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.