The expression 'skew weft' dates at least from the 18th century as a term used by handloom weavers, typically in northern England. It was used originally to describe fabric which was out of alignment, and the term survives today in the manufacture of glass fiber cloth.
The word weft does not derive from 'whiff' as in a puff of air (as suggested elsewhere). The modern spelling comes from a corruption of 'skew-wift' whose sound developed colloquially in spoken English from the original. Bow weft also exists.
- (Britain, Australia, colloquial) Askew; lopsided, not straight.
- I hung up that picture, but it looks skew-whiff to me.
- 1971, Blackwood′s Magazine, Volume 309, page 497,
- “ […] I′ve just been looking up at them and it seems to me that Cassiopeia′s Chair is a bit more skew-whiff than usual. Either it′s been moved or we′re heading the wrong way.”
- 1984, Punch, Volume 286, Part 1, page 87,
- I nudged him to remember what was surely the best day of his life—when he had walked serenely through the milling throng, moist-eyed, and sheepish grin more skew-whiff than ever, in the starling-shrieking, jabbering cockpit of that tumbledown stadium at Delhi on Christmas Eve in 1981.
- 1997, University of Tasmania, Australian Literary Studies, Volume 18, page 199,
- His genially skew-whiff posture for the camera may be intended to deflect easy attempts to get an angle on him.
- 1999, Alan Wall, The Lightning Cage, page 4,
- Johnson replied, with a shake of his massive head so vigorous that his ill-fitting wig became even more skew-whiff: […] .
- 2005, Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty, Bloomsbury Publishing, paperback edition, 401,
- He wasn′t wearing shoes or a jacket and tie, and his front stud was undone, so that the white collar stood up skew-whiff.
- 2009, Charles Rawlings-Way, Meg Worby, Lindsay Brown, Paul Harding, Central Australia: Adelaide to Darwin Lonely Planet, page 112,
- In a gorgeous old stone-fronted house at a skew-whiff angle to the road, this main-street, mainstream eatery serves big breakfasts, pizzas, burgers, lasagne, focaccias, bruschetta and salads.
- 2009, Justine Vaisutis, Australia, Lonely Planet, page 530,
- The Cat is a large, comfortable space with a great atmosphere and skew-whiff 1950s decor (a Melbourne trademark).