Project 8 Stage 2 Exercise 2 – surface quality of braids

This exercise involved trying to interpret surface qualities in hand-twisted ropes and some four strand braids.

This is the base set of structures, all using jute twine and neoprene tubing.  From left to right, four-strand chevron braid, four-strand round braid, four-strand flat braid, hand-twisted rope (4 strands in final rope), hand-twisted rope (8 strands in final rope). In this initial set I wanted a contrast in colour and texture of materials, but similar grist.

Once I had an idea of the basic structures, I tried to think of a texture then select materials and structure that might combine to give that texture.

Above, from left to right:

Soft, uneven texture. Silk throwsters waste that I gently attenuated to form a fragile but continuous length, in 4-strand chevron. The end result is much stronger than the individual elements.

Soft, even texture. Merino tops in 4-strand flat braid. Even though the colour varies, I think the overall texture is even, soft and smooth.

Shiny, rough texture. This is gold lamé fabric strip with frayed edges, combined with a bundle of fine gold threads (a weaving warp that got in a tangled mess when I attempted to beam it), in a 4-strand round braid. The round braid worked to maximise the spikiness of the rough gold.

Shiny, smooth texture. Multiple strands of two colours of anonymous plastic fibres (they came in a bundle looking like artificial horse hair, from Feeling Inspired) in 4-strand flat braid. In life it does look shiny. A repeat of the merino structure, it’s interesting to see one looking so hard and the other so soft.

Above, from left to right:

Bumpy. 1 strand each of Paton’s Sorrento (cotton/viscose), Sidar Donegal (wool/acrylic/polyester), Patons Cottontop, elastic thread (anonymous from Feeling Inspired), in 4 strand round braid. I kept tension on the elastic thread while working. Combined with the textured threads this gave a very nice bumpy result, which also has an interesting stretch.

Sharp. Paper yarn and fine cotton. I tried to fold up the paper yarn, maintain the folds by holding it between groups of fine cotton, then create a hand-twisted rope. The result is highly unstable and not at all “sharp”. On the other hand, it makes a lively line.

Smooth ripples. I was imagining a smoothly flowing water effect. This is some fine braids (anonymous yarns from Feeling Inspired), combined in a hand-twisted rope. The result is attractive, but not “smooth”.

Smooth ripples – attempt 2. The same as the previous attempt, but only one colour used. This is more successful.

In this set I was looking for contrasts. Above, from left to right:

Contrast of scale. Neoprene tubing and fishing line. I had a few attempts with the standard exercise structures, but couldn’t get a good result. This version which keeps the neoprene neatly side by side is not quite as boring in real life as in the photo.

Contrast of fibre. This is hand-spun mohair and cottolin in a 4-strand flat braid. Ho-hum.

Contrast of shiny and matt. More neoprene, and Maderira Glamour thread (viscose/metallic polyester). My notes don’t say but I’m sure this is 4-strand chevron braid. This is very attractive – subdued elegance.

Contrast of shiny and matt. Hycraft rug wool and Excel metallic yarn in a hand-twisted braid. I like the extra element of roughness in both the shiny and the mat elements.

I finished all the above a couple of days ago, but “sharp” was bugging me. So today I visited the local ginormous hardware store and wandered around looking for potential “spiky/sharp”.

Above, from left to right:

Sharp. This is fibreglass flyscreen in a 4-strand round braid. I cut a strip off the flyscreen mesh, then stripped off threads along the edge to create spiky fraying. The round braid was chosen to maximise and accentuate the “sharp” edges. There are two strands of the frayed material, and two strands made up of a small bundle of the fibres removed in the fraying process. I think this looks like it could catch and cut your fingers – sharp and dangerous. In fact it is quite soft to the touch. While doing OCA work I’m always mindful of postage implications – weight and the possibility of damage to or by an item. If I’d bought the aluminium flyscreen it may have felt as well as looked sharp.

Hard but smooth. This is orange trimmer line – hard plastic – and anonymous purple something from the bottom of a drawer, in a 4-strand round braid.

I didn’t have a texture in mind for the round braid on the right. It uses black soft flexi-tie (plastic of some kind I think) and blue trimmer line. Both materials came from my hardware trip. I was curious to see how the very stiff trimmer line would combine with the pliable, soft tie. Would the actual physical hard and soft contrast be apparent in the combination? The result looks like a core of transparent blue with the black coiling around it. In real life the blue is shinier. I really like the overall effect.

The final set all use audio cassette tape. I’ve seen it used in a few things recently, but no links because I can’t recall any specifics.

The tape is a beautiful smooth, shiny ribbon. Above on the left I did a simple hand-twisted rope. The result is bouncy and shiny, but doesn’t really add anything to the base material.

In the centre is audio tape in a flat braid with yellow garden twine. The tape is all squashed and folded, and there is too much shine in the twine to give a contrast.

On the right is the tape combined with a weft thread taken from a hessian coffee bean sack. I tried flat, round and a sort of modified just-trying-to-make-it-work braid, but they all seemed to squash/fold/deflate/minimise the tape. Finally I carefully wrapped the tape around the hairy thread, keeping the tape flat and at a low angle so there was a lot of space between each wrap. I used the result to make a twisted cord. I think this is the most successful experiment in terms of retaining the smooth ribbon nature of the tape and contrasting it with another yarn.

I found this exercise very satisfying. I was able to use a wide variety of materials, pushing a few personal boundaries, and in most cases I think the results reflect the texture inspirations.

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