Adapted from Beyond the Loom: Keys to Understanding Early Southwestern Weaving, by Ann Lane Hedlund (Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado, 1990, pp. 77-96); used with the permission of the University of Colorado Museum, Boulder.

Not to be reproduced, excerpted, quoted, or used in any other manner without written permission from the author.

The following definitions apply specifically to the collections of the Arizona State Museum and have also been used at the Navajo Nation Museum, University of Colorado Museum, Museum of Northern Arizona, and elsewhere. These terms may have different meanings when used in other contexts.

Comments in italics were made by Joe Ben Wheat during the course of many discussions with colleagues and students, 1972-1997.

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Aniline dye See Dye

Augmented tassels Corner tassels in which additional yarn is inserted into the fabric’s corners and looped through the fabric several times; each loop is left loose to form a decoration and to reinforce the corner’s edges. Common on Navajo textiles.



Banded A design of horizontal (i.e., in the weft direction) elements, either of solid colors or with patterns running across each band; as opposed to striped, running in a vertical (warp-wise) direction.

Compound or zoned bands A design layout in which units of horizontal bands are regularly spaced and repeated with some regular rhythm; bands may be of solid colors or may have patterns within them.

Bar A segment of a band, usually not extending from selvage to selvage.

Batten A flat, broad stick used in Navajo and Pueblo weaving to open and maintain the weaving shed and, sometimes, to compact weft yarns into the weave. Usually several inches wide and a foot and a half long.

Bayeta A generic term for several types of trade cloth—commonly raveled and re-used as weft in nineteenth century and some other textiles. The term is Spanish, the English wove baize, but fabrics from Spain, England, elsewhere in Europe, Middle East, Mexico, New Mexico and New England were obtained and unraveled by the Navajos. Usually dyed red with cochineal, lac, a combination of the two, or with aniline dyes, but other natural and synthetic colors have also been reported.

Beading A small-scale woven pattern created by the alternating two different colored wefts in a weft-faced fabric (or warps in a warp-faced fabric), resulting in small lines or blocks.

Blanket A rectangular fabric made in any of a variety of weaves patterns, usually softly woven in order to drape around the body or to be used as bedding.

Chief blanket A distinctive style of Navajo shoulder blanket and some rugs that are made wider than long. Two zones of wide black and white bands are separated by a series of narrower blue, black and/or red bands along the ends and across the blanket, often with diamonds, rectangles, or other geometric motifs place in three rows of three motifs each (see Nine-spot pattern). For identification, chief blankets are divided into four phases, although the patterns overlap in time and continued in use during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Note that dates are only approximate.

First Phase (1800–1850) Simple weft bands in black and white alternating with zones of dark blue and sometimes red.

Second Phase (1850–1870) Bands still prominent, with 9 or 12 rectangles added as design elements. At first small, later rectangles are larger and often create grid like effects.

Third Phase (1865–1875) Rectangles modified into nine triangles and diamonds, which give way in later times to larger diamond shapes that dominate the pattern.

Fourth Phase (1870–1900) Increasingly elaborate shoulder blanket designs of the Transition Period. Sometimes the diamonds in such pieces are so large that the once dominant black and white bands become background. Serrate patterns replace classic terraced designs. Elaborations such as pictorial motifs or continuous (edge to edge) motifs are sometimes woven into these blankets.

Child’s blanket A small, sarape-style blanket. Recent study has suggested that many so-called child’s blankets of the late nineteenth century may actually have been woven for use as trade items or souvenirs rather than for native children’s use.

Diyugí Navajo word meaning “soft, fluffy blanket” at the turn of the century; used by historians for the coarse, handspun wearing blankets of everyday quality, generally longer than wide, with simple patterns and coloration. Currently used by Navajos as a generic term for any handwoven rug.

Sarape (also spelled serape) A rectangular fabric woven longer (in the warp direction) than wide (in the welt direction), about six or seven feet long and three to four feet wide. Worn draped over the shoulders or around the body, it served as a primary outer garment and as a sleeping blanket for Mexicans and Southwesterners in the nineteenth century.

Shoulder blanket A rectangular fabric that was worn draped over the shoulders or around the body.

Woman’s blanket A rectangular, wider-than-long fabric, smaller than a man’s blanket. Typical designs are similar to those of chief blankets, except that the bands are narrower and darker, with gray bands instead of white ones.

Blend Wool of several colors that has been carded together to produce a third color; most often, natural black-brown and natural white are combined to make a blended gray.

Bosque Redondo An alternative name for Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where the Navajo were held by the U.S. government from 1863 to 1868, in an effort to control and “civilize” them. Rounded up by Kit Carson and his men, the Navajos were taken on “The Long Walk” from their lands to the camp at Bosque Redondo, hundreds of miles away from their homes. Many people died, livestock were slaughtered, lands were lost—life changed dramatically for the this time. The people were exposed to many new trade items and very different lifestyles. Although some returned to northern Arizona after 1868, life was never the same. Bosque Redondo remains a symbol for this major turning point in Navajo lives and culture.



Carding The process of cleaning and straightening wool in preparation for spinning by brushing the fibers with a pair of car brushes with wire teeth set closely in rows and held by handles attached at one end) or with a mechanized carding machine.

Chief blanket See Blanket

Child’s blanket See Blanket

Chimayo A Spanish-American town in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, where many weavers have made blankets, rugs and runners on European-style floor looms for generations.

Churro wool See Wool

Classic Period, Classic style of Navajo weaving

Classic Period (prior to 1865) This “traditional” phase is known for fine blankets, mantas and other garments, woven for Navajo use and intertribal trade. Terraced tapestry patterns on dresses and blankets evolved from simple, right-angled basketry designs. The sarape-style blankets of the period are characterized by intense, densely integrated design schemes of terraced geometric elements, using a limited number of colors (natural white and brown, indigo blue and raveled insect-dyed red.

Late Classic Period (circa 1865–1885) This early “transitional” period is marked by increasing influences from the outside. Many sarape-style blankets have patterns related to the terraced design schemes from the earlier Classic Period but are characterized by increased banding in patterned areas (i.e., less densely integrated pattern) and serrate motifs borrowed from Hispanic or Mexican weaving. Many different colors and types of yarns (especially 4-ply Germantown yarns, a number of raveled and raveled/respun materials, handspun wool and so on) were combined.

Cochineal dye See Dye

Combed gray A gray wool yarn created by blending natural black and white wool fibers together.

Commercial yarn See Yarn

Compound bands See Banded

Continuous warp See Warp



Diamond stripe A band segmenteddiagonally into a series of rhombs or diamonds.

Diyugí See Blanket

Double saddle blanket See Saddle blanket

Dovetailed joins See Tapestry weave under Weave


One-piece dress Rectangular garment that is woven wider than long. It is worn folded in half, draped under one arm, with the upper corners being fastened over one shoulder, belted at the waist. Pueblo and the earliest Navajo dresses are of this style, in dark blue and brown-black wool twill weaves. Some Pueblo dresses have embroidered borders. Related to Manta.

Two-piece dress Traditional garment worn by Navajo women in the nineteenth century, made of two identical, rectangular panels sewn at both shoulders and the sides, and worn belted at the waist. The design is characterized by wide red end borders, often patterned with dark blue terraced motifs and a solid brown or black center panel.

Dye Any colorant that is absorbed into the fibers of a yarn or fabric or fixed permanently to the fibers by means of a chemical mordant; as opposed to pigments, which are simply painted onto the surface of the fibers and physically adhere to it.

Aniline dyes A family of synthetic dyes of many colors, originally made from a coal-tar derivative called aniline. Anilines were first synthesized commercially in 1856. The earliest known aniline-dyed yarns in Navajo textiles date to 1863 and were raveled from commercial cloth. Anilines were applied to commercial machine-spun yarns that became readily available in the Southwest during the 1870s and were sold in powdered form to be applied to Navajo handspun yarns by the 1880s.

Indigo A blue dye, ranging from almost blue-black to pale blue, made from several plants of the genus Indigofera. Generally, semi processed indigo was imported into the Southwest from Mexico in “lump” form and used by Pueblo, Navajo and Hispanic weavers to dye their own handspun yarns.

Cochineal A crimson red dye made from the dried, crushed bodies of tiny insects from Mexico, Java and the Canary Islands. Although the Navajo never used cochineal dye on their own hand-spun yarns, they raveled red cochineal-dyed yarns from imported fabrics and rewove these yarns into their own fabrics. Cochineal is also found in combination with another insect dye, lac.

Lac A crimson red dye derived from a resinous substance secreted by the scale insect, Laccifer lacca. The Navajo raveled yarns dyed with lac (and cochineal/lac combinations) from imported cloths and rewove these yarns into their own blankets. The earliest lac-dyed yarns found in Navajo textiles are raveled yarns that date to about 1800. In mid-nineteenth century raveled yarns, lac is frequently found in combination with cochineal. Around 1860, soon after the invention of synthetic dyes, lac all but disappears from Navajo textiles.

Native dyes Natural dyes that are found, cultivated and applied in the Southwest; non-synthetic dyes.

Natural dye Dyes of vegetal, animal, or mineral origins; non-synthetic dyes.

Synthetic dye Chemically manufactured dyes. There are many families of synthetic dyes, including aniline dyes.

Vegetal dye Dyes that use plant materials—leaves, flowers, twigs, bark and roots—as the chief source of color.



Embroidery Ornamental needlework on fabric.

Ends The edges of a textile that parallel the warp selvages; each rectangular textile has two ends and two sides.

Eye-dazzler A bright pattern of small, serrate triangles and diamonds in intense, contrasting colors; the combination “dazzles” the eye. Most eye-dazzlers were woven between 1880 and 1910 from Germantown yarns, although some were woven from handspun yarns colored with synthetic dyes and some were produced into the mid-twentieth century.



Face Every simple fabric has two faces or surfaces.

Double-faced Two identical faces.

Single-faced Only one face is meant to be displayed.

Two-faced The two faces are dissimilar.

Fleece The coat of wool that covers a sheep.



Germantown yarn See Yarn



Handspun yarn See Yarn

Hispanic An ethnic designation pertaining to people with cultural origins from Spain.

Hopi brocade Also called extra-welt wrapping; not a true brocade, but an extra-welt patterned fabric on a plain weave ground, in which colored wool welts pass successively over groups of warps, wrapping around the last pair of each group before progressing across the fabric to form a solid colored pattern.



JoinSee Tapestry weave under Weave



Late Classic Period See under Classic period

Lazy line A subtle diagonal break in the weave of many Navajo fabrics where a weaver has worked on adjacent sections of warps at different times; usually spaced apart no more than the length of the batten, lazy lines allow a weaver to weave a wide fabric without having to reach from side to side with each pass of the weft. Navajo, Zuni and Mayo Indian weavers are the only ones in the Southwest who use lazy lines; neither Hopi nor Hispanic weavers use them.

Longer than wide A reference to fabric that is woven with its length in the warp direction greater than its width in the weft direction (across the loom). Note: length always refers to the dimension in the warp direction and width always refers to the dimension in the welt direction.



Manta A garment consisting of a rectangular fabric woven wider-than-long and worn draped over the shoulders as a shawl or around the body as a dress, generally by women. Pueblo and Navajo mantas may be plain weave or twill weaves and are woven in a variety of patterns and colors.

Meander A linear pattern in which the design element moves in a sinuous or winding, albeit usually rectilinear, fashion. Related to the Greek fret or key pattern.

Merino wool See Wool

Modern Produced since 1940.

Moki stripes (also spelled Moqui) A design of alternating black (or brown) and dark blue bands used alone or interspersed with white and/or red bands, sometimes with a superimposed design of diamonds and other geometric motifs. The term Moki derives from the Spanish name for the Hopi Indians. The Hopi rarely made blankets patterned with this type of design, although Navajo and Spanish Colonial weavers commonly employ it.



Natural color The color of undyed, untreated wool, cotton, or other textile fibers.

Native dye See under Dye

Navajo An ethnic designation pertaining to a group of Native Americans whose ancestors arrived in the American Southwest sometime since the fourteenth century, who speak an Athapaskan-based language and who now live principally on and around the Navajo Nation in parts of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southern Utah.

Nine-spot pattern A chief blanket and sarape style in which bars, diamonds or other geometric motifs are arranged in three rows with three figures in each row. In some textiles the center row may be split into two opposing rows, in which case the design becomes a “twelve spot” pattern.



One-piece dress See Dress



Plain weave See Weave

Pictorial A textile with depictions of people, animals, birds, landscapes, vehicles and any other realistic or semi-realistic images woven into the design.

Ply One continuous strand of spun fibers. In multiple-ply yarns, two more strands of single-ply yarn are twisted together to form a heavier, stronger yarn.

Pound blanket/rug A thickly spun, loosely woven textile, generally lb a simple design in few colors. Most pound blankets or rugs were woven around 1885-1910 and were sold to traders who paid for them by the pound; this practice continued in some areas into the 1940s and later.

Pueblo An ethnic designation pertaining to several groups of southwestern Native Americans that include the prehistoric Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) and the historic and modern peoples of Hopi, Zuni, Acoma and Laguna (the Westem Pueblos) and the Tewa-, Tiwa-, Tanoan- and Keres-speaking Eastern Pueblo Indian villages in New Mexico.



Raveled yarn See Yarn

Regional rug style Any of more than a dozen characteristic geometric patterns developed in individual communities across the Navajo Nation during the twentieth century, elaborated by local extended families and encouraged by local traders; including style names such as Ganado, Two Grey Hills, Crystal, Wide Ruins, Burntwater, Teec Nos Pos and many others.

Rug A rectangular fabric made in any of a variety of weaves and patterns, usually woven in a relatively heavy weight, to be used for a floor covering or wall hanging.



Saddle blanket A blanket that is placed beneath a horse’s saddle to prevent the saddle from galling the animal. Single saddle blankets usually measure thirty inches square; double saddle blankets are approximately thirty by sixty inches and are folded in half when used. Saddle blankets are also frequently used as small rugs.

Saddle cover A small textile for use on top of a saddle to cushion e seat and to decorate it; generally less heavy and more decorative Lan a saddle blanket; often woven in Germantown yarns and adorned along at least one edge with fringe and large tassels.

Sash belt A long, relatively narrow fabric woven in a warp float pattern weave and worn as a belt around the waist; usually red with green and black (Hopi style) or with green and white (Navajo style). The term sash belt is one used by Pueblo and Navajo people and  is adopted here.

Saltillo style An elaborate blanket style of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, named for the city of Saltillo, Coahuila, in northwestern Mexico. Important features include serrate patterns, concentric diamonds, center-dominant designs and vertical background schemes. These elements were adopted by Spanish Colonial weavers of New Mexico and further copied or modified by Navajo weavers after 1870.

SarapeSee under Blanket

Saxony yarn See Yarn

Selvage (Alsoselvedge) The edge of a fabric where the wefts loop around the side warps and reenter the fabric to weave in the reverse direction and where, as in Navajo and Pueblo textiles that typically have four complete selvages (two warp selvages and two weft selvages), the warps are uncut and loop around the end wefts.

Selvage cords Two or more yarns that twist about each other while interlacing with and reinforcing a fabric’s edge. In Navajo textiles, two 3-ply selvage cords are usually twined together, forming a 2-strand edge. In Pueblo fabrics, three 2-ply cords usually form a 3-strand, twined selvage. There are also other variations.

Serape See Sarape under Blanket

Serrate design Apattern of diagonals formed by sharply pointed zigzag lines, frequently used on diamond shapes and other geometric figures.

Sides The edges of a textile that border the weft selvages; each rectangular textile has two sides and two ends.

Shoulder blanket See Blanket

Slit Joins SeeTapestry weave under Weave

Spanish Colonial An ethnic designation pertaining to people with cultural origins from Spain who colonized major parts of the Western as well as areas of the Eastern hemispheres.

Spider Woman’s Cross A cross-shaped motif with small squares or other geometric motifs appended to each outer corner at the cross’s arms. Named after Spider Woman, who taught the Navajos to weave, according to Navajo mythology; however, the term may have been coined originally by a trader or other outsider and not by a Navajo.

Spider Woman’s Hole A small, woven-in slit occasionally seen in or near the center of Classic and Late Classic blankets. Frequently, such a slit is finished with twined selvage cords in the same manner as the textile’s edges. Named after Spider Woman, who taught the Navajo to weave; the term, however, may have been coined originally by a trader or other outsider and not by a Navajo. Associated with similar purposes as the “Weaver’s Pathway.”

Spinning Theprocess of drawing out and twisting a group of relatively short fibers into a continuous strand to form a yarn or thread. The two possible directions of spin are noted by the letters S and Z because the angle of spin in a yarn can be represented by the slanting direction of the central portion of each letter. The following notation is used:

z or s Single-ply z-spun or s-spun yarn.

or S Direction of final twist of a multiple-ply yarn; when used alone, indicates that the number of plies and direction of spin for each ply have not been determined; if the number of plies is known, the notation may read 3S, 2Z and so forth;

3z-S Yarn that has three plies and is z-spun, S-plied; comparable notations are 4z-S, 3s-Z and so forth. (Kent 1985:117).

All native spun yarn in the Southwest is z-spun, and good bit of the raveled yarn, particularly the late raveled yarn, is also Z. But if it is s-spun, it is almost certainly raveled yarn. At least 99 percent of all s-spun yarn in the Southwest was raveled. (Joe Ben Wheat)

Spirit line See Weaver’s pathway

Stripe A design element that extends across a textile in the direction of its warps and parallel to its side selvages; opposed to a band, which is oriented horizontally, following the direction of the wefts.

Synthetic dyes See Dye



Tapestry weave See Weave

Terraced Stepped design elements that often form rectilinear diagonals, as in terraced triangles, diamonds and zigzags.

Trade cloth Commercially manufactured fabric, imported into the Southwest.

Transitional period (1880–1900) A time when the production of Navajo blankets made for native consumption and for trade to other peoples who would wear them was changing to the production of rugs, other home furnishings and souvenirs for sale to outsiders. Weaving of this period is characterized by the use of many new materials (a continuation of the Late Classic trend), Germantown yarns, bright colors, bordered patterns and heavier spinning and weaving in order to conform to the requirements of a carpet rather than a wearing blanket.

Tufted A weaving technique in which extra pieces of yarn or long fibers are inserted into the background fabric during the process of weaving, producing a shaggy pile effect.

Twelve-spot pattern A chief blanket and sarape style in which bars, diamonds, or other geometric motifs are arranged in four rows with three figures in each row. Related to the “nine-spot pattern.”

Twill See Weave

Twining A weaving technique in which pairs (or more) of yarns twist around each other while enclosing a second set of yarns within each turn or half-turn. In Pueblo and Navajo weaving, all four selvages often have a set of selvage cords that are twined about each other while enclosing either the looped warps or wefts, depending upon whether it is the warp or weft selvage. (See Selvage)

Twist See Spinning

Two-piece dress See Dress



Vallero star An eight pointed star motif often depicted in several alternating colors. Named for the Rio Grande Valley from which many Spanish Colonial blankets using this motif came, although Navajo and other weavers use it too. It is presumed by some to be derived originally from a pattern frequently seen in early American patchwork quilts.

Vegetal dye See Dye



Warp The parallel yarns that are strung on a loom and form the foundation onto which the weft yarns are woven.

Continuous warp A weaving system in which a warp yarn is wound back and forth across the loom frame so as to create a “closed system” with no cut threads; used to produce an uncut four-selvage fabric such as that made by Pueblo and Navajo weavers, and also produced on backstrap looms from other parts of the world.

Weave To interlace yarns together to form a fabric. (See Emery 1966.)

Balanced weave Warps and wefts are the same size and equally spaced.

Plain weave Each weft passes over one warp, then under the next warp in a regular sequence.

Weft-faced weave Wefts conceal the warps.

Warp-faced weave Warps conceal the wefts.

Tapestry weave A weft-faced plain weave in which differently colored pattern areas are formed by wefts worked in separate sections; weft-faced plain weave with discontinuous wefts. There are many ways of connecting adjacent color areas:

Join Refers to line where a color change is made between two design elements.

Slit tapestry join Wefts turn around adjacent warps and create a slit between the color areas; they do not interlock or dovetail but remain independent of each other.

Diagonal tapestry join Related to the slit joins but the join is progressively offset along a diagonal line; wefts do not turn around each other. The resulting slits between colors are small and inconspicuous.

Interlocked tapestry join Wefts of adjacent color areas are linked together by turning around each other between adjacent warps.

Dovetailed tapestry join Wefts of adjacent color areas are connected by turning around a common warp and not by turning around each other.

Dovetailing was the preferred form for Spanish weavers because they were using a shuttle. The Navajo and Pueblo more often used interlocking. (Joe Ben Wheat)

Twill weave Float weave in which wefts pass over two or more warps and the floats for each successive pass are usually aligned diagonally.

Diagonal twill weave Floats progress in one direction creating a diagonal texture in the fabric.

Herringbone twill weave Float diagonals in alternate directions to form a zigzag pattern.

Diamond twill weave Floats diverge to form a diamond-shaped pattern.

Modified twill weave Floats have an irregular arrangement and no diagonal alignment results.

Warp float pattern weave Warp-faced technique used by Pueblo and Navajo weavers for making belts, in which some of the warp yarns create a pattern by floating over more than one well at a time.

Wedge weave (eccentric weave) An unusual weave found in some blankets of the late nineteenth century in which wefts are placed at oblique rather than right angles to the warp to form a series of diagonal, zigzag or diamond patterns. Because the warp yarns are generally forced out of their normal vertical position. the edges of the blanket become scalloped. Also called a “pulled warp weave.”

Weaver’s pathway A small thin line that extends from the center design field across the border to the outside edge of some rugs; the line is frequently placed near a corner and made of the same color as the center field’s background. Also called the spirit line. Associated with the belief of allowing the energy and spirit woven into a particular textile to be released in order for the weaver to have the energy and imagination to continue weaving other textiles.

Wedge weave See Weave

Weft Theyarns that are interlaced with, that is, woven over and under the warp yarns; the warp and weft yarns are usually placed at right angles to each other.

Wider than long A reference to fabric that is woven with its width in the weft direction (across the loom) greater than its length in the warp direction. Note: width always refers to the dimension in the weft direction and length always refers to the dimension in the warp direction.

Wool Curly fibers that form the fleece of sheep.

Churro wool A soft, long, lustrous wool with little grease or crimp, easy to work by hand. The Churro breed of sheep was originally brought from Andalusia to the Southwest by the Spanish in 1598. This wool appears most frequently in blankets made before the 1880s.

Merino wool Wool from a Spanish sheep breed introduced by the United States government during the 1880s along with the French Rambouillet breed. These short, curly and greasy wools were difficult to work by hand but superior for producing textiles by machine.



Yarn Cordage made of fibers twisted together in a continuous length.

Commercial yarn Machine-spun yarns, usually industrially dyed; manufactured by a non native industrial process and obtained through a trading post, store, or other outlet of commerce.

Germantown yarn Commercial 3-ply and 4-ply American-manufactured yarn colored with aniline dyes; originally made in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Three-ply yarns were issued to the Navajos beginning in 1864 and replaced by 4-ply versions around 1875. Both types were colored with a wide range of synthetic dyes and used in Transitional Period blankets, rugs, pillow covers and other novelty items. The use of 4-ply Germantown yarns was discouraged by traders after 1900 but persisted well into the twentieth century anyway. The Pueblos also used Germantown yarns in their embroidery, brocade weaves and sash belts.

Handspun yarn Usually a yarn of native manufacture, spun on a shaft-and-whorl hand spindle or on a hand- or treadle-operated spinning wheel. In contrast to industrial machine-spun yarns, which are designated as commercial.

Raveled yarn Yarn obtained by unweaving a fabric by separating the warps and wells. These yarns can then be rewoven directly into another fabric, or can be carded and respun to form entirely different yarns. See also Bayeta.

Saxony yarn Fine 3-ply yarn spun from the wool of merino sheep and dyed with natural dyes. These yarns were produced in Saxony, a former German state, and also in England, France and New England during the first half of the nineteenth century. After 1821, Saxony yarns were imported to the Southwest by way of the Santa Fe Trail. They were used by the Spanish for color accents and, about mid-century, by the Navajos for general weaving. In southwestern weaving, most Saxony yarn is limited to one intense shade of’ red.



Zoned bands See Banded