Friday, November 23, 2012

Part Four: Project 8 - Stage 2. Ex 2

Exercise 2
The instructions are to make a collection of hand twisted ropes or three/four strand braids.
They should have different surface qualities: hard, soft, smooth, shiny, rough.

I have made braids before, but it has been a while. This time I am asked to experiment with different threads, yarns or materials, for example, fabrics, fleece, leather, plastic.

We have been given diagrams which show how to make a four-strand chevron braid, a four-strand round braid, a four-strand flat braid and a twisted rope.
I also have two Kumihimo braiding disks - one round, one square, and a lucet. I will include details of these braid making techniques with the samples that I have made.

Four-strand chevron braid
Sample 1: Soft chunky wool
This produced a nice even braid, the technique was easy to do.
Using the soft chunky wool produced a braid which had soft and smooth surface qualities.
Four-strand chevron braid using soft chunky wool
A close up of the braid:
Close up of the four-strand chevron braid

Sample 2: Using contrasting textures.
This sample uses chunky brown yarn, rough twine and fluffy, silky eyelash yarn
Using the contrasting textures of the yarns and the twine produced a really interesting braid.
When you look closely at the finished braid it is hard to tell that it is made using the same technique as the first sample.
This braid has many surface qualities: soft and smooth from the thick yarn, silky and shiny from the eyelash yarn and rough from the twine.
Four-strand chevron braid using contrasting textures
A close up of the braid:
Close up of the braid with contrasting textures
Four-strand round braid
Sample 1: Soft chunky wool
Another simple technique that creates an interesting braid.
This round braid used the same chunky, soft wool as the previous technique and has the same suface qualities: soft and smooth.
Th round shape makes the braid feel firm and strong.
Four-strand round braid using soft chunky wool
A close up of the braid:
Close up of the four-strand round braid

Four-strand flat braid
Sample 1: Soft chunky wool
This braid features a herringbone type pattern on the surface.
Surface qualities are: soft, smooth
Four-strand flat braid using soft chunky wool
A close up of the braid:
Close up of the four-strand flat braid

Sample 2: Fleece
I really like this braid - the fleece fabric was great to work with and the scale of the braid produced is huge in comparison to the other materials I used.
Surface qualities: soft, smooth
Four-strand flat braid using strips of fleece
A close up of the braid:
Close up of the braid made of strips of fleece

I really enjoyed making the twisted cords - I have made them before, but it is so easy to do and the finished product is strong, versatile and can have an interesting finish.

Sample 1: Knitting wool
The two cords were made using a combination of yellow and green knitting wool.
The finished cords are both very different from each other - there will be handwritten notes on how each finish was achieved in the work that will be sent off to my tutor.
Surface quality: soft and smooth - although not quite as soft as the pale pink wool in the previous exercises.
Rope made with double knitting wool

Sample 2: Twine
I really like the natural colour and the rough feel of twine, by making it into a rope it has been made even stronger.
Surface quality: rough and hard
Rope made with twine

Sample 3: Thin, clear plastic
Having rescued a dry cleaning bag from the rubbish, I though that I would cut it into strips and make it in to a rope.
What surprised me was the result, I had expected this flimsy, clear material to have a rough / ragged finish, and that it would be able to twist like the previous materials had.

The plastic got smoother and shinier the more I twisted; the amount of twisting did not impact on the elasticity of the plastic - it was very hard to get the cord to twist back on itself at the end of the process.
I ended up with a smooth, shiny rope with very little twist.
Rope made with thin transparent plastic
A close up of the rope:
Close up of the plastic rope

Three-strand plaits
I have made hundreds of plaits over the years - it's the sort of thing girls like to do.
I thought I would plait some materials together and then gather them at the end.
One of the strands was a thin, but strong, thread - once the plait was complete the thicker threads were pulled up together - causing it to buckle and gather.

Sample 1: Knitting ribbon, cord and thread
I like this sample - it is tactile and would work well in a piece of stitching - the cord could be gathered on to another surface to add texture.
Surface qualities: shiny, soft, crunchy
Three strand plait using kitting ribbon, cord and thread

Sample 2: Thin, clear plastic, wool and thread
I started this sample by plaiting the strands quite tightly, this produced the part of the plait on the left of the picture. It is tight, knobbly, narrow and was hard to gather.
I then decided to plait more loosely and achieved the section of the plait that appears on the right of the picture - when this was gathered it became looser, wider and softer than the first part of the plait.
It is also more interesting visually than the tighter part of the plait.
Surface qualities: shiny, soft and smooth for the right hand side of the plait. Rough, crunchy and hard for the left hand side of the plait.
Three-strand plait using thin plastic, wool and thread

Sample 1: knitting wool
For more information on the Lucet - here is a link
The cord produced from the Lucet is square in shape; the Lucet has been used for making cords for 'over one thousand years'.
I chose to use knitting yarn to make my cord, but, you can use 'any material, any size, any colour' to make a cord using the Lucet.
It produced a tightly woven, smooth cord - I really like this cord, especially the way the colours are distributed along the length.
I may have to experiment with other materials using this technique.
Surface qualities: firm, smooth
Lucet cord

Kumihimo: a Japanese form of braid making.
A few years ago I bought a card disk to make Kumihimo Braids - realising that it would not last I then went out and purchased a round one (for round braids), and a square one (for flat braids), made of polystyrene - examples of these can be found here.
Of course these have sat around in my cupboard since then, this was an ideal time to unearth them and make a sample for this section.

The Kumihimo disk has notches which are numbered, once threaded, you follow the 'simple' braid-by-numbers instructions to achieve a finished braid. These can be tied off or you can use 'jewellery findings' to hold the ends together.

Sample 1: cotton knitting yarn
This flat braid was made using the square kumihimo disk.
The soft knitting cotton provided a smooth surface to the braid.
Kumihimo braid

I have really enjoyed making the ropes and braids in this exercise.
The process makes the fibres stronger and they are both decorative and useful.
They could be used to attach and hang work, be stitched down onto surfaces .... I then did some research and found this artist:

Jacqui Carey - Information about this braidmaker is here
As you look down the pictures shown at the bottom of her C.V. you start to see really interesting images of braids made from unusual materials such as: tube lights, wire and beads, paper porcelain, my favourite has to be her "Monster braid, bolster cushion" - this really shows you the scale that you can work to with braiding -the bolster has a diameter of 20cm.

Jacqui uses a wooden maudai with separate bobbins to achieve these really large braids - there is a picture of her at the bottom of her C.V. demonstrating Kumihimo using this tool.
A page with links to some of the 'bigger' tools for making kumihimo braids is here - there are plenty of other sites that sell this equipment - but  a marudai is definitely on my list of 'must have' tools now.

Seeing these images and reading some of the history of kumihimo has really opened my eyes to the possibilities that can be achieved with braid making - it does not just have to be practical, these cords and braids can certainly be transformed into a piece of art.

References with links have been included in the text.


  1. Just seen your blog... awesome work! I don't have the patience to work with strings, but well done!