Introduction: Colour Switching: Fingerweaving Vertical Stripes

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This Instructable builds on the basic fingerweaving technique—see How to Fingerweave Something for instructions on setting up, weaving, and finishing.

In fingerweaving, unlike loom weaving, the threads slant to one side as you work. This means that if you start out with multiple colours and just keep weaving, you’ll end up with diagonal stripes. To make other colour patterns, including arrowheads, vertical stripes or lightning, you’ll need to do some colour switching. All these patterns use the same technique; it’s just where you place the colour switch that makes the difference.

Here’s how to switch colours to get the most basic pattern, vertical stripes. Note—the finger movements shown are just what I’ve found works best for me to keep control of all the threads. If you find that different movements work better for you and give you the same end result, run with it!

Step 1: Setting Up

Plan out your piece, and cut strands of yarn in two or more colours. Your colour blocks can be as many threads as you want, and they don’t have to be all the same number. You could even make a vertical stripe that is only two threads. But just to simplify and get used to the technique, I’d recommend an even number, eight threads or more, in each colour block.

Step 2: Blocks Vs. Groups

Just to clarify, here is the difference between a "colour block" and a "group" of threads. Keep in mind, this is my terminology only; it's just what I've settled on as the best way to explain. If you read a book on fingerweaving, or if you learn from someone else, they might have completely different ways to refer to these.

A "group" refers to all the threads that are held together in a cluster. You'll very likely have multiple colours in one group, and front and back threads will always be in separate groups. Depending on what stage of weaving you're at, you'll have either two or four groups. If you're between rows, you'll have a back group and a front group. If you're in the middle of a row, you'll have a right front (RF), a right back (RB), a left front (LF), and a left back (LB).

A "colour block" is just one section of threads all clustered side by side that are the same colour. It can have a lot of variation, depending on the pattern you're doing. A colour block can be anywhere from two threads to the entire width of your piece (if you're only using one colour to weave). Colour blocks should always have an even number of threads, and will include threads from both front and back groups—half of the colour block will be in the front, and half will be in the back.

Essentially, groups are always front and back, and colour blocks are side by side.

Step 3: Start Weaving

Select your weft and start weaving your row as normal, but stop as soon as you get to the first thread of your second colour.

Step 4: Take the First Thread

With your right index and thumb, grab the first thread of your second colour, the same as if you were going to weave with it. This one should be coming from the back group in your left hand (LB). However, this thread is not going to join the other threads in your right hand (RF) as it normally would.

Step 5: Switch

This first thread of the new colour is going to trade places with your weft, and the weft will move forward and join the RF group in its place. To do this:

Twist the weft around behind the new thread and grab it with your right index and thumb, at the same time as transferring the new thread into your left hand.

Step 6: New Weft

Tuck the first thread of your second colour between the first two fingers of your left hand, where the weft used to be. This is now the weft, and the old weft should join the RF group with the other threads of the same colour.

Step 7: Pull Out the Ex-Weft

This step is optional, and unnecessary if your project is relatively short. But for a long project like a scarf or sash, you will end up with a giant ramen-noodle mess of threads below your work. It’s unavoidable. If you do this step every time you are finished with a weft, you will never (or rarely) have to stop and untangle it. It will save you a LOT of time—trust me.

This takes a little bit of finger rearranging, but with some practice, muscle memory will kick in and it will be a lot easier.

I switch all my threads back into my left hand at this point, and in order to keep all the groups separate still, there is a little bit of maneuvering required. The LF and LB groups and the weft all stay in their spots in my left hand. The RB group just hangs loose—the LB group is held together by my left ring and pinkie fingers still, so the two back groups can't get mixed up. The RF group is pinched between my left index finger and thumb, with my middle finger sticking out between the LF and RF groups so they don't get mixed up either. I find this the best way to keep my spot in the middle of a row if I need to use my right hand for anything.

Now, using your freed-up right hand, pull the bottom end of your former weft out of the tangle of threads below your weaving. Unless the tangle is reeeally bad, this should be fairly easy, even with a long thread.

Put your RF and RB groups back into your right hand, and continue along the row.

Also, at the end of a row, before you bring your weft up to join the front (RF) group, do the same thing—you may need to pinch it with your right hand where it leaves the weaving, so that you don’t accidentally mess up the tension of your finished row, and then pull the whole thing out of the bottom tangle with your left hand.

Step 8: Continue Weaving

With the new weft, continue weaving across the row until you come to your next colour block. Stop here, and repeat Steps 4 through 7.

Note that with vertical stripes, your weft thread should always be the same colour as the warp (vertical) threads that you’re currently working with.

Step 9: Finish the Row

Continue weaving across, switching colours every time you hit a new colour block, until you get to the end of the row. Bring your weft up to join the RF group, as normal.

Your colour blocks should all still be solid and distinct, with no stray threads wandering into the other colours.

Step 10: Adjust Tension

Pull the two groups of threads away from each other to tighten. You may need to tug a little bit on all your previous wefts for this row. Start with the weft that’s part of the colour block on the far right, and then move left. Also tug a little bit on any threads that are sticking out, especially the last two or three on the left, before your last weft.

Step 11: Keep Going

Weave every row the same way, switching wefts every time you hit a new colour, and adjusting your tension after every row. Don’t forget to check the back of the piece every few rows to make sure all your threads are lying flat.

Step 12: While We're Looking at the Back ...

Vertical stripe is the only fingerweaving pattern that has a noticeable difference between the front and the back of the piece. You’ll see a bit of a zipper-tooth thing happening on the back; this is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about!

Step 13: Done

And you've got stripes!