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National Craft Month 2: Braid a Bracelet

national craft monthTime for the second how-to post for National Craft Month. In this post I’ll show you how to tie a braid knot  and turn the braided cord into a bracelet. I love projects that use up odds and ends of yarn, and this is one of them!

I’ve always liked the look of braids, long before Princess Leia wound them on the side of her head. The problem with using simple 3-strand braids  for projects is how to neatly handle the 3 strands at each end after braiding! The braid knot reduces the number of strands to one, simplifying the problem.

Making Cords

Several types of cord for braiding.
From bottom to top: 1 strand of bulky yarn, 2-stitch I-cord, long-tail cast on/bind off cord, slip-stitch crochet chain.

First, choose the material (cotton, hemp, bamboo, wool…) for your bracelet, and make the cord. What weight yarn are you trying to use up, and what look do you want for the end result? Do you want it to be thick and chunky, or have a thinner, finer look? And how much weight and drape do you want the bracelet to have?

For this tutorial, I used 4 different cord-making methods. There are a multitude of ways each of these can be varied, as well as many other methods for making cord (aka “narrow wares”). Decide which one you’d like to use: will the yarn do the work? knit I-cord? crochet chain? or something else?

Measure your wrist (or your recipient’s wrist), and make your cord 3 times as long plus 1-2˝. The extra length is taken up in places where the cord crosses itself. The chunkier your base cord is, the more extra length you’ll need. If your braid winds up being shorter than the distance around your wrist, don’t stress: the ties will cross the gap (tip: leave long tails at ends, they’re useful when making ties!).

Tying the Braid Knot

If you haven’t tied any knots other than the slip knot when you cast on or work a crochet chain, I suggest practicing with a short length of rope or clothesline. Part of tying knots is “shaping up” the knot during and at the end of the tying, and it is easier to learn when the medium itself doesn’t stretch!

Steps of making a braid knot.

Fold your cord into three roughly equal lengths, placing one end on top of the bend nearest it (1). Begin working a 3-strand braid: *take the left-most strand over the middle strand, then the right-most over the middle strand (2). Repeat from *, untwisting the 2 strands that are connected when necessary, until there is just room to cross the two connected strands one more time (3-7), and tuck the end through the final loop (8).

braided cords
The various cords after working the braid knot.

Shape up the knot: gently tug the strands to make them uniform, redistributing extra length as necessary. You may want to tighten or loosen the crossings to remove or add length to the final length of the braid.

After working the braid knot and getting the bracelet to the desired length, the next task is figuring out how it will fasten around a wrist! The single strand of yarn and the I-cord both have a tail at each end. The cast-on/bind-off cord has three tails on one end (hold both ends of yarn together and tie a slip knot to get two strands for long-tail cast-on; the third end is left after binding off), and one on the other (cut one of the strands from the cast-on before beginning the bind-off). And on the slip-stitch crochet chain, the two tails are at the same end (make a crochet chain to the desired length, then slip-stitch into the back loop). How to make ties for each of these bracelets?

Making the Ties

Finishing the braid as a bracelet.
Fastening options for braided bracelet.

Each bracelet illustrates a different way to make a simple tie—no jewelry findings required for these bracelets. The ties are 2½-4 inches in length, depending on fastening means and desired decorative effect.

Single-Strand Braid At each end of the braid, tie a basic overhand knot, but wrap it three times through the loop before tightening. This will make the knot slightly larger. Tie a simple overhand knot at the end of each tie to prevent fraying.

I-cord Braid Work both ties the same way: put the yarn tail on a tapestry needle and sew the tail of the braid against the folded cord. Cut a length of yarn twice as long as the tail and using a tapestry needle, thread it halfway onto the end next to the tail so there are three equal lengths. Work 3-strand braid to end, secure tails with overhand knot.

Cast-on/Bind-off Braid For both ties, use a tapestry needle and yarn tail(s) to sew the tail of the braid in place against the folded cord. On the three-strand end, tie an overhand knot at the end of the braid. Cut a length of yarn twice as long as the tail on the single-strand end and using a tapestry needle, thread it halfway through next to the tail so there are three equal lengths. Knot as for other end.

Slip-Stitch Crochet Braid Sew the two tails in opposite directions through the chain; sew the tail of the braid in place against the folded cord. Insert a crochet hook through both fold and braid tail, and chain until tie is long enough to fold into a loop; fasten off. Forming a loop, sew end into braid tail; fasten off. For other end, make a crochet chain twice as long as desired finish ties; fasten off. Thread chain onto tapestry needle, and thread it through both fold and braid tail; adjust ends so the two ties will be the same length. Holding both ends, make an overhand knot to secure ties in place.



Improving Me Time: Jewelry!

Beading with Wire, Chain and Leather on Craftsy

As you may know, I have a 12-year-old son. A couple of years ago when we were in Joann’s for other reasons he found a kit for making a paracord bracelet. I had a childhood flashback looking at it (summer camp! square knots! MACRAMÉ!), and of course bought it for him. And so began yet another hobby, knotting. It has bled over into my work world as some published magazine patterns for I-cord coasters, free macramé craft patterns, and in several classes (Knotting Nuttiness, Macrame Friendship Bracelets).

The Motivation

So great, right? I have all this leftover cool yarn, and I learned how to tie knots with it (patience is a virtue when tying knots in stretchy yarn instead of firm paracord). But how do I turn fasten all these pretty chains of yarn and knots around my arms or neck??  I learned some of the lingo (findings, jump rings, bead cone), picked up some of the tools (glue, round nose and chain nose pliers, flush cutter), and figured out *a* way to join and attach chain and clasps, but have always thought there must be better ways.

The Class

I looked through the jewelry offerings on Craftsy for something that would cover the basics. There didn’t seem to be a “Basics of Jewelry-making” class, so, having met the delightful Candie Cooper at the Craftsy Instructor Summit in January, I settled on her class Beading with Wire, Chain and Leather.* Hearing her say “one of the keys to being happy is learning something new” made me sure I’d made a good choice.

I learned exactly what I wanted to learn. Lesson 1 started with basics of materials for beading—diameter and # strands of beading wire, crimp beads and tubes—and tools and continued with how to string and crimp. There were great details like how much slack to leave between finding and crimp, and gauge of wire used for different tasks. Lesson 2 continued by teaching how to make simple and wrapped loops, both things I want to practice by making some simple earrings using head pins!

Each lesson built on the one before, yet also I think could be viewed on its own. I used the Notes feature of the Craftsy platform for the first time while watching this class so I could find some of the techniques I really want to try. I’m intrigued with the idea of wrapping wire around large beads, and with making tassels (chain and yarn together!). Perhaps both will get used on the lariat I’m now planning. ;-)

The projects used to demonstrate each skill were simple enough that I felt I could make them, while also being beautiful enough that I wanted to. She showed ways each project could be changed, and displayed alternate versions of projects. I would have liked more closeups of those projects, to better see their construction. I understand there might not have been time for more footage, but a photo montage that I could have paused video on and stared at would have worked!

I love that Candie demonstrated how she sketches, specifically the simple shapes she uses to depict particular findings or chain types. I’m a fan of sketching, but sometimes get hung up on how to represent what I see in my head so seeing this was very helpful. She also said the same thing I say to my own students, and as I make future forays into jewelry making will need to remember for myself: “Be patient with yourself when you’re trying something new.”

My jewelry-making supplies
Stay tuned for results of my first forays!


*Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. That means if you like what you see after clicking through on it, and you buy the class, I get a tiny bit of financial credit.

*Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. That means if you like what you see after clicking through on it, and you buy the class, I get a tiny bit of financial credit.SaveSave



Improving Me Time: Photographic Skillz

Basics of Digital Photography on Craftsy

In Friday’s post I passed on some of what I know about knitting and stripes, and committed to passing on multi craft techniques throughout March. I’ve decided I need to participate on the learning side of National Craft Month too, and tasked myself with taking some classes on Craftsy during this relatively deadline-free week. :-> First up: photography.

My Motivation

Years ago I bought a Nikon SLR for a bicycling trip to Ireland, then had to figure out how to use it. I read about exposure, focal length, shutter, depth of field, etc etc and sort of understood what I read. But I didn’t practice, and eventually stopped using the camera. Digital came along, and I picked up a camera again, but really only for documenting vacations.

The need for photos of class projects and product samples is what has really got me interested in photography again. That and the fact that I take a camera with me everywhere in the guise of a phone. I love how my phone’s camera has let me play with composition and share the quirky things I see here in San Francisco on Instagram.  But I want to know more.

The Class: Basics of Digital Photography

When learning, I’m not good at just jumping in or flipping back and forth to what I want to know unless I feel I have a solid foundation. Plus a refresher on the basics felt needed, so I decided to take Rick Allred’s Basics of Digital Photography* class.

Overall, I loved the way the class was organized. The chapters built on each other nicely: light and exposure first, with an explanation of the exposure triangle, with more detail following in lessons on shutter and aperture priorities, ISO settings and exposure compensation. He did a great job explaining why you might shoot in shutter priority mode and choose a fast speed to freeze motion OR a choose a slow speed to create blur and imply motion. Similarly, the aperture priority lesson showed how using a wide aperture (shallow depth of field) blurs a background to draw attention to the subject, and how using a narrow aperture (wider depth of field) keeps several subjects spaced farther apart clearly in focus.

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One of my pet peeves is that manuals often tell you how to do something but not why you’d do it, or which settings might be “average” or “standard.” Rick explained the whys and gave some great rules of thumb (eg with respect to capturing motion and shutter speeds: ~1/125 shutter for walking, ~1/250 for running, ~1/500 for horse/car; and to make a waterfall blur, try 1-2″). Having his example photos up on screen, with the effects of settings changes on the same scene side by side, was invaluable. I’ve always wondered why I’d want to use exposure compensation; now I have the images of the pepper ristra plus and minus a stop in my head!

The final lesson brought all the previous ones together as he walked through the entire process: selecting subject and deciding what is interesting about it, then figuring out camera settings to get the image you want. Awesome.

The class is rated for Beginners, and it is. But not for beginners who know absolutely nothing and are starting from scratch. There were a few references to terms before they were defined (e.g., depth of field and focal plane), though they were eventually explained. I would have liked a more abstract first lesson, meaning more talk about the settings, what they do (image quality and size, metering modes, etc), and what to set them to, and less on the specifics of Canon and Nikon (one uses the camera one has, and mine is a Sony).

But really, these are quibbles. I know I’ll be watching this class a few more times as I practice what I’ve learned. Look for better photos here as I improve!

*Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link. That means if you like what you see after clicking through on it, and you buy the class, I get a tiny bit of financial credit.



The Knottiness Continues…

Macramé bracelet assortment

Knotting nuttiness has pulled me back to the days of friendship bracelets, plant hangers, and owl wall hangings. If you’re of a certain age (coughcough) you know what I mean: macramé. And I am totally smitten.

It started two years ago when I dragged AJ into Joann’s to get jewelry findings for the Trio of Twists necklaces. He stumbled across the paracord, and I stumbled across a how-to book (and a zentangle book, but that’s a story for another time), and we left with more than just the jewelry findings.

Fusion knots by JD

The simplest paracord bracelets were the same ones I’d made as a kid with string: square knots and half hitches. But paracord added color to these bracelets: that was new. I discovered there was a community of paracord knotters out there on the Internet, and was particularly drawn to JD’s Fusion Knots. He’s taken historical knots of all kinds, and tied them into some amazing things (can’t wait to pick up the latest, in which he takes on creating critters in paracord).

Friendship bracelets
Friendship bracelets from scrap yarn

While I’d tied square knot and half hitch knot bracelets as a kid, I’d never made one of those colored diagonal or chevron bracelets before, and thus was excited by some tech editing which shortly came my way (cf several of the free Red Heart patterns for Sizzle). It’s hard to make just one; there’s lots of inspiration on the web: check out what has to offer (plaid! there’s plaid! several types, for that matter). Bonus: you can use up those scraps of leftover cotton yarn you can’t bear to throw out while making next year’s Christmas presents.

Macramé Pattern Book cover
Chart inside the Macramé Pattern Book

The Macramé Pattern Book makes me want to stop everything else I’m doing and make wall art. Lots and lots of wall art. There’s a whole section of other things to make in the back (bags, belts, straps, seat covers…), but the variety of “stitch patterns” shown as wall hangings is what grabs me. That and charts they’ve developed as instructions: like Japanese knitting patterns and Ikea instructions, clean, space-saving charts instruct the knotter on where to tie what. They’re a brilliant example of good information design.

My knotty nuttiness has been put on hold for the moment; too much else going on right now. I did manage a couple of pendant patterns for Red Heart which use their new Cordial cord: the Square Macramé pendant is perfect for first-timers while the Squared with a Twist pendant adds a few more knots to the mix. And there’s one more pattern on the way, just not quite public yet… can you guess what it is? Hint: It’s not an owl.

Addendum: So what was it?? The plant hangar shown below, of course! Pattern free on Yarn Inspirations (formerly Red Heart).