Finishing the edges of your handwoven work is an important final step to making your project shine. This article covers two basic finishing techniques: hand twisted and braided fringe. A fringe is more than a decorative element—it also secures your weaving. These simple and beginner-friendly techniques can be used on a variety of projects, such as scarves, rugs, and towels.
How to Twist Fringe by Hand
- Before you begin to twist your fringe, you need to determine how many twisting groups you are going to make. To twist a fringe, your ends are divided up into groups made up of an equal number of threads. In my sample, I used a total of 72 ends of Duet in Dune and Pear, with Dune as my weft. This divides nicely into groups of six or four.
- Starting at one side, separate your first six strands. I hemstitched my sample, which is optional, but if you want to twist a fringe without hemstitching, it’s best to do some thread swapping as you move along the edge. What do I mean by this? Let’s say you’re starting at the right side, and you’ve separated your first six strands. Take the sixth strand and swap it with the first strand of the next twisting group. This crosses those threads at your weaving, and prevents your warps from separating and creating gaps in your work (see photos below).
- Divide the six strands into two groups of three. Begin by using your fingers to twist one of these groups towards the right, rolling the strands between your fingers. I like to count my twists so that I can do the same across my fringe — how many twists will be up to you and your yarn, but I did 7 for this sample.
- Once you’ve twisted the first half of the bundle, carefully hold those strands to maintain the twist — if you let it go all your hard work will disappear! Twist the second group in the same direction.
- When both halves of the bundle are twisted, you’re going to wrap them around each other in the opposite direction (left). I hold one strand in each hand and then carefully pass the right hand bundle over the left. Wrap the two halves together as many times as you would like - here I wrapped them about 14 times.
- Tie an overhand knot at the end of your bundle. On the left hand side you can see my groups of 4 ends, and on the right hand side you can see my groups of 6 ends.
How to Braid Fringe
- Before you begin to make your braid, you need to determine how many ends will be in each 3 strand braid. In my sample, I used a total of 72 ends of Duet in Dune and Pear, with Storm as my weft. This divides nicely into groups of six or three.
- Starting at one side, separate your first three ends. For this demo I am making two different braid sizes: one with three warp ends and the other with six warp ends, where I am holding two threads together as one. Don't forget to use the thread swapping method we covered earlier in this article for a tidy edge.
- Cross the right end over the center end so that it’s now in the middle.
- Cross the left end over the center end so that it’s now in the middle.
Continue this pattern by crossing the right and then left end over the center end until your desired length is complete. Tie an overhand knot at the end of your bundle.
Tips for Fringe Twisting and Braiding
Making fringe can involve a bit of tugging and tension on your work, so it’s best to weigh it down with something (such as a copy of The Key to Weaving, by Mary E. Black).
As mentioned, I hemstitched on the loom before twisting my fringe, but you don’t have to do this. You can leave it as is (in which case you’ll want to be careful with it so it doesn’t unravel), or tie knots at the top before you begin your braid.
Leave more length than you think you’ll need. Twisting or braiding with short lengths of yarn will hurt your fingers and make the process unenjoyable (trust me). Leave yourself plenty to work with and trim it to your desired length when it’s complete. Keep in mind that twisting itself will gobble up a bit of length too.
Not every weaver will be able to comfortably twist their fringe by hand, which is where a fringe twister can help. It not only speeds up the process, it also ensures smooth, even twists.
It takes practice to tie all your knots at an even length, so don’t be hard on yourself if your first fringe is a bit wonky. I always keep my knots loose and then adjust and give everything a final tug when I’ve completed all my twists.
I photographed this on top of my desk, but it’s easier and more comfortable to twist with your fringe hanging over the edge of the table.
I always finish my fringe before washing because I find that all those loose wiggly ends can become really tangled in the wash. It can also help to twist or braid before washing because some yarns bloom or change quite a bit after getting wet, which can make the process more challenging. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to make and finish a sample and decide for yourself.
I like to trim my fringe after washing — this gives me a crisp cut edge, which is especially nice when making a gift for someone.
If you have a self-healing mat with a grid on it, it’s a very useful tool for measuring perfect fringe. I have also used my rotary blade and a ruler to trim the fringe to an equal length after I’ve completed my twists or braids (a neat edge helps to mask uneven knots too).
Frequently Asked Questions
What if the number of warp ends does not divide evenly?
My sample warp divided very cleanly, but what if your project doesn’t? There’s been many times where my outermost fringe bundles have had one, two, or even three extra ends in them and it’s always been completely invisible. I recently twisted a fringe where each bundle had 5 ends in it, which divided as 3 ends + 2 ends. The fringe is fine and looks great!
What is the ideal fringe length/thickness?
Fringe length and thickness comes down to personal preference and what looks good with a given project. Twisted fringe (in my opinion at least) has a nice swing to it and is perfect for blankets, scarves, and shawls, while I’ve only ever tried braided fringes on rugs and more utilitarian items — it feels stiffer to me. But there’s a lot of variation possible in weaving from sett to yarn, so why not try a braided fringe on your next silk scarf? You might just find your new favorite finishing technique.
About Amanda Rataj
Amanda Rataj is an artist and weaver living and working in Hamilton, Ontario. She studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and has developed her contemporary craft practice through research-based projects, artist residencies, professional exhibitions, and lectures. Her textile focus of the material and conceptual nature of vernacular, everyday objects used for the home and body; her work (and weaving patterns) are available at her website, and at Guildworks, or by commission.