I was scouting in the garage for pieces of lumber with which to build a Navajo loom. Jim asks what I'm doing. Asks if I have plans. Uh, well, not really. Got a couple of different pictures, and this is what I want. Off we go to the lumber yard.

Jim's son Mike comes over and gets drafted into the construction.

Asks what he's doing.

"Building a Navajo loom."

"A what?"

"A loom.'


Shut up and build.

So Jim and Mike build this loom for me.

Mike, really mystified, asks me, "Are you studying Navajo culture?"

"No," says I.

"Then why are we doing this?"

"I'm channeling an old Navajo woman."

"Oh," says Mike. Then: "And how's that working for you?"

I did my own warp frame. It's two boards, two big dowels, some twine and nails.

I also made the yarn. It's all alpaca, grown and shorn in Medina, Ohio.

Unlike sheep's wool, alpaca fiber has no lanoline. If you've ever stuck your hand into a bag of raw wool, you know how greasy gooey it feels. Alpaca fiber can be carded and spun raw.

Alpacas come in 22 officially recognized colors. You can find several on one animal, especially on the fawns and browns.

The black on the rug comes from an old bitch named Black Velvet. Camel-faced. Lots of attitude. Born in Chile. Try to stretch her out on a shearing table, she curls her legs in tight and screams. Honey, it's going to be 90 degrees today. Just let us take off the coat.

The brown on the rug comes from either Pichitos or Citronella. Their fiber got stuffed into one bag after shearing.

Pichitos, a vicuna-patterned gal, has since passed. She leaves behind a daughter, who is white, but you can tell which one she is. She has her mother's beard.

Citronella is half Chilean, solid brown, the same beautiful deep mahagony as Pichitos' blanket. I can't tell their fleece apart.

Although there are gray alpacas, the gray on the rug was made the Navajo way, by carding black fiber (Black Velvet) with white (Chiana). That blue cast in the pictures is real. I don't know why. When I card Black Velvet with White Diamond, the gray is grayer.

I delivered Chiana myself here in Medina, 12 days after 9/11. She fell into my arms. (Alpacas usually give birth standing up.) Made me smile for the first time in 12 days.

Chiana now lives in Tennessee.

The white in the rug is from several animals -- Chiana, White Diamond, and the beautiful Peruvian-born Amandy. Amandy died of a broken heart when she could no longer have children.

The fawn in the rug, as well as the warp, is from Chiana's nephew, a champion herdsire named Peruvian Navajo.

So this is really a Navajo rug.

The lines in my rug wander around a bit. A lot of rum and tequila went into this.

The pattern is a two gray hills motif.

Navajo leave an exit through the border. The Navajo exit is just a couple rows out the upper righthand side.

I've got a giant gate out through my border out the bottom righthand side. Best visible in the first picture.

The weave is extremely dense, which is why, after a year, I only have 26 inches done.

While doing this I realized that Penelope was NOT stalling waiting for Odysseus. The reason Penelope kept undoing her work is because she was inept and kept messing up the pattern.

I don't use batons. My comb is not wood; it's a plastic Afro comb. Navajo use what they have and so do I.

The tortoises crawled into the pattern because I was reading Terry Prachett's SMALL GODS about the time I got to that point in the weaving. Needed something there. Tortoises it is.

Anyone who has read SMALL GODS will know what's going up on top in the counter position to the tortoises.

Okay, it's April 2008. I have flipped the rug and am working up from the former top. I have four inches to go. I've taken off the heddle. The space remaining is too tight for it to work anymore. The eagles are in (upside down now). My Navajo spirit guide is cranky, my warp is suffering mulitple blowouts, and I need to make more gray yarn.

Things I have learned the hard way:

Weave your warp tight. Beyond tight. I think I'm spinning it two-ply next time.

Spin more weft than you think you need. A lot more. This thing eats yarn.

If you're blending yarns, remember which animals you used. Card all your blends at once.

Small dogs will try to run off with the ends of your yarn.

Large dogs will get the yarn stuck between their toes and try to walk away.

Border patterns that look good on the top and bottom might not work so well running down the side.

Don't push three years to complete your rug. Your warps will loosen and your spirit guide will kick you in the nuts, even if you have no nuts.


It's May 2008 and here it is! Upside down!

Here I'm taking the finished upside-down rug off the loom frame.

My web stats tell me a lot of you come here looking for how to make a Navajo loom, so I'll start by pointing out that the loom has two parts:

The frame, which is the big structure I'm taking the rug off of

and the two rods which hold the top and bottom of the weaving.

Here is a picture of the empty frame.

A Navajo style frame is not an exact science. Warrior use weapon at hand.

The essentials are a sturdy frame -- four pieces of wood fit together like a picture frame, a base to hold it up, and a rod suspended from the top crosspiece with heavy twine.

The top rod of your warp gets tied to the frame's suspended rod using three pieces of rope, leather strips, whatever ya got. Put one tie near either end and one in the middle.
The bottom rod of your warp gets tied to the bottom crosspiece of the frame the same way.
Use the heavy twine which holds the top rod to the top crosspiece to adjust tension.

The warp of a Navajo rug is one loooong piece of yarn strung in a figure eight on the warp frame (the ever so elaborate piece of equipment pictured near the top of this web page).
The rods you see within the figure eight of the warps in the warp frame are NOT the same two rods that get hung inside the loom frame.

To get the warp off the warp frame you lay another rod right up against one of the rods in the warp frame and sew every turn of the warp to that outer rod with string. In the picture of the warp frame far above you can see one outside rod sewn onto the near end of the warp, with the far end of the warp yet to be strung onto another rod.
After the ends of the warp are strung to the outside rods, take the inside rods out and lift your warp out of the warp frame and tie it top and bottom into the loom frame.

My loom has a couple refinements above the very basic. Below is a detail of the top, taken from behind the loom. There is another top crosspiece here in back for stability. It would also come into play if I were going to make a rug way longer than my loom is tall.

And below is a detail of my base and a side view. The bottom crosspiece of the loom frame sits on top of the base piece, which lifts the weaving off the floor and gives you knee room. The two base pieces are bolted with heavy duty bolts onto the loom frame's upright sides from the outside. You don't want your base pieces on the inside.
Jim fashioned feet into my base pieces. The feet give more stability than just boards.

I also have a crosspiece in the middle of my frame for strength. It's screwed onto the back of the uprights where it's out of the way.

How long to make the pieces? Well the width and height of the frame depend on how big a rug do you want to weave. And the length of the base pieces depends on the height of your loom. Make them long enough to keep your loom from falling over.

OR, I received this space saving idea from another weaver. It's a wall hugger version of the loom.

If you're really going to attempt this, there are two books you can't live without. One is out of print but that's why God invented libraries: Navajo and Hopi Weaving Techniques by Mary Pendleton. The other is Navajo Weaving Way by Noel Bennett and Tiana Bighorse.

So after I've removed the finished rug from the frame I need to detach it from its two ro>ds.
The dog is not required.

Here is a detail of the warp ends strung to the rod. They're very tight by now and I can't just slip the rod out. By the way my hands do NOT look that bad. The camera is picking up way too much blue.

Call for reinforcements.

Once the weaving is off the rods, tie the ends of the side selvages to the ends of the bottom and top selvages at the corners.
And Voila, right-side up.

And here's the wall hugger courtesy of Terry Keylon:

i had found plans for some much smaller looms on-line, but the pictures on your page inspired me to build a 6' by 8" wall hugging version (big enough for a 5' by 7' rug. it kinda looks like a king size bed laying on its headboard. i took the feet out the two and a half feet on the front, but only 6" out the back and put 6" "feet on the back of the top. this allows it to be put against the wall and allows the whole thing to be pulled out and laid on it's back for warping right on the loom. put it together in a few hours this afternoon all for about $32.00 at the hardware store. my wife and i did the warping for a 3x4 this evening. anyway.. i just wanted to thank you for the inspiration. Terry