Archive for the ‘ply-split braiding’ Category

Ply-split braid

Tour de Fleece is a yarn-spinning event, created about fifteen years ago to run concurrently with Tour de France. You know, because we’re all using spinning wheels, although in different ways. They’re riding bikes, we’re making yarn.

Basically, it’s kind of a challenge, to yourself. You set a goal to reach by the end of the tour, whether it’s to spin a certain amount of yardage, a certain type of yarn, whatever you want your goal to be. And initially, it was an online thing. Now, in some places, such as Colorado, it’s an annual guild event.

I never participated before; there was always something else I had to do during such things. And technically speaking, I guess I’m not really even participating now. I’m not on a team (yes, that’s a thing), nor have I joined an online TDF group. I am spinning at home, with no particular goal in mind, just a plan to spin until the tour is over and see what I’ve got. So I’ve buckled down to the gold muga silk that I had started a little bit back, and am now close to the end of my supply, with a nearly full bobbin. I’m not sure the little I have left to spin is going to actually finish filling the bobbin, but that’s okay.

I’ve been spinning all day, for the most part, but now I’m taking a break because my hand is tired of drafting out the silk. It’s hard to make myself stop spinning, because, like everything else, you get into a rhythm. Sometimes I even zone out completely; it’s that peaceful. But as I said, my hand was beginning to raise objections, and so I stopped for the evening. That, of course, does not mean that I didn’t pick something else up. Yes, it was the ply-split braiding.

I actually am improving. I don’t know if you can see it in the photo, but there’s a safety pin on one of the edges. You start the band in the center and work outwards, first on one half, then the other. The safety pin marks the starting point, and I can see the difference between the first half and the second half that isn’t done yet. The first half starts out not pulled in tightly enough; my edges are inconsistent. In some places the band is wider, but as you get to the end of that side, it starts to draw in more. The band becomes narrower, the edges are smoother, with fewer bumps. The second half has started out much better, already narrowed down, the cords pulled in tightly, no bumps along the edges. So I can definitely see improvement. Once I’m sure I’m being consistent most of the time, I’ll try a different pattern.

The funny thing is, there seem to be a finite number of patterns available on the net, and even in the books I have. Different authors show the same patterns, as do Pinterest and Instagram, and I find myself wondering why that is, if it’s something about this style of braid that is self-limiting. When I do a search on Google or Pinterest or Instagram, I see the same patterns over and over again, in different colors, and there truly aren’t that many patterns. It appears that there is more flexibility if you use ply-split braiding for making baskets. Something to research, I suppose.


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Incorrect braid, but still pretty

I bought a ply-split project from Etsy a few days ago, a pdf pattern, and I’ve been dying to try it out, which is why I spent the better part of the day a couple of days ago making cord. The piece calls for 24 cords, in five different colors. Eight of one, and four each for the rest.

I used Scheepjes Catona for the cord. Since trying it out, it has rapidly become my go-to yarn. The colors are gorgeous, and the yarn is soft and strong. Love, love, love this yarn, and I wish it was more easily accessible here in the States. Shopping online is great, but nothing replaces viewing an item with your own eyes.

I didn’t realize how time-consuming the cordmaking would be. The battery-powered cordmaker can only do so much so quickly, unlike the drill-driven cordmaker I’ve seen in videos. But though my setup isn’t the best, the job got done.

What I’ve learned, though, is that I didn’t pay quite enough attention to detail as I thought with the cordmaking. Yup. I posted a pic in the Facebook group and asked if I’d done everything correctly, and it seems that though my cords are made with 4 strands, they are still 2-ply cords. Why? Because the four strands were to be twisted separately, then be twisted together. What yours truly did was twist two strands together, then twist all four.


It would be the one time I post a video that I did it wrong, wouldn’t it?!

New cords, this time made properly!

I’m going to finish the pattern anyway, then try to make my cords correctly and do the pattern again. The piece I currently have is still pretty, if incorrect, and I figure since I can’t use those cords for anything else, I might as well finish what I started. It is giving me a feel for how to place the gripfid, which is a good thing. And I have gone back and made more cords, properly. I definitely need a better setup for cordmaking, and that means getting into the garage to find the other cordmaker. I’ll get there…eventually.

As much as I’m finding that I’m enjoying ply-split braiding, it also leaves me in a bit of a quandary, because Scheepjes Catona doesn’t come in huge skeins. So far, when I make cords, I use two four-yard lengths of yarn for one cord. If I need four cords of one color, that’s already sixteen yards used…that’s a significant amount of the skein. It means that if another project comes up, I will have to buy more yarn. Not that that is a hardship, mind, and a skein isn’t expensive at $3.85, but there are 109 colors in the Catona colorway. I’m trying to have at least one full skein of each color on hand, because I use Catona in weaving, crochet, and now ply-split braiding. Having multiple skeins of each color is going to get pricey quick, and having multiples would be the ideal situation. My wallet, however, is screaming at even the idea. Can you hear it? I think there might be tears…

Maybe what I should do is a destash trade kind of thing. I’ve been trying to get away from acrylic yarn, of which I have plenty. Maybe someone would trade away their Catona. Hmmm…

On the left, the new braid, with different colors, and proper cords

So that’s the quandary: I need a large amount of the Catona if I’m going to use it in those three crafts. Something I’ll have to work on.

Today, I started the same pattern over again, with different colors, proper cords, and there is a noticeable difference. I haven’t quite finished the first, incorrect one, but I really wanted to try doing it right. One mistake I made, right off the bat, is using black as the dominant color. I wanted to make the colors pop, and they do, but I didn’t stop to think about the fact that seeing the plies is really, really difficult. As in, I can’t work on this one in the living room. I need to be in the studio at my desk, with the magnifying light on. 

Once I got it going, I didn’t need the magnifier so much anymore, and I think I can thank the time I’ve spent on the other braid for that, getting a feel for where the fid needs to go. I’m beginning to be able to see it in this braid as well, and starting to go a little faster. It’s fun, and the pattern really isn’t hard. Once you’ve done a couple of repeats, you can look at it and know where you are and what you need to do next.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with these two braids, but I’m sure my children will have ideas of their own, and will claim them if I don’t have an instant answer to that question!

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Ply-split keychain-become-choker

I haven’t felt like doing much weaving the past two days. Sciatica has been flaring up across my whole lower back, and the only way I’m actually comfortable is standing up or lying down. But I still needed to do something that involved yarn. Because, of course, right? Well, ply-split braiding is another one of those things that hit my radar when I learned to weave, and I really had an interest, but buying pre-made cord for it can get really expensive, really fast. So I watched videos on how to make my own cord, and years ago, I bought a battery-powered cord maker to attempt it, but the stupid thing and I could not get along, much like the previously mentioned dealgan. The cord I made was far too loose to work with, and I couldn’t figure out why. I blamed the cord maker, as everything I read and watched said it wasn’t an ideal way to make cord. I put it back in its box and put it away, and looked for the item that research had told me was the best way to go about making my own cords. It’s a cordmaker that attaches to a drill, and is also very pricey. As in close to $300. It took a few years before I finally bought one, only to realize I didn’t have the best setup to use it. Into my desk it went, until the day I had a better setup, and I bought a few hanks of pre-made cord. As I expected, it’s not really cost effective to buy it that way. For a tiny project, you can get away with it, especially if you’re only doing one project, but if you’re going to spend any significant amount of time doing this, you honestly need to make your own cord.

I still had some pre-made left, so yesterday I began to play with it. I started out to make a keychain, and it quickly decided to become a choker. A choker, I might add, that Aneira wasted no time in claiming. I let her have it. It looked better on her anyway.

I should explain what ply-split braiding actually is.

Made-by-me cords for ply-split braiding

The easiest explanation I can give you, seeing that I’m an utter novice, is you start with a number of four-ply cords, however many your project calls for, and a little item called a gripfid. From what I’ve seen, those are usually made from hollow metal knitting needles. The metal is removed from an area near the tip, exposing the hollow space. What you’re going to do is insert the gripfid, tip first, between the plies (plys?), so you will have two plies on top of the fid, and two beneath. You do this through all of your cords except the last one. That one, the end with the aglet is inserted into the hollow space of the fid, so it’s inside of it. Then you draw the fid back out the way it came, pulling that last cord through the others. Pretty cool. That last cord becomes your first now, and on your next pass, it’s the first one you split with the fid. That’s the simplest way I can explain it. I hope it makes sense.

Having the choker turn out so well led me to wanting to try another project, but I didn’t have enough cord, and I went looking for my expensive, never-been-used cordmaker, and discovered it’s not in the studio, which means it’s in the garage, somewhere amongst the boxes that we have yet to unpack. The cheaper, not-ideal cordmaker, however, was right in plain sight. So I shrugged my shoulders, and decided to give it the old college try again.

Would you believe that this time I finally figured it out and managed to make some decent cord?! I’m in shock. No, the battery-powered cordmaker isn’t ideal, but I’ve gotten it to work. Twelve more cords to go, and I’ll have enough for the next project.

I even did a video of making the cord, this time. I’ve never posted a video before, so we’ll see how this plays out. If it works, I would suggest playing it without the sound. I have no idea how to edit out the loud, annoying motor sound!

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First attempt at ply-split braiding

First attempt at ply-split braiding

Well, I just gave the Celtic tatting two more tries, and gave the Japanese hook tatting two tries as well, and I am 0 for 2 on both. The Celtic tatting is incredibly frustrating. I’m not getting my joins to work right at all. In normal tatting, my joins through the picot allow the thread to slide back and forth through them, and my joins in Celtic tatting are not doing that. I’m not sure why. I have four shuttles actively involved in two separate Celtic snowflake patterns right now, neither of which is going well, so I have sent out a scream for help to both Craftree and Ravelry. It would be so nice if I wasn’t the only tatter I knew locally. Sigh.

As for the Japanese hook tatting, thus far I have found very little in the way of tutorials online. This is something I may have no choice but to buy a book or two for. I made two attempts at it with the little leaflet that came with the hooks and some #10 crochet thread. It’s initially like needle tatting, as far as getting your stitches on the hook. After that, you’re looping your working thread around the hook and pulling it all the way through the stitches you’ve made, leaving a small loop at the starting end. This did not go well at all, in either attempt. There is no give in crochet thread, and trying to pull the hook through the stitches just resulted in the hook getting snagged inside the stitches. And there’s no getting out of this easily or gracefully, because there are hooks at both ends. It actually took me longer to work the thread off the hook than it did to get it on the hook in the first place.

So the experiments were epic fails so far. I’m eyeballing the ply-split braiding and the micro-macrame and debating over whether or not I want to go for 0 for 4…I’m thinking not right now!


The first part of this post was written last night, so now I can add to it–this morning, after dropping the kids at school (Am I a terrible mother for thinking it feels so good to say that??), I made my first attempt at the ply-split braiding. I am 1 for 1 on that one!! It was lots of fun for me, and I had a hard time putting it down even to take the picture of it. The cords I used are the ones I bought from the supplier. I’m still not having any luck making my own cords. It may be that the Lacis cordmaker is not up to that kind of a job. For now I can keep buying cords from the supplier, but I can’t do that forever. Well, I could, in point of fact, but I like bright jewel tones, and there are only eleven color choices on the website. For now, it’ll do, though.

Next on the agenda is the micro-macrame. I don’t know if I’ll get to it today, as much as I’d like to try it. I’ve been watching tutorial videos to get a feel for the difficulty of it. Some of the finished projects look pretty complicated, but when you watch the tutorials, they’re not really all that bad, and nothing so far that I feel incapable of doing. So maybe I’ll get to it this evening!

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Mary Konior pattern Leaf Braid. I started too wide, and now have them where they should be!

Mary Konior pattern Leaf Braid. I started too wide, and now have them where they should be!

I was on Pinterest, and something new popped up on my feed. Not cool. I haven’t even tried the ply-split braiding or the Japanese hook-tatting yet, and here’s another thing coming along to pique my interest. This time it’s micro-macrame.

I wouldn’t have thought macrame. In fact, I’ve seen macrame pop up on my feed before, and I’ve laughed, because I tried it back in…well, never mind when. 🙂 The point is, my thought was that macrame was outdated. Then macrame jewelry started showing up on my feed. And it was gorgeous. And it was colorful, which it really wasn’t when I was a kid. It was always the rough brown hemp, and everyone had nets for hanging plants or decorative owls. That’s the extent of what I remember macrame being used for. But now there’s all this coming up, which necessitated the starting of another board. So what was there to do but start looking into it?

Lo and behold, I already have most of what I need to play with this. The thread that I bought for kumihimo and discovered I hated for that purpose is suggested for use in micro-macrame. The design board I made for my stained glass class is perfect for working on it. I have a self-healing cutting mat. Scissors abound…there must be four or five of those in my studio alone. Really, the only thing I don’t have is head pins or T-pins, which are easy enough to find, and cheap enough to buy. And I do have all that thread in my stash to use up, after all…

Yup. Another rabbit hole.

Celtic tatting isn’t going all that well right now. It’s very confusing, in and of itself, and the first mistake I made was in the thread I was using. I had a sample of a tweedy, red-white-and-blue #10 Lizbeth thread that I’d gotten in the mail for free. The thread really doesn’t appeal to me, so I thought it was perfect for practice, and really, how hard could this possibly be, right? I mean, I use double stitches every time I tat. And after the number of times I did that bookmark, I’m really good at chains, so it can’t be that bad…

Yes, oh, yes it can! I was warned. I should have listened. Celtic tatting is weaving long chains together to make knotwork. I’m not making combinations of rings and chains, I’m only making chains. Very. Long. Chains.

I fought with that pattern until four am, at which point I ripped it all out in frustration. The mistake I made in the thread resulted in the fact that the very busy-ness of the coloration made it nearly impossible to differentiate between stitches, and then by line three of the instructions, the directions given were confusing to me. So I’m going to try again, this time with plain white thread.

The tatted braid projects are going very well, though. I’ve discovered that I really like doing the braids, and I’m trying to figure out how to turn them into something other than bookmarks. Not that there’s a thing wrong with bookmarks, but I’m fond of bracelets, necklaces, and barefoot sandals too!

I’m finding that tatting–other than Celtic, that is–is not so much about complexity. At its most basic, from what I can see as a novice, it’s mastering rings, chains, picots, and joins, and a design is maneuvering those same items into an aesthetically pleasing configuration. The complexity comes from how many of those things are used in the design, and keeping track of both them and where they go. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!!! I freely admit that I’m a novice, and may be missing aspects of things! And even if I’m right, it doesn’t make it less of an art form. Sometimes it is gorram hard to keep track of everything!!

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I couldn't get a better photo, but isn't it a pretty pattern?

I couldn’t get a better photo, but isn’t it a pretty pattern?

I finally got the pattern for the Corn and Chaff design by Mary Konior!! Apparently Corn and Chaff is considered a braid and is worked from side to side, so the “RW” in the pattern, which means “reverse work” and generally means to flip it upside down, in this case means flip from left to right! Good thing someone informed me of that, because I would never have gotten it right otherwise!

I had a very hard time getting this pattern going. According to the pattern, there are four rings labeled A through D. A and C are exactly the same, and B and D are exactly the same also, so really, it’s only two rings, and you’re repeating the pattern until you reach the length you want. I had to rewrite the pattern to grasp it in my head, because when it said to attach a ring to ring A, it threw me off. Which ring A? Because as you’re repeating the pattern, every other ring is ring A. I know it seems stupid that I didn’t automatically assume it was the ring A that I had just completed, but I really couldn’t grasp the idea until I re-labeled the rings A through H and rewrote the pattern using those designations. In hindsight, now that I have the pattern working right, it’s not a difficult pattern at all and it’s very pretty, but because it was worked differently from everything I’ve tried up until now, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

This is a single-shuttle pattern. Now, everything I’ve done up until now has technically been a single-shuttle pattern, but has included a ball thread. Because I have so much trouble with working thread right off the ball, I’ve adopted working from two shuttles instead, with the second replacing the ball. This pattern really is single-shuttle!! There is no ball thread, only the one shuttle and whatever thread you’ve loaded it with. That’s another reason I had so much trouble; it was so not the way I had gotten used to working!!

I’ve also found a few Celtic tatting projects I’d like to try, which essentially means lots of chains made and woven into the work, so it’s actually Celtic knotwork. It looks beautiful, and it looks complicated as all get out, so I’m dying to try it, though I’m pretty sure I’m going to be frustrated sooner rather than later!

My gripfids for ply-split braiding came in yesterday too, along with some cord, and I can now see that when I make my own cord, it has to be a good bit tighter than I’ve been making it. I was also advised that when I do make my own cord, I need to put the aglets on each end while the cord is still under tension, and the end that is anchored should have all four cords on cup hooks in the same configuration as my cordmaker. The configuration can be more spread apart than the cordmaker, but not closer, so once I find a way to create an anchoring end, I’ll be giving that a try. As skeins go, the cord I bought is expensive, so it’ll be much more cost effective to make my own. I’m looking forward to trying it. It’s not rocket science, but there’s still more to doing it than I expected. When I say expensive, I’m speaking relativity. The skein is only $3.25, but it’s not very much cord when you look at the length. On the other hand, what I’ve been using, the perle cotton I already had in my stash from my cross-stitching days, is a little over $1 per skein, and you need four of them to make a cord. Of course, after you’ve unwound the skein in order to make the cord, lengthwise you get more out of it. It’s really a case of 6 on one hand, half a dozen on the other. In other words, I’d probably break even no matter which way I go on this. The biggest plus to making my own cord, though, is color selection. The online store I ordered the cord from has a selection of eleven colors. I’ve got to have more choice than that: enter the perle cotton!

So, since I’m up so early today (okay, I haven’t gone to bed yet. Or rather, I did, but couldn’t sleep), I’m going to work some more on Corn and Chaff until I finally get sleepy! If I’m lucky, it won’t be long!

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More complex? But not loved.

More complex? But not loved.

So, as mentioned before, I’ve been looking for new, more complex patterns to try tatting. Part of the problem I’ve had so far is that I really do better if I not only have a diagrammed chart, but also the written out instructions, so I can bounce back and forth when I’m not sure I understand something. So far, I’ve only yet found one pattern on Pinterest that satisfied that criteria. It was an edging pattern that I don’t really like all that much by itself, but it had the written instructions and two charts, which was awesome, so I did it in a couple of repeats before deciding I really don’t like that particular pattern. I don’t know if it really counts as more complex…it’s still simple rings and chains, and simple joins, but it was more complex to me in that the configuration was different from the bookmark that I’ve done umpteen times now.

There is a pattern I really want to try very badly, and I can’t find it anywhere: Mary Konior’s Corn and Chaff pattern. It’s gorgeous, at least to me, and I’ve seen it pop up any number of times on Pinterest, but there’s just one problem. The only books that the pattern can be found in, while they can still be purchased on Amazon, are priced well into the realm of the ridiculous. Apparently the author passed away, so there will be no more books forthcoming, obviously, and I’m not either willing or able to pay $100+ for one book!!! I tend to think twice or three times when a book is $30, but there’s a far better chance that I will buy that book than there is when the book goes past that, which is my personal limit. Which kind of sucks for me, as the pattern itself has never yet popped up anywhere, and I don’t yet have enough experience to reverse engineer it from a photograph. So I keep eyeing it and sighing over it, and hoping that at some point, someone will put it online where I can see it!

I did have some fun with my allowance this month, so the shuttles are breeding again, and I ordered some Japanese cro-tatting hooks from Lacis. Not the expensive ones, which are about $60 for four hooks, but their own, much less expensive brand! And the gripfids and some cord for ply-split braiding. And I sent an email asking for help with making my own cord, since I am apparently doing something wrong when I try it myself. The Lacis cordmaker I have will do the job,  but I need to figure out how to do it correctly, which is the issue here. There are actually better cordmakers available, but the least expensive one is $119, and you still need a drill to operate it, which is easy enough to get, and get with your wallet pretty much unscathed–it doesn’t have to be a high end drill, after all–but it’s that initial outlay of money that isn’t an option right now!! This girl is on a budget, and probably always will be. Vet techs may be happy and love our careers, but we will never be rich. (Which actually causes a rant I may have posted before: doctors and nurses only have to learn one species of living being, where we have to learn all but that one. And in a general practice, we are the anesthetist, the X-ray tech, the lab tech, the janitor, the receptionist, and a zillion other things at once, and we don’t get paid anywhere near as much!!! Grrr…) But I digress. So I’m waiting to hear back about what I may be doing wrong. With all the yarn and floss in my stash, it’d be much more cost effective to make my own cords!!!

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Just since posting earlier, I have come across yet another fiber art that intrigues me: ply split braiding! I don’t know much about it…yet…but I know I need a tool called a gripfid, and I know there are books and tutorials available, and that there are beautiful, beautiful examples of it on Pinterest, and that I will eventually need a cord maker. Oddly enough, I think the four hook fringe maker I already have might just do the trick for that!!

It’s so unfair; I don’t need another interest here! I didn’t need to see more beautiful pictures of things I could make, not to mention tools I could buy! Because, naturally, I’ve already seen that a set of gripfids in three sizes will cost $30, which is actually not bad…do you see how this goes?! I should never, ever look at anything at all on the computer…and this came out of a post on a Revelry forum where someone mentioned ply-split braiding. And I just had to ask, what is ply-split braiding…and that was it. Oooooooos and aaaaahhhhs followed, along with some quick research, nothing near what I would need to do to try it, but plenty to pique my interest! Down another rabbit hole…

I can see that if and when we ever sell this house to buy a new one, I am going to need some real studio space, just because I need to be able to organize and section off different fiber arts from each other, so that I can find any given thing at any given time!

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