true to some extent for all weaving, but I really noticed it on rainy days.

People tell me the trick is to sit on the floor for 5 minutes at a time and get up before the pain starts. They say it  will gradually get easier.

Posted on Fri, 07/09/2010 - 03:26

The major difference between Navajo-churro and other wools is that true churro has no crimp.  That's probably what would lead someone to way that it behaves differently, which it does.  Like Lincoln long wools and Kararkul, churro is wonderful for use in rugs, hangings and outerwear.  It's a dual coated sheep, so it's possible to sort the wool to achieve more control over the yarn.  Navajos would separate the wool, keeping the soft inner coat for socks, bedding and clothing. 

I don't know anyone who dries their yarn in a ball.  Even here in Arizona it would take forever to dry.  I'm kind of a Navajo-churro evangelist, but I think that if you try it, you'll see why people are trying to bring it back.  There are Navajo-churro breeders all over the country.  Because the breed was so close to dying out, there is quite a bit of variation in wool between breeders, but Mountain Niche farm has a web site where they sell a 16 ounce sampler of colors for $28 plus postage.  It's very nice roving and great way to try this type of wool to see if you like it.  (I have no affiliation with Mountain Niche, I just like their wool). 

Posted on Tue, 07/20/2010 - 13:30

Hi Marsha-  I'm on Cape Cod where we have very high regular humidity.  Navajo-Churro wool is the wool I use for almost everything, from scarves (with lamb's wool N-C) to rugs and mats.  I don't know what you mean by "acting funny".  I hand process my wool from fleece to yarn.  Sometimes I over-spin it by mistake. 

In other words, I do a lot with it, have made mistakes with it, etc.  I have had many many more problems with softer wools such as Shetland, Merino, or Columbia than I have with Navajo-Churro.  Except for the slight roughness in its texture, which makes it scratchy for scarves, and prevents it from being used in next-to-the-skin items,  I think it's an extremely easy wool to work with.  It cards easily, washes easily, spins easily.  It knits up a little stiff, crochets a little thickly, but weaves beautifully.

I wash the raw fleece in a tub, set it outside on racks to dry.  I spin it with either my Hitchhiker wheel or my antique Lithuanian wheel.  I have a Navajo spindle, but have to admit my wheels are faster than I am on the spindle.  To set the twist, I wind it into a skein  (using a niddy noddy or inkle loom to make the skein), and put the the skein in extremely hot water for 30 minutes.  Then the skeins get placed on an inkle loom to dry.  I use my inkle looms because they are the right size, but you could unwind a skein so that it is just one round loop of strands and place that on the back of a chair to dry.  I find this the easiest way for me to get a yarn that has the right amount of twist.  I have a knitted shawl that I made with this type of yarn- it is a little stiff to use, and is more like a mini blanket, but the yarn itself hasn't acted strange at all because of the humidity here.


I hope that helps- I know I "couldn't do anything" without having Navajo-Churro wool here all the time.


Laurie  (working on my first N-C rug on a large loom)


PS- I answered with this post before I saw all the other posts - I guess my average humidity can be almost like I'm in a slight rainstorm every day.  Even with a breeze on a partly-sunny day, it's more like a damp breeze than a clear breeze.  I tend to think of this wool as the "only wool" I need because if the Navajo could  or do make everything they need with it, then I should be able to.  But- I'm not a poufy sweater-type or fancy-sock type of person.    If it's functional, then it's for me.

Posted on Tue, 03/07/2017 - 02:25

it is 2017 and the Navajo weaving class with Mary Walker and Jennie Slick is well worth the time and money. I went to Mesa, Arizona for my second class and wove from 8:00 AM-9:00PM for four days. The last. Day we finished st 2:00. What a group of talented teachers. those turned joins are tough but mine are improving day to day.


Posted on Tue, 03/07/2017 - 02:25

it is 2017 and the Navajo weaving class with Mary Walker and Jennie Slick is well worth the time and money. I went to Mesa, Arizona for my second class and wove from 8:00 AM-9:00PM for four days. The last. Day we finished st 2:00. What a group of talented teachers. those turned joins are tough but mine are improving day to day.


Posted on Tue, 03/07/2017 - 02:25

it is 2017 and the Navajo weaving class with Mary Walker and Jennie Slick is well worth the time and money. I went to Mesa, Arizona for my second class and wove from 8:00 AM-9:00PM for four days. The last. Day we finished st 2:00. What a group of talented teachers. those turned joins are tough but mine are improving day to day.