Finnish Woven Waves: Hannele Köngäs Explores High-Twist Yarns

Find out how Finnish weaver Hannele Köngäs combines Finnish wool, traditional textile inspiration, and the power of twist to create three-dimensional cloth that dances and moves and is as light as it is drapey.

Kate Larson Mar 4, 2024 - 8 min read

Finnish Woven Waves: Hannele Köngäs Explores High-Twist Yarns Primary Image

Undyed shawl and indigo-dyed scarf by Hannele Köngäs. Photos by Matt Graves unless otherwise noted

“Light as feathers and beautifully drapey” was how Linda Ligon described the lovely woven textiles that Marilyn Murphy had purchased at Santa Fe’s International Folk Art Market last summer. The weaver of these fascinating woolen gauzes is Hannele Köngäs, and wrapping one of Hannele’s shawls around my shoulders was a divine experience.

We asked Hannele if she would tell us about how she combines Finnish wool, traditional textile inspiration, and the power of twist to create three-dimensional cloth that dances and moves. I hope you enjoy meeting her as much as I did!
—Kate Larson, Editor

Kate Larson: Can you tell us about the antique textiles that inspired you to explore these wonderful woven surfaces?

Hannele Köngäs: I was young and eager, a first-year textile student. One evening, I found an interesting piece of wool fabric at school. I was perplexed by the fabric, turning it in my hands—was it twill or was it plain weave? I could not understand; it looked like twill, but the warp and weft crossed simply as in plain weave. The next morning, I asked the master, and she said, “Oh, it is woven with high-twist yarn; it’s only plain weave.” I decided then that someday I would weave with extra twist in my yarn.


In the early 1990s, I was working at a museum that housed a reconstruction of a dress from the Iron Age woven with spindle-spun yarns. I noticed that a warp-weighted loom needs warp yarn with extra twist to prevent the yarn from breaking under tension. I also became familiar with Scandinavian Iron Age textiles where the pattern is created by using S- and Z-spun yarns in warp and weft. I had yarn twist direction in mind for over 20 years until, when I turned 50, I decided, “It’s now or never; if I don’t now start to test weaving with high-twisted yarn, I shall be an old bitter woman.” I’ve now had a weaving studio of my own, Waveweaver’s Wool, since early 2000.

Waves and twill-like textures can be created using combinations of S- and Z-twist yarns in plain-weave fabrics.

KL: Once you knew you wanted to explore twist direction and twist count, what was your next step? Did you find a spinning mill to work with?

HK: I received a small grant for product development, allowing me to have a Finnish spinning mill, Pirtin Kehräämö, spin the weaving yarns I needed with extra twist. I quickly worked out how much twist is needed and what density is best for this pattern and for that pattern. But it’s not only the twist that influences the fabric effect but also the wool.

Kainuu Grey and Finnsheep in the south of Finland where Hannele sources her wool. Shepherd Sari Jaakola says the flock mostly grazes natural grasslands, which support endangered flora and fauna species. Photo courtesy of Herrakunnan Lammas

KL: Can you tell us a bit about the sheep and wool you are using?

HK: We have three main native sheep breeds in Finland, and of those, I use wool from the Kainuu Grey (Kainuunharmas in Finnish). There are only about 1,200 ewes left of this breed. They are born black and change color after the first shearing, to a beautiful light or dark gray. Their wool is soft and shiny. Wool from the same sheep can be different from one year to the next, and I think grazing in Finland influences the wool, too.

I had a small flock of my own in early 2000 that lived on a neighbor’s farm. It was an interesting experience, and I learned a lot from them, but it was a little bit difficult to have them without my own fields.

Kainuu Grey fleece. Photo courtesy of Herrakunnan Lammas

KL: Do you size these high-twist yarns for weaving using starch or something similar? How does the fabric change from the loom to finished object?

HK: The yarn I work with is a singles with extra twist. There is no need to starch the warp, and the high-twist yarn does not break. Of course, if you have too much twist so that the yarn is not at all elastic, it can break. Earlier in the twentieth century, people used to have warp yarn and weft yarn, two differently spun wool yarns, for their fabrics. Wool was carefully selected and spun for different uses.

Left: On the loom, Hannele’s fabric is a smooth gauze. Right: Once washed, waves and bubbles develop. Photos courtesy of Hannele Köngäs

My yarn still contains oils, and on the loom, the woven fabric is a loose gauze. After washing, the twist builds waves and bubbles, depending on whether you have used only Z-twist or a combination of Z- and S-twist. Density is very important; if the fabric is too tight or too loose, the twist does not form any pattern. You can also get different patterns with different densities, like false twill or waves or bubbles. If someone is interested in “twist-built patterns,” they must start by sampling. It’s interesting and astonishing—there are so many factors playing the game with you.

Hannele uses cultivated, historical dye plants such as woad, madder, and weld to dye her fabric after weaving. Photo courtesy of Hannele Köngäs

This article was first published in Spin Off Winter 2024.

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Hannele Köngäs is a weaver, natural dyer, and wool enthusiast from Finland. Her ideas come from nature and textile history. The need to protect Finland’s fragile ecosystem guides every step of her working process. Hannele’s warps are long and naturally gray, and plant dyeing is done afterward using cultivated, historical dye plants, such as woad, madder, and weld, and rainwater. Though weaving by hand is time consuming, she loves seeing the fabric grow, weft by weft, and feeling the rhythm of the process in her body.

To see more of Hannele’s inspiring work and connect to her web shop, visit Find her on Instagram @kongashannele.

Thank you to Sari Jaakola and Jaakko Jussila for sharing pictures of their flock. Learn more at and on Instagram @herrakunnanlammas.