May 18, 2013


Last summer while searching for weaving shops and studios, I came across Linda Hendrickson's studio and got a personal tour, learning about Ply-Splitting and Tablet Weaving.

How to Make Ply-Split Baskets by Linda Hendrickson

From my perspective, tablet weaving is more decorative then functional and ply-splitting is functional and unique so I brought home two of Linda's books and realized that making my own cordage was not high on my to-do list so the books went on the bookshelf until last month when I decided to play with ply-splitting.

I found a three ply commercial rope that was mostly white with blue and orange flecks and learned that by removing one of the plys, which was easily accomplished, I had a two-ply rope that would work for ply-splitting.

"two-ply" commercial rope

With my two-ply rope and several knitting needles of various sizes, I headed over to my Dad's where we watched a video of Linda's husband making a gripfid, the tool for ply splitting. With the general idea, my Dad and I headed to his workshop to modify my knitting needles into gripfids.

my new gripfids - Thanks Dad :)

I decided on the "Christmas Star" pattern and with my new gripfids I started splitting. The rope I was using was significantly larger in diameter than the one called for in the pattern and I still had lots of rope length after completing the 5 points of the star so I kept going and have a nice tiara with extra rope dangling down the back.

Christmas Star pattern expanded into a tiara

With a bit of experience and a pattern picked out I needed some cords. Thirty-three cords to be exact. Sixteen light cords and 16 dark cords plus one really long dark cord for the rim. I decided to use variegated cotton yarns. So, after watching some videos and reading about cordmaking I got out both my cordless drills, a couple pieces of dowel, some cup hooks, and several clamps.

Setting up the Stationary End

Three sections of dowel each got a cup hook screwed into the dowel. One dowel was attached to the sea doors on a shipping container (in the above photo) with a c-clamp and a measuring tape was stretched out on the floor. One piece of dowel was put into each drill. I decided that I wanted the cords to be about 5' in length and I was making a 4-ply cord out of one lenght of yarn so I measured out 24' of yarn.

Setting up the Active End

The yarn was then attached to the cup hook at the stationary end and to the cup hook in one of the drills. With the drill in the "forward" direction, I over-twisted the cord until about 15% of the lenth was stored as twist in the yarn.

Adding Twist

With lots of twist stored in the yarn, I used the second drill as a weight at the midpoint of the twisted yarn. I then folded the yarn in half and transfered the end that had been on the drill's cup hook onto the cup hook attached to the door.

a "weight" at the middle of the twisted cord

Using the first drill as a weight at the new midpoint, I folded the yarn in half a second time and put the fold over the cup hook at the door while the new fold is placed on the drill's cup hook.

weighting the new middle and folding again

Now there are four strands that are ready to be plied together. So, I set the drill on "reverse" and added twist.

four twisted cords about to be plied together

There really is no way to over-do or under-do this step since this step balances the twist that was put in before the folding.

Adding twist in the "reverse" direction

Securing the ends is important to preserve all the effort of creating the cords. Just like any twisted rope or yarn the ends will fray if not bound. Since my cords are made of cotton, I'm using packing tape to secure the ends

Taping the Ends

Here is a collection of cords that I made on a sunny Sunday afternoon so I could get started on my project.

A Collection of Cords