Native American - Indigenous Fingerweaving

Every culture around the world has its own special form of weaving. For example, Scotland is known for its tartans. China is known for its silks. And, Guatemala is known for its huipils. Each of these is unique and beautiful in its own way. In today's post, I'm going to introduce you to a type of fingerweaving by Haudenosaunee artist and weaver Marilyn Isaacs. Keep reading to learn about Marilyn Isaacs and her beautiful creations! 

Disclosure: Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post.

Marilyn Isaacs is a Haudenosaunee ( also known as Iroquois) weaver who specializes in making sashes, belts, and garters for people to wear with their traditional regalia. Her belts and sashes have earned awards and special recognition in various art shows throughout New York. I recently had an opportunity to talk with her and ask her some questions.

Artist Marilyn Isaacs with a lilac and lavender sash she made
Marilyn Isaacs with one of her award-winning belts, 2019

What is fingerweaving?

Marilyn: Fingerweaving is the art of weaving long fibers together to make something stronger and new. In the past, people wove their belts with natural fibers, with whatever they could find around them. Fibers from, hemp, dogbane, cotton, and basswood were often used. Fibers made out of animal fur or wool from sheep, llamas, buffalo, and whatever animals lived around them were also used. 

How did you learn fingerweaving?

Marilyn: When I was a teenager I was dancing a summer job at the Native American Center of the Living Arts in Niagara Falls, New York. (Some locals call it The Turtle because the building was built to look like a turtle.) I didn't have a belt for my regalia but wanted one. I found a book about fingerweaving in the bookshop and taught myself to weave. I didn't like my first belt so I gave it away. My weaving got better. I have been weaving for more than 30 years. A friend suggested that maybe weaving was "already in my DNA."

Marilyn Isaacs at a fingerweaving demonstration, 2020

What is the name of the book you learned from?

Marilyn: It's an old book from the 1970's. It's called Finger Weaving by Alta Turner.

What materials do you work with?

Marilyn: I've woven with acrylic, wool, and hemp. But cotton feels the best when I work with it, so I use that most often. I prefer natural fibers.

Belts, sashes, and armbands by Marilyn Isaacs

What items do you like to weave?

Marilyn: I make belts, sashes, arm ties, leg ties, and bands for cowboy hats. My specialty is making belts though. I also make purse straps and basket handles. When I work with kids, I teach them how to weave keychains.

Chevron belt by Marilyn Isaacs matched with fabric for a dress

What is it like to teach fingerweaving to children?

Marilyn: When I teach others to weave I love watching the a-ha moment when they actually grasp the weaving skill necessary to weave their project successfully. Some weaving students really struggle and need a quick review or complete reteaching but I understand that not all students have the same learning style. As a weaving teacher, I love proving a student wrong who says "I can't." When they continue to try again and learn how to perform the skill correctly, it's a very satisfying feeling for me as a teacher. When my students see their progress, they are encouraged to keep on weaving. This makes me smile and I hope to encourage them to learn to love weaving the way I do.

Keychains made by Marilyn Isaacs and some of her students, 2022

Why is it important for you to teach fingerweaving to others?

Marilyn: It is important to me because it's a cultural skill that is dying out and needs to be revived. It is believed that Haudenosaunee Nations had specific patterns they wore to identify themselves. However, we can't verify this because many of these weavings no longer exist. They were made from natural materials without any artificial preservatives applied to them. Over time, these weavings disintegrated and were lost forever.

To learn more about Marilyn Isaacs and her fingerweaving, check out the video below:

-YouTube video by Iroquois Museum-

Marilyn Isaacs is Tuscarora Bear Clan and lives on the Tuscarora Reservation in New York. She is self-taught in the old-style loom-less weaving technique popular in the 18th Century. Marilyn has hosted fingerweaving workshops and demonstrations for children and adults at the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan, the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center, and the Iroquois Museum in New York. She also visits schools to introduce children to the art of fingerweaving. For more information about her workshops and demonstrations, contact Marilyn Isaacs at

Did you enjoy reading this post about finger weaving? If so, check out these related Native American - Indigenous children's books and activities:

search words: Native Americans, First Peoples, Indigenous, Indian, culture, cultures, fingerweaving, finger weaving, weaving, North America, social studies, art, crafts


  1. This is so interesting! I love learning more about Native American cultures!

    1. Thank you! I do too. It's incredibly important that we educate children about the beauty that can be found in cultures different from their own and to keep ancestral knowledge alive.