A few days ago, I stumbled accidentally across an article called “Beyond Knitting and Crochet.” I was delighted to see that it included book recommendations for some of the less-popular fiber arts–spinning, weaving, and so on. My own library didn’t have any of the titles I was interested in (I’m going to have to request them), so I started Googling some of the crafts I’d never heard of. One that particularly caught my attention was finger weaving. How on earth does one weave with one’s fingers?, I wondered.
Given that I am a yarn-craft-loving librarian, there was no escaping the fact that I needed to learn more–and what I learned after some quick searching is that finger weaving is a fiber art that I think would be a great addition to maker programming in libraries.
As its name suggests, finger weaving is a method of weaving without using a loom. What I didn’t expect to find out, though, is that it has Native American roots. The Wikipedia article on finger weaving is brief, but taught me that much, and I was intrigued. I went on to discover that Lowanna Greensky has already published a lesson plan for a session on finger weaving, including vocabulary words, articles about Dennis White (an Ojibwe artist who helped bring finger weaving back from obscurity), and a list of supplies needed to let attendees try their own hands at finger weaving. I also found some audio files of Linda Shegonee talking about finger weaving. Both Shegonee and White emphasize the relationship of finger weaving to mathematics, which I love; I’m always excited to learn about connections between art and math. White has even integrated finger weaving into the fourth-grade curriculum of a school in Wisconsin, according to this article.
After reading and listening to all this, what else could I do but try my own hand at finger weaving? Using these instructions, I decided to attempt a simple diagonal weave. I used a knitting needle instead of a stick or the dowel rod that other sources recommended.
I also didn’t have any masking tape to hold down the end of my finger weaving, so I had to get a bit creative with ways to attach it to a chair:
For the record, I think you’d do a lot better with masking tape. My knitting needle kept falling out of the loops of thread, and then all of my finger-weaving work threatened repeatedly to slide off the needle.
I managed to create a thin woven strap that looks a lot like a friendship bracelet, and I did it in less than an hour. Now all I wish is that I would have discovered this craft when I was younger! I was terrible at knotting friendship bracelets, but I think I could have handled this even back when I was 10 or so and all my friends were obsessing over friendship bracelets. And to hold my interest nowadays, everything I read online mentioned more complicated patterns that you can make with finger weaving. I’m going to have to take some time to dive into some of those patterns, one of these weekends. They look too cool to pass up!
Have any of you ever tried finger weaving? Have you ever tried it as a maker activity for your library/school/institution/group? All of us here at MakerBridge would love to hear all about it! You can tweet us @makerbridge, or leave a comment below.