Whipcord Gallery

I’ve been busy since I started playing with whipcord.  Here are some of the different looks I’ve been able to create.  (Please pardon the over-exposure of some of the shots.  My only camera is my phone, and I’m still learning how to adjust things.)

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Simple, 4-strand cords with a 3:1 color scheme produce a speckled cord.

Left – Three black to one red.

Right – Three turquoise to one yellow.

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4-strand, single-pass cords, but with twists inserted to periodically change the pattern.  The twists that change the pattern are seamless in the finished cord.

Left – After every 10 sets of passes I swapped two of my strings to alternate between spiral and stripe patterns.

Middle and Right – After every 10 sets of passes, I inserted a double-pass.  This caused the direction of the spiral to reverse.  (It’s much easier to see on the black/white cord than the purple/yellow.  In person, the purple/yellow is actually quite nice.)

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4-strand striped cords in three colors are great for showcasing a dominant color with two secondary colors.

Left – Single-passes.  Two black stripes with green and white passing each other for the other stripes.

Middle and Right – Single/Double-passes.  The dominant color (red in the middle cord, yellow in the cord on the right) is single-passed, and the other two are double-passed.  Notice  in the middle cord how the black is more prominent at the top, but the white shows more toward the bottom.  This is due to the uneven pattern of stitches formed by a double-pass – a larger stitch and a smaller one that wraps around it.  When slynging yarn, these cords make lovely trim or couching cord with a dominant, secondary, and tertiary color.  The secondary and tertiary color is determined by which side you attach face-up on your project, as they will be the opposite on the flipped side.

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4-strand spiral cords in three colors.  The dominant color is still evident in the solid spiral twisting around the other colors, but it’s not as striking as the stripes.  But it’s still a pretty cord.  All of these are single-passes.

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Double-passed cords.

Left – Double-passed, 6-string stripes in blue, white, and yellow.  A simple color scheme, but a deeply textured cord.

Middle – Double-passed, 4-string “spiral” in blue and green.  The string arrangement on the hands would produce a spiral if it was single-passed, but since the double-pass puts the string back on its original side, the color never carries around the cord.  It does make a neat herringbone pattern, though.

Left – Double-passed, 4-string, tri-color in white (2), purple (1), and black (1).  The white strings were in one hand, passing with the black and purple strings in the other hand.  This would produce a three-color spiral if it was done with single-passes.

6strand

6-string cords.  The string arrangements for each of these cords are shown below.

Left – In-and-Out in blue, red, and black.  I describe this pattern in a previous post.

Right – An embattled cord in black and yellow made with single-passes in an asterisk pattern.  Due to the CW twist of the black 1-4 pair (the other pairs are CCW), it looks like yellow embattlements on a black field.  If the yellow pair had the contrary twist (i.e. twined in the opposite direction of the other two pairs), it would look like black embattlements on a yellow field.

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These are just a few of the looks you can achieve with whipcords.  There is much more creativity available to you than the basic stripes and spirals.

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Distaff Holster

One way of supporting your whipcord distaff is by tucking your skirt or shirt into a belt and  anchoring the end in the resulting fold.  But I didn’t particularly want to risk poking a hole into or skewing the weave of my clothes.  So I devised a small holster that I could easily hang on my belt.  Having dealt with plenty of hangy-downy-things on my belts before, I also wanted to be able to remove it without having to completely take the belt off.

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How To

I have a 1 ½” wide belt, and my holster will work for up to a 2″ belt.  If your belt is significantly wider, you can adjust the fastener as needed.

Start with a 16″ x 2 ½” strip of a heavy cloth like trigger or duck.  (I used a piece of trigger twice that size, and doubled it over to make finished edges without having to hem.)

Fold up the lower 4 ½” to form the holster pocket and stitch it down on either side.  Just a reminder – don’t sew the mouth closed at the top.

holster1

I used a button and button hole, spaced as shown above, to make the belt loop.

And that’s all there was to it.  It supports and stabilizes the distaff really well while standing or sitting, and is super convenient to use.  Feel free to get creative with yours.  Embroider it, paint it, or tool one in leather.  Or keep it simple and practical.  As long as it serves its purpose.

And Then There Were Six – Viking Whipcording Variations, Part 2

In the previous blog entry I explored patterns that could be made with six bobbins.  I limited my discussion to what could be done with single passes and simple sequences, focusing on how the bobbin arrangements alone changed the resulting cords.  Now I will show what adding complex passes can bring to our asterisk and star patterns.

Flat Cords

My standard pass sequence for asterisk patterns is 2-5, 3-6, 1-4.  This brings your passes around in a continuous circle.  When you change it to 2-5, 3-6, 1-4, 3-6, like a see-saw, you get a flattened cord.  The extra 3-6 pass squishes the cord with the other threads flaring to the sides.  If you use a bulkier fiber, it works very nicely as trim; it lays well and shapes easily to curves.

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Textured Cords – Triple Doubles and In-and-Out

These variations produced exciting cords with beautiful textured effects.  The depth of the waves on Triple Doubles, the double-pass asterisk pattern, is particularly striking.

In-and-Out is the star pattern made by passing each triangle three times, all the way around to its starting point, before passing the other triangle.  I only tried this to be thorough, and I didn’t expect anything interesting to come of it.  I thought that by returning each color to its starting place, I would just get long, single-color stitches around a dense core.  I was very pleasantly surprised by the little dots the wrapping threads make!  It has a more subtle texture than Triple Doubles, but the interplay of the two small stitches on the larger stitch is quite lovely.

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Single Doubles and Double Doubles

The Single Double pattern is similar to the Flat Cord pattern, but not as flat.  Also, the stitches on the double-passed pair alternate small and large, rather than the even stitches of the 3-6 passes in the Flats.  I did find, however, that the pattern is much more distinct if you use your 3-6 pair for the double-pass.  If you double-pass on the 2-5 or 1-4, the small stitch tends to get swallowed by the twist that forms when you start the next pass sequence (visible in the pictures below).  The same holds for Double Doubles – the pattern is more distinct if the 3-6 pass is unique; the single-pass between two double-passes.

The direction of your passes, clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW), is more important in these patterns than in the normal single-pass patterns.  If the direction of your double-pass is in the same direction as the previous pass, e.g. CW CW, the pattern gets muddied and sloppy.  Passing the double in the opposite direction keeps the look more crisp and defined.  For example, I typically start each sequence with the 2-5 pair going CCW.  When I pass the 3-6 pair, I need to pass them CW to keep the pattern neat.

sds     dsd

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The colored charts above are a simplification of the actual cords.  As you can see in the picture of the real cords, the CW-CCW transition between the 1-4 and 2-5 passes produces an angled stitch that subtly impacts the pattern.  Play with this quirk to see how you can use it to your advantage.

I haven’t completely explored the designs possible with doubles patterns, but I have figured out one that my kids love.  I’m using a narrow yarn, so the cord is thick enough to make a nice trim for a tunic or two.  Have fun with Poké Balls!

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And Then There Were Six – Viking Whipcording Variations, Part 1

After exhausting the permutations of four bobbins, I decided to try my hands at juggling six bobbins.  This required figuring out new hand positions and some focus to keep the patterns in mind, but after a yard or two I could maintain a comfortable rhythm.  The results were exciting new patterns, some very pretty cords, and lots of cool exploration.

For my sampler cord, I used three colors wrapping two bobbins each.  This would make balanced tri-colored cords, rather than the 2-1-1 tri-colored cords possible with a four-bobbin set.  There are two basic passing patterns possible with six bobbins: passing opposites in three sets of pairs, like an asterisk; or passing three bobbins at a time in a six-pointed star pattern.  (Passing adjacent bobbins is in effect the star pattern, unless you’re swapping specific bobbins for a very precise design.  But that’s more involved than the “basic” passes we’re looking at now.)

Pass.jpg

For orientation, threads 1 and 2 are closest to the body, held out by the thumbs like a cat’s cradle hold.  4 and 5 are farthest away from the body, held with the pinky and ring fingers.  3 and 6 are hooked with the middle fingers, leaving the pointer fingers free to steer the passes.  This hold is especially important for keeping the bobbins organized for the star pattern.

Single Passes in the Asterisk Pattern

There are five ways to arrange three pairs of colors without just rotating the same arrangement around your fingers.  My pass order was 2-5, 3-6, 1-4, and repeat.

Stripes – Clean and simple.

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Stripes and Spirals – Notice the change in the direction of the red and yellow spirals depending on the bobbin arrangement.  These make very nice looking cords, particularly to highlight one dominant color (the stripes) against two secondary colors.

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Broken Spirals –  In the first arrangement, the blue spiral slants down to the left, while the red and yellow slant to the right.  In the second, all the spirals slant to the left.

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Single Passes in the Star Pattern

Of the five bobbin arrangements for the asterisk pattern, two are formed when two other arrangements are passed through their sequence in the star pattern.  (This leaves us with three effective star pattern bobbin arrangements.)  My pass order was 2-4-6 clockwise (CW), 1-5-3 counter clockwise (CCW), repeat.  The two triangles must go in opposite directions to make a single cord.  If they rotate in the same direction, you will get three smaller cords of two strands.

Eventually I hope to have some video showing how I pass three bobbins at a time.  Until then, here’s a text description.

  • Starting with the 2-4-6 triangle, pass bobbin 2 from your right thumb to your empty left index finger.
  • Pass bobbin 4 from your right pinky and ring fingers to your right thumb.
  • Pass bobbin 6 from your left middle finger to your right pinky/ring fingers.
  • Shift bobbin 2 (now in the 6 position) from your left index finger to your left middle finger to prepare for the next pass.
  • Next for the 1-5-3 triangle, pass bobbin 1 from your left thumb to your empty right index finger.
  • Pass bobbin 5 from your left pinky and ring fingers to your left thumb.
  • Pass bobbin 3 from your right middle finger to your left pinky/ring fingers.
  • Shift bobbin 1 (now in the 3 position) from your right index finger to your right middle finger to prepare for the next pass.
  • etc…..

Zigzags – All three colors zigzag in both directions.  This pattern can be made with the two bobbin arrangements shown.

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Chevrons and Stripes – The blue forms a broken chevron pattern, while the other two colors make stripes underneath the chevrons.  This pattern can be made with the two bobbin arrangements shown.

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Broken Chevrons – All three colors form a sequence of broken chevrons.  I really liked the look of this cord too.

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cordstar

Draft Your Own Patterns

If you want to try out other numbers of or combinations of colors, you can use the graphs below to plan your designs.  The colors on the pattern show where each bobbin thread will be visible.

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For example, if you want a continuous spiral of two colors, use one color for bobbins 2, 3, and 4, and another color for bobbins 1, 6, and 5 in the asterisk pattern.  Have fun!

Whipcording Bobbins

When I first started playing with whipcording, I cobbled together some bobbins to make do.  I based them on bobbin-lace bobbins – long and narrow, with decorative beads on the end to add weight to the bobbin and maintain tension on the fiber.  They work well enough, and I’ve probably braided over 100 yards so far for various cording projects with no major issues.  The most recurring problem I have with my current set is that the top of the neck is too shallow compared to the head, and the knot anchoring the fiber to the neck is prone to slipping off the top.  It’s not a terribly disruptive problem, but it gets annoying.

IMG_0262.jpgMy woodworking hobbyist husband plans to get a small lathe for his shop someday.  When that happens, I’ll make myself a set of turned bobbins.  But until then, I wanted to try to carve a set of nice, heavy whipcording bobbins for a Kingdom Artists’ Exchange.  Using multiple kinds of rasps and files, I sculpted a few trial bobbins to test out proportions and techniques.  Still thinking in terms of lace bobbins, I started with 5/8″ dowels.  These proved too light-weight on their own, and one even snapped at the neck during carving!  Something more robust would be needed for proper slyngyng.

IMG_0264.jpgFor the next set, I used much stouter 1 1/4″ dowel cut into 8″ pieces.  I marked 1″ for the head, and 3″ for the handle.  This left about 4″ for the neck – long enough to hold a good amount of fiber and still leave a handle that fits comfortably in the hand for two-person whipcording, and offers good tension weight for solo cording.  These proportions are functionally balanced and aesthetically pleasing as well.

In my early attempts, I found that the coarse rasp that I used to hollow out the neck was difficult to control at the upper and lower boundaries of the neck.  As soon as I got into a nice rhythm with the rasp, it would skip over onto the head or handle, marring the edges.  Using a round file to score a deep groove at the top and bottom of the neck made containing the rasp much easier and produced significantly cleaner shoulders.

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Bracing the coarse rasp in a screw clamp, I drew the bobbin over the teeth to rough out the neck about 1/4″ deep on four sides.  I then braced the the bobbin in a table clamp and used the medium-toothed side of the rasp to sculpt the neck into a cylinder.

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Next was checking the width along the neck and using a fine, flat file to smooth any lumps and irregularities.

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Finally, I used the course rasp, medium rasp, and flat file to shape the top of the head and round off the shoulders and base of the handle.  I used the round file to flatten and even out the underside of the head where the half-hitch will rest when the bobbin is strung.  A nice polish with sand paper cleaned up any left-over marks and finished the bobbins.  As a final touch, I carved ermine spots and cat paw prints on the handles, since ermine spots and a cat are major elements in her SCA heraldic arms.  (While the entirety of the work thus far – from cutting the dowel to carving the bobbins – had been done with simple hand tools, I cheated here and used a Dremel Tool to carve the decorations.)

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While the final set of whipcording bobbins aren’t perfectly symmetrical or identically matched, overall I am quite pleased with the results.  They have a rustic, primitive look to them, as if they may have been recovered from an Iron Age village rather than a Renaissance, merchant-class, urban neighborhood.  Functionally they work very well.  The securing twist has plenty of room to tuck up against the bobbin head and not slip off.  The weight swings smoothly and evenly.  There is lots of room on the neck to spool fine or bulky fiber.  And they make a pleasant clacking sound as they hit against each other while braiding.  They will do well for both solo and two-person whipcording projects.

I had fun and learned a lot making these.  I think I will wait for the lathe before I make any more – this was a fair amount of work grinding away the shapes on the practice pieces and the final project, and my shoulders were not happy for a day or so.  But it was well worth it for the experience of slowly uncovering the bobbins hidden in the wood.  I hope the lady who receives this set will have as much fun exploring whipcording as I did exploring woodworking.

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Viking Whipcording: Patterns and Diversions

 

Viking whipcording (or interlocking, slyngyng, or even spoon tossing) is Whipcorda fun, fast, and easy way of braiding cords to make bigger, stronger, and more decorative cords.  It uses four weighted bobbins to maintain tension on cords that are anchored to a distaff or some other point above.  It is very portable, and is a great way to keep one’s hands occupied during a long Court.  The length of your cord is not limited by the length of your arm and/or leg, as with fingerloop braiding; and it is easy to quickly interrupt your work and resume later without having to worry about messing up your tension.  The patterns are very forgiving, and mistakes are difficult to notice in the finished product.

The evidence of whipcording in period is a bit controversial.  It was brought to reenactors’ attention as a period process by Margarethe Hald’s Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials.  Hald found Bronze Age leather cords braided in an interlocking pattern that could have been produced by whipcording, and offered a set of bobbins that certainly would have served.  The two-person method of whipcording is a traditional Scandanavian craft and children’s activity.  A lady whipcording on a distaff is pictured in the background of the painting “Education of the Virgin” (Guido Reni, 1642).  Although the source itself is post-period, bobbin cording is represented as an ancient art, one that the artist and his audience thought would be appropriately practiced in Biblical times.  But with all this circumstantial evidence, we have not yet unearthed an in-progress example of a whipcord still attached to its bobbins and distaff.  The type of braiding produced by whipcording is simple and straightforward enough that it could have been done in many other ways besides a bobbin-based manner.  Due to this level of reasonable doubt, some reenactors are skeptical about where, when, and if whipcording was practiced by period cultures.  With its rising popularity among historical hobbyists, hopefully more directed research and inquiries will come about.

Whipcording is gaining interest in the SCA with classes springing up at events and A&S nights throughout the Knowne World.  There are many online resources that show the basic how-to process of whipcording, including Baroness Eithni ingen Talorgain’s wonderful tutorial cited in the Sources section of this article.  This article is intended more specifically to look at the patterns of the braids produced and variants that can be introduced to make more interesting and subtle effects in the cords.  It assumes that you are already familiar with the basics of whipcording, and I highly encourage you to  become familiar if you are not.  (As mentioned earlier, it’s fun!)

CornersFor the remainder of this article, we will assign numbers to the threads as seen in the top-view image to the right – threads 1 and 4 are supported by the left hand, threads 2 and 3 by the right; threads 3 and 4 are closest to the weaver, threads 1 and 2 are farther back.

Most sources available show two styles of whipcord braids: stripes and spirals.  These are produced by making single, alternating passes; either with same colored threads being passed (producing a striped cord) or with contrary colored threads (producing a spiral cord).

Singles Pattern:  1-3, 2-4, 1-3, 2-4

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Top:  Two-colored stripe pattern.  Threads of the same color are passed, keeping a consistent color in each corner position.

Bottom:  Two-colored spiral pattern.  Threads of opposing colors are passed, resulting in the “paired” colors rotating around the cord.

Making Mistakes On Purpose

While learning any craft, one is bound to make mistakes.  Sometimes, mistakes produce an interesting effect that inspire an artist to start consciously incorporating that effect.  Aside from a broken thread, the only mistakes you can make in whipcording would be to twist threads, miss a pass, or reverse the clockwise or counter-clockwise direction of your passes.  What happens to your pattern when that happens?

When you are weaving a stripe pattern and your threads twist, i.e. if two adjacent threads switch places, your pattern will change from stripes to a spiral.  If you are weaving a spiral pattern and your threads twist, it might switch your pattern or make no difference at all.  If two threads of the same color switch places, you will see no change in your overall pattern.  But, if two threads of opposing colors switch places, your pattern will change from a spiral to stripes.  Depending on your purpose for the cord, this can be done intentionally for a specific look.

Things get even more interesting when you start playing with the number of passes.  Using double passes in your pattern can create new looks and add intricacy.

  • Single pass: opposing threads pass once, e.g. 1-3, 2-4
  • Double pass: opposing threads pass twice, e.g. 1-3, 1-3, 2-4, 2-4

Single-Double Pattern:  1-3, 1-3, 2-4, 1-3, 1-3, 2-4

singledouble2

Top: Two-colored stripe, alternating single (blue) and double (yellow) passes.

Bottom: Two-colored spiral, alternating single and double passes.

 

Notice how the double pass creates an extra twist encased in the subsequent single pass.  These single-double patterns also look really nice using three colors, with two threads of a dominant color and one each of two supporting colors.

Doubles Pattern:  1-3, 1-3, 2-4, 2-4, 1-3, 1-3, 2-4, 2-4

doubles2

Top: Two-colored stripe, double passes.

 

Bottom: Two-colored spiral, double passes.

 

When only double passes are used for stripes, a wavy stripe is created.  A doubles spiral cord has each color predominantly on either side, with an almost herringbone look.

Getting Fancy

Advanced

Top:  Single-pass spiral.  Arrows point to where a double pass was inserted to reverse the direction of the spiral.

Bottom:  Single pass spiral.  A series of twists inserted to create an eye in the cord.  On the left eye, opposing colored threads were twisted; on the right eye, same colored threads were twisted.

Inserting a twist into a single spiral cord can change it to a striped cord, but inserting a double pass will reverse the direction of the spiral.  If you want to make an eye in your cord, you can twist adjacent threads several times to get the length you need for the eye, then resume your whipcord pattern.

Taking It in a New Direction

Those readers who have worked with tablet weaving are already familiar with the idea of S and Z threading.  In tablet weaving, each warp will tilt slightly to the right or to the left depending on which direction the warps are threaded through the tablets – S tablets tilt to the right, Z tablets to the left.  This subtle distinction can have a big effect on the look of your finished product.

In observing my own work, I find it most intuitive to pass the thread closest to me (i.e. 3 or 4) behind the thread coming to the front.  This results in my 1-3 passes going counter-clockwise (CCW) and my 2-4 passes going clockwise (CW) when viewed from above.  The weavers may have already noticed the S and Z-like effect in the cords pictured above.  This tilt is produced by the CW or CCW rotation of the pairs of threads as they pass each other.

Working against this natural rotation is pretty challenging, but it can be done with some focus.  If you’re going to incorporate this variation, it’s more practical to do so when two people are working together.  First, it’s easier to choreograph passing without rotation with two casters.  Also, the visual difference in the pattern is so slight, it doesn’t really have much impact on smaller projects.  A larger cord or rope would make the extra effort more worthwhile.  (And FYI, double passes don’t work without rotation.  The second pass will undo the previous single pass.)

Single Passes Without Rotation

norotation

Top:  Normal single pass stripes shown for comparison.  Tilted direction of threads highlighted in white.

Middle:  Single pass stripes without rotation.  Brick-like direction of threads highlighted in white.

Bottom:  Single pass spiral without rotation.

One interesting side effect of removing the rotation in the passes is that it produces lots of tiny eyes along the cord.  Because the opposing threads don’t entwine, each pass remains open in the middle.  If you are making a cord that you want to hang and secure lots of little things from, this might be useful to keep in mind.

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Single pass spiral without rotation, with miscellaneous small items stuck in the eyes.

 

Whipcord braiding in its simplest form is very, very simple.  But like anything else, it can always be made more complicated.  Play with different numbers of colors.  Make patterns by alternating passes and twists.  What happens when you introduce different weights of fiber into the same cord?  If you don’t like the look, it’s very easy to take it all apart again, so nothing is lost by experimenting.  But there is much to gain in trying things out and seeing where new ideas take you.

Enjoy!

Sources:

Hald, Margrethe.  Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials.  National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, 1980. ISBN 87-480-0312-3.

Kveberg, Jean (Eithni ingen Talorgain, OL, HE).  “Whipcording.” http://www.eithni.com/whipcordingdemo.htm

Lucas, Rebecca.  “Whipcord Braiding.” http://www.medieval-baltic.us/whipcords.html

Raymond, Cathy.  “Loose Threads: Yet Another Costuming Blog – Viking Whipcording?” http://cathyscostumeblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/viking-whipcording.html