Native American Rugs & Textiles — Suggested Reading

Much of the information that follows focuses on Navajo rugs because of the dynamism and artistry of contemporary Navajo weaving. There are additional suggestions regarding Hopi, Pueblo, Mexican, South American and pre-Columbian textiles as well.

Unfortunately, I don’t own many Navajo ‘rugs’ so you will rarely find one listed for sale on the site. Nonetheless, Native American rugs offer a splendid range of weaving traditions in their own right, and I thought a reading list might be illuminating.

Many of the book suggestions are taken from a compilation at Navajo Rug Repair, which was managed by Ursula and James Stilley for 38 years. As of February 2016, they are retiring from their business although they’ll continue to offer consultations.


Huichol Rattlesnake with Peyote

Rattlesnake Protecting Peyote — Huichol — Wixáritari


                               Native American Rug Blogs and Websites


Navajo Rug Repair

Ursula and James Stilley present this highly informative webpage an an adjunct to their repair and consulting business in Tucson, Arizona.

Weaving in Beauty

A website dedicated to exploring the beauty and harmony of contemporary Navajo weaving.

Cultural Survival

A site committed to advocating for the rights of indigenous people. The link is to an essay on Navajo Rugs titled, ‘The Fleecing of Navajo Weavers’. Basically, it delves into the commercial exploitation of Navajo motifs and symbols by outside opportunists.

Navajo Weaving at Arizona State Museum

The University of Arizona has a museum page focused on historical and contemporary Navajo weaving.

Navajo Master Weavers

This is a short 11-minute documentary on Navajo weavers uploaded to YouTube.

Navajo Rugs with Anecita Agustinez

Native Voice TV interviews a Navajo weaver on the weaving techniques and traditions of the Diné.

A History of Navajo Weaving

A short and lucid overview of Navajo weaving history by Lee & Eric Anderson.

Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction

Information on the Crownpoint Rug Auction, including a schedule of dates.

Native American Netroots

An informative essay on Navajo Weaving posted by Ojibwa.


Storm Pattern with Whirling Logs 1920

Navajo ‘Storm Pattern’ with Whirling Logs 1920


Hopi Weaving

Short history of Hopi textile weaving.

Hopi Weaver Ahkima Honyumptewa

Hope weaver Ahkima Honyumptewa discusses Hopi weaving and a philosophy of life.

The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival

A charitable organization offering information on Huichol art and culture. Although known as Huicholes among outsiders, they call themselves Wixáritari (“the people”).

Real de Catorce

Real de Catorce is an old silver mining town in San Luis Potosi and a pilgrimage site for indigenous Huicholes. This site delves into their history and culture.

Taos Art School

You can actually attend a workshop and learn Navajo weaving techniques in Taos, New Mexico. (Other courses as well.)

An Introduction to Navajo Weaving

As well as offering looms for sale, this site shows you how to use one to craft Navajo style weaving.

Symbols and Motifs in Navajo Weaving

Excellent presentation with many historical illustrations by Jerry Freund, posted on the Canyon Road Arts, Santa Fe lifestyle website.


Navajo Yeibichai Rug

Navajo Yeibichai Rug




Textiles from the Andes by Penelope Dransart and Helen Wolfe

A beautifully illustrated book that explores the intricate patterns and vibrant colors in textiles of the Andes from Colombia to northern Chile.

Animal Myth and Magic: Images from Pre-Columbian Textiles by Vanessa Drake Moraga

Animal Myth and Magic explores the central place and significance of animals in the Andean cosmovision through the prism of South American archaeology, anthropology, natural history and mythology. Illustrated with 155 marvelous images from pre-Columbian textiles, this unique anthology discusses over forty-five species, from the hummingbird and butterfly to the llama and jaguar. The depictions—from surreal to naturalistic, awe-provoking to whimsical, abstract to totemic—span a diversity of habitats and 2000 years of culture (Chavín to Inka).


Chimú Jaguar Tunic -- 1000 Years Old

Chimú Jaguar Tunic — 1000 Years Old


The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman

This novel, added to this list because it features a priceless Navajo rug as part of the mystery, was the last offering by the great mystery writer Tony Hillerman. “Retirement has never sat well with former Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. Now the ghosts of a still-unsolved case are returning to haunt him, reawakened by a photograph in a magazine spread of a one-of-a-kind Navajo rug, a priceless work of woven art that was supposedly destroyed in a suspicious fire many years earlier. The rug, commemorating one of the darkest and most terrible chapters in American history, was always said to be cursed, and now the friend who brought it to Leaphorn’s attention has mysteriously gone missing.”

One Hundred Years of Navajo Rugs by Marian E. Rodee

This history of Navajo rugs is a revised, expanded, and updated version of Marian Rodee’s 1981 classic Old Navajo Rugs: Their Development from 1900 to 1940.  Designed for the general reader or Navajo rug collector, it offers a guide to identifying and dating Navajo rugs by means of weaving materials.  Wool quality, the author explains, is the single most important clue to the date of a rugs manufacture.  Rodee also provides historical background on the great Navajo rug weavers and especially on the Indian traders who bought rugs from the Navajo – Cotton, Moore, Hubbell, Bloomfield, McSparron, and others – all of whom had some influence on the development of the craft and patterns of Navajo rug weaving.  Since the first edition of this book, more information about collections of Navajo rugs has become available, and this new edition includes a greatly expanded section of color plates in addition to sixty-four black-and-white photographs.  Rodee has also added a map of the Navajo Nation showing the location of trading posts and outlet stores.  For anyone who enjoys looking at Navajo rugs, and especially for those considering buying them, this book is an indispensable and informative guide.

A Guide To Navajo Rugs by Susan Lamb

This Navajo rug book describes the basic characteristics of 17 styles of Navajo rugs.  Each of the Navajo rugs is described in full detail and accompanied by a color photograph.  A great value and a terrific little Navajo rug reference book with concise and accurate information about Navajo rugs.  42 pages; 19 color photographs; paper.

Rugs & Posts: The Story of Navajo Weaving and Indian Trading by H. L. James

The classic study of Navajo rugs and the trading posts associated with each unique rug style.  New information helps explain and display the beauty and craft of Navajo rugs. Rugs and Posts traces the history of the Navajo rug as well as the Navajo people and their rugs.  160 pages; 120 maps and prints; soft cover.

Navajo Weaving, Three Centuries of Change by Kate Peck Kent

Lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched this classic introductory text traces the history of Navajo weaving from about 1650, when loom processes were first learned from the Pueblo Indians, to the present day, when Navajo rugs have became world renowned and highly collectible for their beauty.  115 pages; 104 illustrations.

Navajo Textiles: The William Randolph Hearst Collection by Nancy J. Blomberg

Written while the author was Assistant Curator of Anthropology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Co. and before she became Curator and head of the Dept. of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum.  “The rich visual feast of nearly 200 illustrations of a previously unpublished collection would be cause enough for celebration.  But Blomberg has not been content to provide her readers only with photographs of beautiful and interesting weaving.  She has used the collection as a point of departure to discuss and analyze this important era in the history of art…” “American Indian Arts”  245 pages; nearly 200 color, b&w photos; paper. 8.5″ x 11

Navajo Weaving Tradition 1650 to the Present by Alice Kaufman and Christopher Selser

This book on Navajo textile art presents the stunning artistry of Navajo weavers in over 200 beautiful color plates of rugs and blankets. The Navajo Weaving Tradition is a detailed history of this unique art form. 150 pages; 200+ color plates & archival photos; paper 8.5″ x 11″

Woven by the Grandmothers: Nineteenth Century Navajo Textiles edited by Eulalie H. Bonar

The National Museum of the American Indian collection of 19th century Navajo weavings, one of the most comprehensive in the world, includes chief blankets, poncho sarapes, mantas, and Navajo rugs.  With 80 color illustrations, this book showcases not only the collection’s earliest and best documented pieces but also those that most vividly represent its variety and depth.  Essays by Native and non-Native authors explore the spirituality of Navajo weaving.  209 pages; 80 color illustrations; paper 9″ x 10″


Navajo Gila Monster Yei Rug

Navajo Gila Monster Yei Rug


Pueblo Weaving and Textile Arts by Nancy Fox

Long before the first Europeans appeared in the American Southwest, ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indians were spinning and weaving cotton for their everyday garments and ceremonial costumes. Much has been written about the arts of American Indians in recent years, yet the living tradition of Pueblo weaving has gone almost completely ignored. PUEBLO WEAVING AND TEXTILE ARTS is the first book devoted entirely to the complete range of this special tradition.

Reflections of the Weaver’s World: The Gloria F. Ross Collection of Contemporary Navajo Weaving by Ann L. Hedlund

Catalog for the exhibition of Navajo weaving that ran through 4 Oct. 1992 in Denver.  It traveledl to Phoenix, DC, Omaha, and NYC during 1994 and 1995. The show comprises the Gloria F. Ross Collection of Contemporary Navajo Weaving of the Denver Art Museum.  Fine color photos of the work with biographical sketches and comments of the weavers.

Weaving of the Southwest by Marian Rodee

This book presents important information on Pueblo Indian, Navajo, Rio Grande, and Northern Mexican weaving styles of the Southwestern U. S. region.  Traditional and modern styles of blankets, clothing, and rugs are identified and explained in detail, with brief accounts of some of the old trading posts that sold them. Today, Navajo weaving remains an important domestic craft that is intimately linked with what it means to be a traditional Navajo woman.  The new edition of the classic book includes up-to-date advances in the materials and a trend that increasingly includes men as weavers.  The evolving weaving styles are explained, including a caution for identifying foreign copies. New marketing ideas are also discussed.  All weavers, collectors, dealers, and historians will welcome this new edition.

Navajo Saddle Blankets: Textiles to Ride in the American West Edited by Lane Coulter

This beautiful, well-researched book offers extensive information on a relatively unexplored area of Navajo weaving.  Using essays by seven experts — Lane Coulter, Joyce Begay-Foss, Susan Brown McGreevy, Byron Price, Marian Rodee and Bruce Shackleford — the book is easy to read for the most part.  The first book to discuss the manufacture and artistry of Navajo saddle blankets, “Navajo Saddle Blankets” traces their history from the earliest example of such weaving to contemporary works. In the process it offers interesting observations about the American West and its cowboys, the art and economics of Navajo weaving, the role of trading posts in promoting or discouraging trends and designs, and the persistence and vitality of Navajo culture and its artistic heritage.

Southwest Textiles by Kathleen Whitaker

The significance of Pueblo and Navajo textiles transcends simple artistic expression.  Through the spiritual activity of weaving, male and female weavers beautify their world and integrate their art into the “web of life.”  Both the Pueblo and the Navajo believe that the culture hero Spider Woman has taught them to create with patience, understanding, and sensitivity.  Yet over the centuries Pueblo and Navajo textiles have developed along distinct paths which reflect the unique historical and individual experiences within each culture.  The textiles collection of the Southwest Museum illustrates the rich interplay between these two peoples and their art. “Southwest Textiles” tells the fascinating story of the history and evolution of Pueblo and Navajo fabric arts.  Over 250 outstanding examples from the Southwest Museum’s collection are reproduced in full color, along with 125 illustrations showing details of these works and historical photographs of Native American Indian craftspeople.  Also included are absorbing accounts of the early collectors of these superb textiles and some of the colorful individuals who were instrumental in founding the Southwest Museum and shaping its collections.  An accompanying CD-ROM includes comprehensive charts of the fiber and construction analysis performed on each of the textiles illustrated in the book.


Eye Dazzler woven by Frances Begay

‘Eye Dazzler’ woven by Frances Begay


The Gift of the Gila Monster: Navajo Ceremonial Tales by Gerald Hausman

Hausman ( Meditations with the Navajo ) once again turns his storytelling to the Navajo people, this time focusing on their principal “Ways”–ritual pathways whose ancient legends are used to heal, give moral instruction and attain inner harmony, or “walking in beauty.” Only a few tales survive today; some of the best known are related here. Part of the Navajo creation myth involving four successive worlds, they all help define and order the Navajo’s world and accomplish some sort of transformation.

Diné: A History of the Navajos by Peter Iverson & Monty Roessel