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What is Finger Weaving?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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Finger weaving is a textile production technique that was widely used across North America historically, as well as being employed by cultures in other regions of the world, like Asia. The distinctive patterns associated with some forms of Native American weaving are the result of finger weaving. This weaving technique does not require a loom, and separate warp and weft threads are not present. Instead, people start with a set of straight threads that are braided over and around each other to create a finished woven product.

A variety of textiles can be used for finger weaving, including wool and plant-based products like cotton. The weaver attaches the desired number of threads to a dowel and then interweaves them to create a narrow strip of fabric. The width of the strip is determined by the number of strings, their thickness, and the overall tension of the project. Beads and other decorative elements can be added as the weaver works and finger weaving can be used to generate a variety of colorful patterns by working with multicolored thread.

Since no loom is involved, finger weaving projects are very portable. This would have been an advantage for weavers who belonged to nomadic communities that traveled throughout the year, and it made projects easy to bring along to work on in a variety of settings. These traits have made finger weaving a popular craft with some crafters on the go who like to have projects that can be carried in a bag and pulled out when needed.

Guides are available online for various finger weaving patterns and people can also take classes to learn various weaving techniques. Some classes are taught by Native American crafters who provide information about the history of traditional patterns and weaving techniques in their tribes. Finished projects can be used for sashes, belts, straps, and other decorative accents.

A variation on finger weaving is done with the hands alone and no rod to hold the weaving. Also known as finger knitting, this practice uses yarn stranded around the fingers and looped around and over itself while being held in constant tension to make various projects. One drawback to this technique is that until the project is finished, the crafter will not have a free hand, because the yarn is worked directly on the hand and cannot be removed before the project is finished without running the risk of unraveling or damaging it.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Jul 27, 2011

@burcinc- Absolutely! I remember making friendship bracelets with this technique as a kid. I don't really remember know it was done but it was fun and a great pass time too. I think I had made more than a dozen and passed them out to all of my friends.

It won't be too difficult for your students, I think they will enjoy it a lot!

By burcinc — On Jul 27, 2011

Are there any simple finger weaving techniques for kids? I'm an elementary school teacher and I'm looking for some simple and fun craft projects for the kids.

It has to be very simple so that they don't have too much difficulty with it. Would finger weaving be too difficult?

By burcidi — On Jul 26, 2011

I have never seen this before but it sounds like a lot of fun! I have tried crocheting before and was not very successful with it. I actually love using my hands so I think I would do better with finger weaving.

By the way, is this the same technique that is used to weave baskets? I've always wanted to learn that!

Any suggestions on where I can find a finger weaving class and a store for the materials? Would all craft stores have them?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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