How long is a piece of string?

As long as you want, if you make it yourself. 🙂

In part of the basketry course I did with Polly Pollock at City Lit, we learnt how to prepare natural materials for weaving, including daffodil leaves.

Earlier this year, after the flowers had finished, I gathered a whole load of daffodil leaves before they started getting slimy and eaten by slugs and snails. I tied them into two bunches and hung them up to dry in the shady back garden.

daffodil leaves drying

After about three weeks they had shrunk considerably and changed colour from mostly green to mostly yellowy brown.

dried daffodil leaves

In class, we sprayed them with water and then rolled them in a damp towel and left them for about 10-15 minutes to soften up, before using them as a core material in coiled basketry – here’s the piece I made.

coiled daffodil leaves

However, one of the other students (thanks Gareth!) also showed me how to make cordage (aka string). This is a video I found on YouTube that demonstrates the method.

So I used the rest of the daffodil leaves to make some cordage. I started with 2-ply, using two leaves in each ply (ie four leaves in total).

2-ply daffodil cordage

It’s difficult to see in the photo, but there is lovely colour variation in the cordage from the different leaves. It also smells lovely, like hay!

There are a few bits sticking out where I joined in a new leaf – I will cut these off later.

I also made slightly thicker 3-ply cordage, using six leaves, two in each ply. Here’s a photo showing the relative thicknesses: the 3-ply is at the top, 2-ply underneath.

3-ply and 2-ply daffodil cordage

Because of the opposing twists, you can stop at any time and the cordage doesn’t unravel – so I can keep on going when I get more leaves!

Other long, thin leaves such as iris can also be used for this. I have a lot of crocosmia in my garden, so I’m looking forward to making more cordage in the autumn!

daffodil cordage

 

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Flextiles

Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

13 thoughts on “How long is a piece of string?”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have made a similar baskets but with Lomandra grass and I twined instead of coiling. The weave is quiet open and when hang gives beautiful shade patterns on the wall when the light comes through.
    I also have been making cordage in exactly the same way as you from old tattered pieces of clothing and made them into necklaces. It’s a relaxing and rewarding exercise.

    1. You’re welcome – good luck with it! I currently have some iris leaves and nettle fibres drying in my back garden, so it’s quite addictive. 😉

  2. I love your ‘seed pod’ basket with it’s different textures & the use of colour. I’ve created my own cordage with various yarns before but not tried naturally materials.
    Will you stop giving me ideas!!! I’m trying desperately to restore a 3 year unkempt garden and now you’re putting ideas in my head of salvaging the 5ft high nettles and various plants that have gone wild on me!
    I have the solution……..they are yours for the taking!

  3. I should have added that the cordage video is very well explained….note to self – no, you are not going to save the iris leaves and the nettles and the………….

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