The history of southwest rugs dates back to at least the 16th century when Native Americans in the southwest began interacting with Spanish explorers. Pueblos in the area focused on creating cotton blankets and rugs woven on looms. The Navajo took a different approach and created rugs made from durable wool, which they harvested from the sheep the Spanish brought.
Modern day southwest rugs are made in much the same way as those early people made them. Authentic rugs are made on a sitting loom that allows the weaver to slowly add the wool or cotton fibers and alternate between different colors. Wool blankets are usually made in shades of grey, brown, black, tan and white. Cotton blankets typically come in brighter colors such as red, blue, green and pink.
Resources on these rugs include:
- The Navajo Weaver: authentic rugs hand-woven by artist DJ Begay.
- Navajo Rugs: retailer of authentic Navajo rugs.
- Southwest Rugs and Southwest Blankets: retailer specializing in blankets and rugs for decorating purposes.
- A Brief History of Navajo Blankets & Rugs: discusses how the Navajo made different types of rugs.
- Native American Rugs: focuses on the different types of rugs produced by Native American people.
Hand-dyed yarn is another type of product used in authentic southwest rugs. The weavers dig the yarn into dyes made of all natural materials such as berries and crushed fruit skins. The dye is then dried and slowly fed through the loom to create different patterns in the finished rug. Diamond patters and other geometric shapes such as rectangular blocks are all common.
Today there are many rugs of this type created by machines, which allows for the mass-producing of such products. It's often easy to spot the mass-produced pieces because they look even and more perfect. Authentic rugs often have dye splotches and uneven colors caused by the process of dying the yarn. Both types of rugs look great in any home, yet the shopper needs to decide if they want to pay for a more expensive authentic rug or a less expensive replica.