For Exercise 2, we are to make a collection of hand twisted ropes or three/four stranded plaits or braids. Then we choose materials to interpret some surface qualities and further explore combinations to develop interesting structures, colours or textures.
Previously I've hand spun rope from raffia in Sue Hiley-Harris's string bag workshop and attended a braiding workshop with Ruth Gilbert where we tried some knots and techniques including kumihimo, finger knitting and using a lucet. However these workshops were more about understanding techniques rather than being experimental or making any interpretations.
During Stage 1 - Exploring the Qualities of Yarn at the start of Project 8, I wound a selection of interesting yarns onto card and put them in a small plastic tub with a copy of the braid instructions as I knew this exercise would be portable enough to take on holiday with me. I'd cut the yarns into metre lengths so I wouldn't need scissors and spent the plane journey with a safety pin attached to the knee of my jeans so I could get enough tension for braiding, whilst trying not to elbow my fellow passengers.
So that I could compare the structures, with each yarn I made a length of four-strand chevron braid, then a four-strand round braid and finally a four-strand flat braid. This variegated rayon wrapped gimp yarn that I chose to interpret 'smooth' shows the differences most clearly. (I used two lengths for each strand as the yarns were quite fine.)
|Four-strand chevron braid. I found this braid was slightly fatter on one side and had a tendency to twist.|
|Four-strand round braid. I found this more awkward and took more concentration to get right than the other two.|
I could imagine that by using two, three or four different colours within the braid and changing the starting positions, you could create interesting patterns along the length. Below I was interpreting 'soft'. Chevron stripes were created by using two strands each of blue and beige and starting with two of the same colour in the outside position.
This round braid and chevron braid were made from fabric strips. I padded the green and red strips to give a chunkier effect by stitching them into a tube, turning them inside out and threading through a length of yarn. You can see a pattern emerging by using one red strip to three green.
I found that braiding was a good exercise in understanding the qualities of materials as they handled quite differently. Some were scratchy or awkward and constantly trying to escape and I felt like I needed extra hands, while others like this wool yarn felt wonderful between my fingers and behaved beautifully.
|Space dyed silk yarn. I lined the colours up at the start and blocks of repeating colour were retained along the length|
|Variegated rayon yarn. This time the colour arrangement was random.|
|Combining yarns with contrasting textures|
Representing soft or smooth in braiding is relatively easy compared to other surface qualities like 'hard' or 'rough', particularly when you are limited to materials that you can carry on a plane.
I tried some paper string which felt quite rough to begin with but by braiding, it felt like I was taming it. If I'd tied small pieces of paper or wire down the lengths so they'd stuck out, I think the effect would be much better, along with using a colour less passive than lilac.
I tore some builder's scrim into strips but again by braiding, some of the roughness was tempered as the scratchy raw edges curled inwards.
These next two I felt were more successful attempts at interpreting 'hard' using deconstructed jewellery.
|Four-stranded chevron braid to interpret 'Hard and shiny'|
|'Hard' - I liked how the bugle beads forced the sharp angles|
This was my final attempt at 'bumpy'. Adding larger beads to one of the four strands made this structure so much more interesting.
While I was away I had the luxury of having a little time to myself so it was a great opportunity to try some observational drawing as my tutor has suggested. In Slovenia it was easy to find a quiet outdoor spot where I could draw uninterrupted without worrying who was looking over my shoulder. I feel very out of practise but at least I've made a start.