A once almost-lost art, Cherokee finger weaving is now practiced by a few very talented artists, including Karen George. Rather than using a loom, George ties a hank of many strands of long yarn to the crossbeam of a simple two-legged frame, and weaves the yarns together from the top down, forming a tight fabric sash, often in bright colors and traditional geometrical designs.
One of the hallmarks of expert finger weaving is a close, almost airtight weave. George’s sashes are extremely tight and strong, even the ones into which she incorporates designs with seed beads. A double-weave technique allows a sash to be reversible, with the colors and pattern equally brilliant on both sides. George’s expertise comes from years of practice, and from the expert instruction of other Cherokee finger weavers. She began to learn when she was about fifteen years old, and had instruction in her high school art classes in Cherokee. She has also studied with weaver Deborah Hardy at the Carnegie Museum.
Karen George is an accomplished basket maker as well, and weaves baskets from maple and white oak, rivercane, and honeysuckle vines. She demonstrates regularly at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, and is a member of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, where she serves on the board.
The video shown here includes an Interview by Tonya Carroll, Photography by Ashley Evans, Videography by David Brewin, Editing by Katherine Bartel. A production of Mountain Heritage Center, Dr. Scott Philyaw, Director, Western Carolina University Cullowhee, North Carolina and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
Karen George is available to demonstrate and teach finger weaving and basket making.