Learn how to twine wool and/or grass, and find out how twining is used.
Science content
Biology: Indigenous People's sustainable use of Living Things (K, 2, 3)
Chemistry: Indigenous People’s Materials/Separation methods (1, 6)
  • wool, 30cm lengths, ideally of two contrasting colours, maybe dyed with red cabbage
  • wide grass
  • optional: other plants to try twining with e.g. wide grass blades or roots

Thank you to Brenda Koch, then from Xpey’ Elementary, for teaching Ingrid how to twine.

Twining is a method of twisting strands around each other, used by BC Indigenous People, as well as many other cultures worldwide, for making ropes, fishing lines and nets, as well as for binding the thicker strands of a basket, hat or mat together.

Teach students how to twine. It is easier to start with grass, as it is stiffer and holds in place more easily than wool.
Lay two grass blades side by side and tape securely to the desk. Twist the right hand strand twice to the right (using the right hand, so that the thumb rotates over the top of the hand). Pass the right hand grass blade over the left hand blade and hold in your left hand (without letting it untwist). Twist the new right strand, then pass over the new left hand strand. Repeat down the length of the strands, not too tightly, so that the strands relax into each other to make a coil.
Optional: A twined strand can be twined again around another one, to make a stronger cord.
Twine wool with contrasting wool colours, to make a twisted pattern that can be used as a bracelet, hair piece or to hang on their backpack. The twisting motion each time is in the same direction as the twist already on the wool.

The physics in twining:
When you twist, you force the grass or wool to twist into a new position. You are putting energy into it - elastic potential energy - a stored energy in materials that are elastic and can deform. When you let go, the elastic energy is released and the wool tries to unwind again. As it is twisted around the other strand, they tighten onto each other to keep the coil in place.

Twined roots make strong fishing line or basket handles.
When strands are twined around uprights, they can make baskets or hats or other objects.
Students can try weaving in and out of small branches to mimic basket-making. Securing everything on a clip board helps.
Look at twined objects e.g. clam basket or Haida hat photos (twined so tightly it is waterproof).

Great to do this activity outdoors, near native grasses and plants that are used for twining and weaving.
At Trout Lake we found:
Willow bark (used for ropes, fishing line and nets) and willow branches for making a fish weir (they take root in the river bottom). Small flowered bullrush for basket weaving. Cedar for woven bark (clothing). Iris leaves are woven into snares strong enough to catch elk and large animals.

More information on twining used in basket weaving:

Grades taught
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6