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How to choose the right material...

Choosing the right fibre can be a tricky one, especially when you are new to fibre arts. Do you choose string, rope or cord – what thickness do you choose...etc.

It can also be just as stressful when you have been doing it for a long time. So I thought I would write a blog explaining the difference between the fibres I sell, what uses they are best for and what helps me in deciding which fibre to go with.

You can literally use any type of cord, and any thickness for any project. In my eyes there is really no wrong choice when choosing your cord. However that being said, some fibres are better suited to certain projects than others, each will be different to work with and give off a different look when your piece is finished. So depending on what look you want, and what you are making will help narrow down your choices and help you in deciding.

Types of fibres

Single strand string – This string is made up of lots of tiny threads, which are then twisted together to make 1 gorgeous single strand. Due to it only having one twist, it will be incredibly soft to touch and work with. You will be able to get a more intricate look in your pieces, as you can manipulate this string easily with it being suppler than a twisted or braided, so perfect for wrapping rainbows. You will also be able to achieve that gorgeous, straight fringe. So if you want to make feathers, or a wall hanging with some tassels, then this is the string for you.

Also something to note is - As this string only has one loose twist to it, when you start working with it for an extensive period of time during the making of say a wall hanging... it will start to lose its twist ever so slightly and expand in thickness. Although unnoticeable, if you don’t want this to happen it may be best to go with a cord or rope.

 3- ply Twisted rope – Rope has a lot more structure to it. This is made up of 3 single strands, which are then twisted around each other to create what we call a 3-ply rope. With it having 2 more strands than a single twist, it is great for plant hangers as it is a lot stronger and not as flexible.

Having a much more solid structure to it, it is a lot stiffer to work with, so you won’t get that intricacy a single strand gives off, however you will get really stunning contemporary looking pieces because you can create gorgeous clean, straight lines. Knots will be looser but you will be able to make some great shapes by using rope in your weaves because of its stiffness. With these 3 strands being twisted around each other, you can unravel them to create a lovely crimped fringe. It is also a great fibre to dye, as it doesn’t lose its shape much when wet.
 

Zig-zag braided cord – My zig zag braided cord has traits of both the other 2 all in one cord. It is super unique in design and structure. It has the same manipulability as a single strand string but also has the same solid structure as a rope. It is made up of tiny threads, and intertwined in such an intricate way to create the zig zag like pattern. You can literally make anything with this cord; the pattern within it will give your pieces a really unique pattern all on its own.

However one thing to note with this cord is that it doesn’t brush out or unravel to well.

So how do you go about choosing...

Now you know about the different cords...where do you go next? You probably have some sort of idea of which fibre you want to use, but now you don’t know which thickness to go for and whether you want to stay natural, or go with a colour.

For thickness you have to look at how big or small the piece your making will be. That’s not saying you can’t use a thick string for a small piece though and vice versa.

I absolutely love working with 3mm thickness, and I used it to make my 6ft high tee-pee. I know I must be mad right???...But I wanted a really detailed, intricate looking piece, which I couldn’t get with a super thick string. You just can’t get small details as easily. But then on the other hand you could use a 12mm string for a tiny wall-hanging that is simple in design, which will then have this gorgeous texture and drool worthy fringe. Again it just goes back to the style of the piece your making.

 

What I tend to do is decide on a theme, or go by where the piece will be displayed. Maybe you’re designing a wall hanging for a modern home. A set of plant hangers for a rustic cafe or some accessories for a bohemian style wedding. Whichever your theme is, will help determine your fibre choice and color. Color in itself can really tell a story, you can make a piece using natural string and make the exact same piece again using a red string. Even though they are the same design they will be completely different. So color choice is everything.

Say for example you have been asked to design a plant-hanger for someone who has a really retro 1970’s bohemian style home.

When designing this i would definitely start with color...when I think of the 70’s I think of mustard's, oranges, browns, yellows. This already narrows down your choices a lot. Then they specified they wanted a plant-hanger, so you choose to go with a braided cord or a rope because of their structural strength. When you’re at this point, it’s really down to personal choice and what you think will look the best in this setting. Do you want a crimped tail at the end? If so then a twisted would be best, or do you go with the added uniqueness of the zigzag pattern. Lastly is the thickness...for plant hangers its best to go with a rope that's not too thick or too thin, go for something in the middle and you can’t go wrong.

I used to always work with 3mm single strand in natural, anything else I just wasn’t interested in. But after a while I started to realize if I wanted to achieve different looks, then I would need to delve into different fibres. It wasn’t until I did this, that I really started to fall in love with macramé and its versatility.

So my advice would be to try a few fibres, make a few pieces with them. Experiment and see what you like, what works best for what make. We all have different tastes, styles and ideas, so what may work for one person may not work for you.

I really hope you found this helpful, and I hope you have fun experimenting.

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