Tag Archives: yarn

cutting cords

In my mid-30s, I resigned from a well-paying but highly stressful middle-management position with an internationally-recognised tertiary institution – to open a needlecraft shop! I bought and renovated a little cottage in Rosebank and had the business (which was called Threads) for seven years. While I will never ever even consider having a shop again (for reasons too numerous to go into here), I don’t regret the decision I made at the time. I learnt about bookkeeping, how to think out of the box, how to handle stupid and/or rude people in a way that didn’t release toxins into my system, and about never giving up – until the writing really was on the wall in bright green neon letters (when it was no longer about giving up but about being realistic and doing the necessary). I didn’t learn how to get rich or how to achieve a healthy balance between work and family life, but, hey, you can’t win ’em all.

One of the things I did was organise workshops – cross-stitch for children in the school holidays (gak!), freestyle embroidery, tassel-making, beading, etc. I’d run the kiddies’ workshops myself but found a few lovely people who were experts in beading/ crewel work/ fabric painting, etc., to run courses from my shop, thereby bringing in more customers. I learnt about tassel-making from a wonderful textile artist called Marie (I can’t remember her surname now) and one of the tricks in her bag of wonders was a cord-winder. Traditional passementerie required one to make one’s own cord for wrapping the head, and since I had got bitten big-time by the tassel bug, I had to find a winder for myself.

Above is one of the first tassels I made, which I found at the back of a dusty box in the garage marked “kitchen stuff”. As you can see, the cord wrapped around the head is coming loose, but the idea is to show you how essential it is to have a cord winder for making cords of different widths and in specific colours.

I believe it’s not difficult for a handy person to make a cord winder from some kind of rotating piece of simple machinery and four cup hooks, but that person isn’t me. There was a company in the UK at that time that manufactured the winder pictured above, and of course that was the one I had to have. 23 years ago it wasn’t as easy to order things from other parts of the world to South Africa as it is today, so Plan B was to ask my then sister-in-law (who lives in London) to order one for me and bring it with her on her next visit to Cape Town. Her visits were frequent and regular, and within six weeks I had my new baby. I seem to remember that it was priced around 30 quid but Elaine generously refused to let me reimburse her.

Many hundreds of tassels were made until my enthusiasm ran out. I had a retired neighbour who had a lathe and he would make wooden tassel heads for me in shapes I liked. Here are some that I still have left over.

Where is this post going? you’re wondering. Does it have a point or is the crazy old bat just meandering around lost in her craftmaking memories?

The point is that, since I’ve started making fabric beads for my own necklaces, the idea of using handmade wrapped cord keeps popping up in my head. Here’s experiment #1:

I used some fuzzy blue yarn, some orange bamboo cotton and a novelty pompom yarn with greys, oranges and creams. I bound off the ends and turned them into tassels with beads. I did this when I should have been doing household chores like washing-up, vacuuming the rug and scrubbing the shower tiles. Over 24 hours later and those things remain unattended to….

dragon ribs **

To compensate for the hell of knitting with the wet hairy seaweed, I finished a hat in a chunky yarn last night. The (free) pattern is Dragon Ribs from Crystal Palace (easy hat), and I have a feeling I’ll be using it again and again.

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I used Elle Pure Gold in chunky (black), a bit of something else colourful and chunky-ish that has lost its label, and 5.5mm needles.

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It might still get a button or a tassel or some other type of decoration (two words, both the same, hyphenated, begins with p).

Back soon x

** Hope you didn’t think this was something exotic you’d regularly find on the menu in a grill house in South Africa? Warthog ribs are common, yes, but dragon, not so much.

PS. I’m really trying to take better photos, I promise.

my goodies

You know how nice it is when you win something and then the post office notifies you that it’s arrived and then you go and collect it? This was like that!

I won Jane’s last give-away, fromĀ Rainbow Junkie Corner, and very pleased I am about it.

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I plan to make a chunky cowl with the yarn, using all three colours in bands. It’s finally getting a bit cooler in Cape Town, so maybe autumn isn’t too far off and cowls will be wearable again.

Not sure about the buttons but I don’t have any quite like them, so they’ll definitely find a good use soon.

The bookmarks – well, Jane has outdone herself! Never in a million years would I be able to work such tiny and perfect stitches. They are also nice and firm, not floppy, and I certainly have nothing as dainty and quaint as these.

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They have already been put to good use.

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An aside: I’ve been meaning to read Johnson’s A History of the Jews for years; he’s an immensely readable historian and there are myriad gaps in my knowledge of history (of pretty much most things, actually), so I can’t go wrong. This book belongs to Rob’s dad, he lent it to me – I hope he knows it’ll be a while before it gets returned.

Another aside: David Medalie and I were at UCT together for a while some years ago, David had just completed his PhD at Oxford and had started teaching English and I was registered for my Masters and was tutoring some first-years. I am in awe of his fiction-writing talents, and of course his work is of particular interest to anyone who lives in South Africa.

Thank you to Jane for my lovely crafty goodies. If you haven’t visited her blog yet, now would be a good time. There’s a focus on crochet but also a bit of knitting and the odd recipe thrown in! Can’t go wrong with any of that…

Back soon. x