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Monday, 2 February 2015

Twisting, wrapping, and couching

I had a lovely day visiting family in Nottingham, yesterday. Nice to see Auntie and cousins, and kids, again. They made a lovely spread, I came away feeling full to bursting. 

Twas a fun crafty morning at the Village Hall today. A new lady came along and thoroughly enjoyed herself meeting new people. She is knitting some children's dolls. I think she will come again next week. 
A few people asked about the new picture, the techniques I am using. Sue asked what am I weaving onto. This one is not weaving Sue, I'll explain further. Caz asked what is this kind of work called. I don't know Caz. I found a video on yoootooob on how to make cords with a sewing machine, it looked easy to do, then I thought about how I could incorporate the cords into a picture. Rather than splash paint onto a canvas, I decided to stitch the cords on instead. Then I found a picture that inspired me to copy the outline and use it. 
How to make cords, I can't find the first video I saw, so here is my version. Cut strips of fabric about an inch wide, doesn't matter how long they are. Fabric that is the same colour both sides is best, and one that doesn't fray. 
These are the finished twisted cords.

And this is how you do it. Set the machine to a zigzag stitch, probably the biggest one. Start twisting at one end, hold it tight because it will untwist if you let go. Trap the end underneath the foot with a little bit sticking out of the back. You will need to pull it through because the feed dogs won't do that automatically because it is so narrow. 
Twist a few inches of it, hold it with the right hand, then pull through with the left hand. It would be impossible to do this with a hand machine. Use an ordinary foot, keep stopping and twisting a bit more, then sew a bit and carry on like that until you get to the end. One thing you will have to watch out for is the twists coming up through the gap in the foot before it has been wrapped. Try and keep it taught and hold it down as flat as you can while you are sewing, but if this happens keep going to the end because it will still sew if the twisted fabric sits on top of the foot.

I am using a plain piece of stiff, strong fabric, a bit like a closely woven sack cloth, they use it on the underside of sofas at the Lebus factory. You can use any sort of heavy fabric, plain is best if you want to draw a design on it. It needs to be heavy enough to support all the stitching without sagging, and puckering. 
 I am using a couching stitch, some of it is in matching cotton and some in contrasting cotton.

This is what the underneath looks like, hundreds of stitches. 
How to do couching, here are a few pictures to help you. Instead of making cords, you can couch anything onto a piece of work, from fine embroidery thread, to wool, or string. You can use one strand, or several strands, depending on the thickness you require. Basically the stitch is up through the fabric, over the top and down the other side. If you want a really neat job the distances between the stitches should be uniform. As I am going to be adding more detail later my stitching doesn't need to be perfect.

How to go round corners. If the corner is too tight, and the gap gets narrow, I have been cutting the cord to fit exactly in the space, then starting again a bit further down where it is a bit wider.

Anybody going to give this a go? You could start by making a smaller sample picture. I think I shall be working on mine for another two months. You know what I'm like, I faff a lot, ha ha.
Toodle pip


  1. I have never ever seen twisted cords like you are using. Interesting stuff. The diagrams on couching were good too. I have in the past made knitted cords using a wonder knitter and then couched them onto the cuffs of the old dressing gown (that I'm currently wearing) to give it a fresh lease of life. I missed the earlier post on Rockie in his pushchair - lovely dog. Natalie

  2. Hi Ilona, You are very artistic! That is coming out so nice. I think you need patience to do something like that. I can't see myself doing it at all. I used to like crafts when I was younger and I used to sew a lot too but lately I haven't done any crafts or sewing. I do like seeing all of your beautiful work. I think this one is really special and it takes quite a lot of work to get it just right. Can't wait to see the piece when it's finished.

  3. I really like this! Very creative and you could end up with something quite beautiful from scraps you'd throw away. I must give this a go.

  4. I'm seriously impressed with your crafty skills - I haven't even got to grip with my sewing machine yet!
    My defence: I'm only a man.

    1. Keep trying John. I know men who can sew, it's a useful skill to have.

  5. Ilona, yesterday - between snowstorms - I took the opportunity and drove to the Post Office and the grocery store. At the PO there was a package - so tidily taped! - and in it, my lovely new Ilona bag. Which was put to work immediately at the grocery store! Thank you so very much for your surprise drawing, and for brightening up a winter's day with this cheerful red-and-tulips bag. It will see plenty of use, and I will think of you whenever I carry it :)

    1. Hello. I am pleased you like your bag. The picture of the yacht on the notelet is an actual boat, named Ilona. It belongs to an Australian business man..

  6. Thank you so much for going to all the trouble to explain. I thought you must have used the machine. I see the zig zag now. I've done couching stitch to make a dolls eyes and a snakes eyes, if you want to make them look like they are asleep. Its still a lot of work you have there. I think its so effective .Glad you explained it. We will be guessing which bit is your pants, lol.

  7. You are clever Ilona, that is a fab and effective technique

  8. I love the colours and cannot wait to see the finished article:) Sewing a button on is about my limit I'm afraid Ilona so I'll pass trying this:(

  9. really interesting, cant wait to see it finished.

  10. Dear Anonymous.
    Thank you for the link to the Guardian Article, it was very useful. I won't publish it as your comment was directed at me.
    Best wishes, Ilona

    1. You are welcome. I like your blog and your determination. I think the article was insightful into how people think, sadly in that case, but useful to know... keep being a happy as possible person! I have experienced somewhat similar things in the past and i think that article explained where people can be coming from, which is totally not known to the receiver of the "info" at the time. I think the article was helpful, so keep on going...

  11. Hi,Ilona.My curiosity is now satisfied on how you do it.Great use of recycled fabric being turned into art,such a clever idea.My aunt(her name is Ilona too) showed me how to make a braided rug by hand similiar to your technique out of old clothes but more rustic and intended for use. Thanks for the detailed info and photos.Lately, not much time for handwork but hope to change that .Thank you, bye for now, D.

  12. Danneke having a look in again, Looking forward to seeing more of your latest project, all the swirling blues and greens reminded me of the sea in the summer, so very pretty. Nice to see Rocky again, he is a lovely old dog and I know how very fond of him you are. Pleased you managed to have some time with the family again, always good to meet up with relatives.


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