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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Feeling Knotty

Since I took a short workshop on making knotted jewelry with silk yarn a few months ago, I have had the urge to create more knotted pieces. There is something very satisfying about the feel of working with thread and cord; I imagine it must be the same meditative groove that knitters and crochet enthusiasts slip into when they are deeply occupied with their craft. Manipulating yarns and threads can be very soothing. The rhythmic and repetitive motion coupled with the textural sensation of fiber against the fingers elicits some ancient human memory of a time when making things by hand was both a daily part of survival and an artistic expression.

There's nothing really naughty about feeling "knotty", though it did cause me to break my "no new supplies" fast with the purchase of more silk cord. In fact, knotted jewelry requires far fewer tools than any other type of bead-craft making it a highly portable crafting pastime. The floral necklace pictured above was made using Griffin silk cord, Czech glass beads, gold glass pearls, gold-filled clamshell tips and jump rings, a gold-filled clasp, chain-nose pliers, and a knotting tweezer. Sounds fairly simple? Well, a moderate amount of patience and advance planning is also required because the design needs to be carefully arranged before the first knot is tied; constant measurements must be taken as the work progresses, especially in the "tin cup" style (seen below) which includes numerous spaces between knots where the cord is left uncovered. Once the knots start happening there is no turning back. If you have ever tried to remove a knot from a piece of fine yarn or thread, you will know that your frustration often ends with a pair of scissors and a few choice words. A misplaced knot in a piece of knotted jewelry most likely will mean starting the design from scratch.

The design name "tin cup" comes from a movie of the same name in which the character played by actress René Russo wore a necklace made of pearls knotted at intervals along a lightweight silk cord. This style gained popularity from film exposure and now it has become a classic jewelry design. A "tin cup" necklace or bracelet can be formed along silk cord, nylon monofilament with crimps, nylon cord, waxed linen thread, or multiple strands of silk yarn, as in this lariat style necklace that was my first piece constructed during the workshop I attended. These Swarovski crystals in various shades of topaz and jonquil seem to float on 8 strands of very lightweight, metallic, Japanese silk yarns. Individually these silk yarns are no thicker than fine sewing thread, but together they are quite strong while creating a delicate effect. A lariat style necklace made with silk cord would be great for someone who is allergic to metal for no clasps are required. Closure is achieved by looping one end over the other, and the length can be varied depending on where the ends are crossed.

Knotting has been used for centuries to string pearls. Better quality pearl necklaces are usually strung on silk cord with knots in between each pearl; this keeps the pearls from rubbing against each other and becoming damaged during the course of normal wear. The other benefit of placing a knot between each pearl or bead is that if the strand breaks, only one bead drops out. The rest stay securely in place. Pearl knotting with one knot after each bead in a continuous sequence is easier than making something tin cup style because no measuring of open spaces is required. The necklace below was done this way using a variety of Czech glass beads in jet black and red. The lovely flower centerpiece is a handmade polymer bead made by ZudaGay, a very talented artist who creates beautiful multi-hued beads, pendants, and ACEOs (Art Cards, Editions and Originals) by blending and sculpting polymer clay. Her wonderful garden of designs can be found in her Etsy shop,

True, though silk is strong, it will eventually wear and break, especially if the jewelry is worn frequently. It has been suggested that knotted pearls should be restrung every few years. Silk cord also should not be exposed to water. (No showering or swimming while wearing knotted beads!) Yet knotted jewelry is supple and has a wonderful drape, and the silk cord adds a gentle sheen to the overall appearance of each piece. The extra labor involved in hand-knotting makes this type of jewelry very special and unique.

I have many more knotty creations floating around in my mind. I have several colors of waxed linen cord that are "fit to be tied," so to speak. Knotted linen would yield a more casual look and might be interesting combined with stones and wood beads. No matter what the materials, I am sure I will be feeling "knotty" for some time to come.

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Blogger ZudaGay said...

Great post, Liv! I very much enjoyed reading about the art of knotting! Your knotted pieces are just lovely and the necklace you made with my flower is beautiful!

July 2, 2008 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger jstinson said...

Liv, you are knotty! Love the work displayed. But then, your work always has that special touch!

July 2, 2008 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Rose said...

Beautiful knotting Liv.. I love the necklace you made with Zuda's flower, what a wonderful color combo!!

July 2, 2008 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger AltheaP said...

Wow, all so beautiful. Such strong, careful hands you must have!

July 22, 2008 at 6:29 PM  

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