Learning to Weave in Window Rock: Stripes are Good

Irene Bailey (left) checks out the striped weaves at the beginning of Ann Hornby's rug.

Tempe, AZ One of the things that people come to terms with when they’re learning to weave Navajo style is something that I learned from Pearl Sunrise at a class I took a long time ago (shortly after the Monster-Slayer Twins rid the Fourth World of nasty creatures).    With great authority and wisdom, Pearl said “Stripes are good” .    With Pearl’s help, I came to understand that stripes force you to lay your yarns in generously and evenly, to develop a consistent beat and to watch your edges.  All of these skills will help you to progress more quickly when you start to do patterning.    Some weavers, like Nellie Glasses of Rough Rock, AZ, do pieces that consist only of simple striped zones.  I usually have a couple of Nellie’s pieces in the samples that I bring to class, and they are often rugs that students use in developing their first patterns.  Our recent October class was no exception.   The piece that Ann Hornby is working on in the picture above is a variation on one of Nellie’s handspun rugs.    Ann used a technique that’s called Coalmine or railroad tracks by Navajo weavers and is referred to as pick and pick by floor loom weavers.   Simply, it is one row of one color followed by one row of another color (and handled correctly on the edges).

                               Another member of our class, Pamela Desanto, is a very accomplished floor loom weaver and also started her piece with a striped section to adapt to the difference in equipment and technique.  She skillfully manipulated her colors to create a very interesting striped area.    You can see what a quick study Pamela is in the crisp, straight lines that she achieved in her first attempt.    Linda Mansour was also experienced in floor loom techniques and has studied  Navajo weaving with Barbara Jean Teller Ornelas.   The striped band at the beginning of her piece (seen in the close-up below)  is a combination of simple stripes and Coalmine weave and sets a great standard for even lines and consistency.


Linda Mansour's striped section is combination of Coalmine technique and simple stripes.

I think I’ll go weave some stripes later today!

Hagoshíí (so long for now)

Mary Walker

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  1. Mary Walker on November 18, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Thanks, Pam!

  2. Pamela D on November 17, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Mary – How cool to see the finished product after watching you work on “The Social Dancers” in class – it is awesome!!! Thanks for sharing – Pamela D.

  3. Joan Windmill on October 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Mary,
    I love stripes!! There are so many different variations that can be woven. The size, color and spacing etc. of the stripes can really make a big difference I’ve found in the look of the weaving.(Also it’s a nice break in between weaving those more difficult joined patterns!)I love to see what your students are doing. It’s very inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sandy Gally on October 29, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you, Thank you, Mary!

    Your article today just happen to strike a stripe in my brain. I am now ready to complete my sampler with stripes and get it off my loom. I guess it has spent way too many years (don’t tell how many) just sitting there and I am definitely tired at looking at it. So off to practice keeping good clean edges with Stripes.

    I feel Free!