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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 1, 2001 - Issue 50


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Craft Series - Weaving- Part Two


by Lynne Sageflower Pennington

Images adapted from Native Tech drawn by Tara Prindle

This article is about Finger weaving and Seneca Stick Weaving. After each section I am going to put books and web pages you can go to for more information or to purchase these crafts already done.

Finger Weaving
What is finger weaving?
Finger weaving is a technique in which yarn is woven into designs with your fingers instead of a weaving loom. You will find when you are weaving you have a warp strand and a weft strand as in weaving with the loom.
Background of Finger weaving

In the beginning before the Europeans came natives used the hair from animals and plants. They did not have the bright colored yarns we use today.

Animals they used the hair from: Buffalo, horses, moose, elk, deer and dogs. They also used their hides in strips.

Plants they used: Inner bark from the basswood, cedar, elm tree, dogbane, milkweed, nettle, wormseed, and tamarack root. They would make the bark into strips.

If they wanted a different color they would use different plants or minerals to archive the color they wanted. They did not often dye animal hair since they could have different colors by using hair from different parts of their bodies.


Some examples of this are:

From the buffalo there are two types of hair, the coarse protective hair and the fine wool shed in the spring. The coarse hair ranged from dark brown to black on color and the fine wool ranged from dun, rust or light reddish brown.

From the moose: they used the mane hair, which ranged from brownish to purplish gray. The hair grew lighted as it went towards the roots. Depending on the region the moose would vary in color. White hair use more abundant in the winter months while darkest hair was on moose in the pine forests.

For plants they would cut through the bark and then loosen the inner bark and cut it into strips. The strips would then be rolled up and then boiled to keep them pliable.

After the Europeans came they introduced colored yarn so natives began to use it instead of going through the old way processes. Plants were seldom used.

OK by now you are probably wondering what they made from finger weaving? 

They made garters, sashes, armbands, bags, burden straps, and dragging straps. Sashes were often wrapped around the head like turbans in the winter months for warmth. They even used them as bosal bridles for horses.

Burden straps were used on packs and cradleboards. Dragging straps were used on horse and dog pulling items such as a travois's, sleds or anything that was used to transports materials.

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As mentioned in the beginning finger weaving is not done on a loom. It is done by knotting yarn on a dowel or stick, then weaving the yarn back and forth by each strand. Enough yarn would be left on the end for fringe.

For a 1 to 2 inch wide band at 24 inches long (garter, armband, burden strap or dragging strap), you would use 20 or more strands of yarn. If you were going to have fringe then you would stop weaving several inches before the end.

For a 4 inch wide band (Sash) 140 strands of yarn would be used.

Sashes were from 4 to 12 inches wide to 3 to 15 feet in length. Instead of weaving all the way to the end about 36 and 3/4 inches on each end were left for fringe.

Always use an even number of yarn strands.

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You can leave the fringe as it is, braid it or do as I will instruct you in the burden strap instructions.

The three designs I am going to instruct you on are diagonal weaving, chevron weaving and how to make a burden strap.



Dowel or stick

Board or clipboard


For a sash you are going to measure the circumference of your waist. Then add 2 yards (fringe on both sides) and 4 inches for the knot.

You would follow these measurements for any weaving you are going to do but if you were doing a garter or armband, your fringe would be shorter.

Preparation for Finger weaving
Step one:

After you have cut all your yarn to the length you need it, you are going to put it on the dowel or stick using a clove hitch knot.

Cat's Paw Knot
Diagram 1

Once you have done this with all the yard push the strands tightly together. These strands are called warp strands. Once you start to weave from side to side you will have weft strands.


If you are going to make a sash put the knots on the dowel or stick about 36 inches from the end of your yarn. This will be one side of fringe.

Step Two:

Once you have all your yarn on the dowel or stick, you are going to separate it as shown in Diagram 2 (10 strands ) and them knot your yarn on one side. You can see this in diagram 3.

Knot on a Stick
Diagram 2

Note: Use a clipboard and put the dowel under the clip to help while you are weaving.


After this is done you are now ready to start finger weaving your design.

Diagonal Weaving

For the purpose of these instructions I am going to use the colors and number of 10 strands as in the diagrams.

Diagonal Weaving
Diagram 4
Step 1

Take a piece of yarn and weave it in and out just below the dowel or stick like in Diagram 3.

This will help keep your weaving from unraveling when the stick is removed or from unraveling when you reach the length you want.

Step 2

Now starting with strand number one (yellow), bring it over strand 2 (yellow), under strand three (red) and continue to do this technique till you are at the end.

Then pick up strand two (yellow) and do the same as above.

Continue to do this until you get to the end strand. When you get to the end strand start all over.

Once you reach the length you want repeat step 1 to keep work from unraveling.

Chevron Weaving
For the purpose of these instructions I am going to use the colors and number of 10 strands as in the diagram.
Unlike the Diagonal weaving which you work with only one side. With the chevron weaving you work with both sides starting with the middle section.
Chevron Weaving
Diagram 5
Step 1

Repeat step one from above.

Step 2

When weaving the chevron you always start from the middle towards the outside edge.

To begin, divide the strands in two. On the left side you will have 2 yellow , 2 red , and one green. On the right you will have one green 2 red and 2 yellow.

Step 3

Starting with your two middle green strands put one strand under the other.

Now take one of the green strands and go under and over the other strands on the opposite side. So if you pick up the left green strand you are going to go under and over the strands on the right side. Do the same to the other green strand, which would be the green strand on the right and you would be weaving under and over to the left side.

Step 4

Now take the first red strands closest to the green strands and do the same procedure.

Continue to do this same procedure until you reach the length you want.

Diagram 5 shows you this procedure.

When you reach the end repeat step one to keep your work from unweaving.

Burden strap
The basic construction for a burden strap is 27 to 30 inches of 2 to 4 inch wide chevron weaving. Then with the fringe on the ends you do a series of square stitch knots by repeating the square knot over and over.
On some straps they put a loop on the end of each end to attach onto what they are going to carry. To do this they would braid the end. Then using the two strands which they used for the square knot, them fold the braid end toward the base of where they ended the square knot and wrap the square knot strands around the braid end and secure with several knots.
Resource Books and Web sites:

The Basic book of Fingerweaving

by Esther Warner Dendel


Finger Weaving: Indian Braiding

by Alta R. Turner


Byways in Hand Weaving

by Mary Meigs Atwater


Instructional Pages for Finger weaving

Sites to Purchase finished finger weaving items

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Seneca Weaving Sticks
What are Seneca Weaving sticks?

Seneca Weaving sticks are a set of eight sticks used as the base to weave on. They can be made in two different lengths. Each stick has a hole in the bottom in which to bring a piece of yarn through. They are waxed to ensure smooth weaving.

I made a set of these out of x 12" dowels. I took a small bit and drilled a hole in up from one end and then whittled a point ( like on a pencil end) and sanded the tip down so it would not be sharp. I also sanded the end in which I cut the length form a 36" dowel so it was smooth.


How is the weaving done?


Yarn ( in different colors if you want)

weaving sticks



Step one

a) Thread each stick as you would a needle. You want your yarn thread the length of the project you plan to do, example a Belt.

b) Pull the yarn so that you have two equal strands and then knot the ends.

These yarn strands are the warp threads


Step Two

Tie your yarn to the first stick about inch from the threading hole.


Step Three

Weave your yarn over the first stick, under the next stick, etc. Continue to do this till you reach your last stick. When you reach the last stick loop the yarn over and pull taut. Continue to do the same procedure you will be doing the opposite of what you did the first time, over and under stick and under an over stick.


Step Four

When you reach the end of your stick you are going to gently twirl the sticks and gently pull the sticks forward. You only want to go about inch at a time.

The yarn at the end of your sticks will slowly fall onto the warp threads that you did at the beginning.


Step Five

To end your project tie the end yarn strand around the last stick and then slowly pull the sticks out. So that the warp threads come through you work Leave about 1 inch of yarn above the knot you tied at the beginning to the warp threads.

Cut the warp threads and tie the first two, then the next two, etc. Then repeat this to the end you knotted at the beginning.

A friend on mine uses between 8 and 12 sticks when she is working on a belt. You can sew several sections together to make a blanket, wall hanging or cover for a pillow.

The final thing I am going to talk about and the last part of the Weaving Articles is How to make a Loom out of cardboard. I made one for my daughters to use before they received their first wood loom. To be honest I was not going to waste money on a good loom if they were not interested in continuing doing looming.


Resource Web Site

Charlie and Jan Miller LaFoe, Owners of Beyond the Mountain Crafts


How to make a Cardboard Loom

Materials to make a cardboard loom

(For beginners I suggest making a 4 x 6 cardboard loom)

1 Long big eye needle

Yarn for the Warp
Yarn for the Weft ( several colors if you want)
A Ruler, wide tooth comb and scissors
Step one
On your cardboard make a series of makes on the width inch apart. After this is done take your scissors and make 1/8" notches on these marks.
Step two
Take one of your yarns leaving about a six inch tail and Put it in the first notch, then turn the cardboard over and bring the yarn up and into the second notch. Repeat this procedure until you reach the end notch. The end should be on the bottom
Seneca Weaving 1
Seneca Weaving 2
Diagram 1
Diagram 2
Seneca Weaving 3
Seneca Weaving 4
Diagram 3
Diagram 4
Step three

Now you are ready to weave. Put the Weft yarn on the needle. Then go under the first strand, over the next strand, etc. till you reach the end strand.

When you reach the end, take the strand and with the comb bring it down to the very edge of your cardboard loom.

Seneca Weaving 5
Seneca Weaving 6
Diagram 5
Diagram 6
Seneca Weaving 7
Diagram 7
Step four
Now turn the cardboard loom over. If your last warp thread you wove was under, you want to start this one under or visa versa.
Step Five
Continue to do Steps Three and four until you want to add another color yarn. Start your new yarn as in diagram 9.
Seneca Weaving 9
Diagram 9
Step Five
When you reach the top of your cardboard loom you are finished. To end it, slip the warps at the top of your loom out of their notches and slid you finish project down off the cardboard.
Seneca Weaving 10
Diagram 10
Try this with several different size cardboard and different texture yarns. I made a coin purse and small evening bag out of yarn with sparkle yarn using this technique.
Resource Book for Cardboard Loom
Spiders' Games-A Book For Beginning Weavers
by Phylis Morrison
Well this is the end of the Weaving articles. As for the next article you will just have to wait and see. It will be a surprise.

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