Spinning for Chinese
Introduction and history
Ancient times--including mythology--See background information. Mythology too
extensive to list all, see bibliography.
- Current trends
- Classes--Classes on Chinese Knotting are generally available at bead stores, senior
citizen centers, craft stores, art centers and a few oriental art novelty shops.
- Books available--More books are in print about macramé than Chinese Knotting. My
mentor on knotting (a Chinese native) could only find one printed in English just on
Chinese Knotting. I recommend these two for the most rounded information:
Encyclopedia of Knots and Fancy Rope Work, by Raoul Graumont and John Hensel; and Chines
Knotting from Echo Craft Books. Some information can be found in various other art
or craft books.
- What is on the market--some novelty shops carry original hand knotted ornaments and
jewelry. Thee will invariably be made from nylon or rayon cord. I have
enclosed samples of this type of work. Imported from the orient are talisman hung on
knotted cords, sample 1. Nordstrom's carried a
machine knitted suit with knotted embellishments in the winter of 1990.
- Enhancements for the future--There is room for knotting in most facets of fiber art.
After this study, I feel it can be incorporated into any project I desire.
- Basic Knots-Knowledge of how to tie the knots and what knot combinations to put together
is necessary before I can develop an understanding of how to spin the yarns for these
knots. In order to gain this knowledge and achieve expertise in knotting, I will
study the following:
Knots for jewelry
- Design requirements (combination of knots)--Simplicity is the key. Jewelry that
uses too many knots (more than 3 becomes busy and none of the knots nor the yarn shows off
well. If one knot is a medallion form is a combination of many knots (or a compound
knot, sample 5) the remainder of the necklace should include only one more knot (sample 1).
- Beads, clasps and accessories--Limit your beads and talisman to one talisman and one
type of bead per necklace. This can also make your piece too busy. Clasps,
findings, rings can be found at craft, bead or jewelry stores. They vary in price
and quality from very inexpensive craft rings to 18 Karat gold clasps. Remember that
silver and brass will tarnish, some cheap findings will rust (sample N). When you
have put much time and care into your work, use the appropriate findings. You will
spend more time tying the knots than spinning the cord.
- Knots for embellishments
- Design requirements
- Combinations of knots--Once again, keep these knot combinations simple, not too busy.
these knots should be relatively flat. double coin, clover leaf combinations
and phoenix tail are good (sample COM8).
Knots that need to be tied very tight will not become part of the fabric and will feel
more like buttons and beads, keep this in mind.
- Combinations of yarns--Follow the suggestions for each knot. color is very
important. Unless the background is very smooth and simple the knots need to be of a
contrasting color or intensity for them to show. white on white only works when the
background texture is non-existent (smooth). The polwarth sweater is a good example to picking up color from
the background and making it stand out yet be a part of the design.
Knots for accessories and ornaments.
Care and washing of knotted items--The fiber content must be taken into consideration
before cleaning. Findings may not be washable, nor wood beads, silver and brass.
Sample N demonstrates washing problems. Dry cleaning can be recommended if
you can get a cleaners to touch the work. Many knotted items can be carefully washed
and blocked dry. Knots that are on garments need to be designed so they are either
removable or washable.
Technical requirements for Yarns as discovered from the study of the knots themselves.
Each of the following will be studied for each type of knotting technique.
See attached not descriptions.
- Combination of knots--Traditionally the knots get very complicated for ornaments (sample 1, far right). Animals flowers and
beautiful designs are made from elaborate combinations of countless different knots.
Plan carefully before tying complicated knot combinations.
- Combination of yarns--Many distinctive cords of assorted colors and diameters were
united together into unique configurations (pictures).
Today combine handspun, commercial yarns and lurex to create individualized
ornaments. Knots were often sewn together to make scene of picture.
- Beads, clasps and accessories--Beads and talisman may be more elaborate for accessories
and ornaments. Use quality findings for your work. Watch the washability of
Design requirements for the yarns--once again, knowledge of the knots themselves is
necessary to be able to design using the knots. Each of the following will be
discussed relative to the intended finished product.
- Wheel requirements
Re-spinning commercial yarns to make them suitable for knotting. Each of the
following will be studied and discussed relative to the intended finished product.
for all yarns, follow the cord suggestions for the individual knots that you intend to
make (samples COM).
- Color of finished yarn--solids show off knots far better than mottled or variegated
cords. Having two or more contrasting colors of cords that coordinate with the
woven, crocheted or knitted garment is an excellent way to show off the garment and knots.
- Number of plies--The more plies a cord has the rounder the cord will be. Most
knots show the best definition with a round cord. But under the right conditions,
even a single can be used. Note the cotton single sample C2. Two plies with
good twist are sufficient in fine yarns. The heavier the cord, the better to use
multi-plies. Multi-plies do not abrade as readily as singles. The shorter the
fiber, the more desirable it is to use more plies. the cord will be smoother.
the more complicated the knot or combination of knots will be made, the greater the need
to have a multi-ply cord that will not abrade.
- Diameter of singles, core spun, or plied yarns--Singles need to be spun to the necessary
diameter to achieve a final cord of desired diameter with the desired number of plies.
For optimum results and ease, spin as fine and tight of singles as possible and ply
them in combinations of threes to achieve bulkier cords that are round. I recommend
Navajo plying. Core spinning offers the advantage of having the solid core of an
inexpensive fiber and outer surface of an expensive fiber. Core spinning also
provides a denser core that may be easier to spin and a lighter outer surface.
- Density or softness of final yarns--Most knots look best in a dense cord. But
knotting is not limited to dense cord and when combining knotting with garments not
entirely desirable. When adorning a woven, knitted or crocheted sweater with knots,
cords' weight must be proportional to the fabric or the knots will weight the garment and
not become a part of the overall design (not to mention drape and comfort problems).
the polwarth sweater illustrates the softer spectrum of knotting yarn. The
linen belt illustrates the denser cords. I wouldn't want the linen cord on my wool
Starting from Scratch (samples H)
- Warp yarns to knotting yarns, including very fine yarns--since most warp yarns are
lacking in elasticity, they are ideal for converting to knotting cords. First add
twist in the direction of the warps yarn's final ply. Then fold into two or more
plies to balance. The amount of plies will depend on the desired diameter.
- Weft yarns to knotting yarns, including very fine yarns--these yarns vary drastically in
density and elasticity. It is best to choose the yarns that are most dense and least
elastic. Add twist in the direction of the weft's final twist, fold into as many
plies as needed to achieve desired diameter chord. The softer and more elastic the weft
the more twist will be necessary to achieve a good knotting yarn. Yarns with lots of
texture, boucles and the like are not suitable for knotting.
- Knitting and crochet yarns to knotting yarns--follow the same instructions for weft
yarns. Ideally, pick knitting yarns that are made with long fiber. The higher
the luster in the knitting yarn, the lovelier the knotting cord will turn out. Yarns
with very high elasticity are limiting. Some knots made from these converted cords
will disappear as they are tightened.
- Appropriate fibers--with careful preparation and spinning virtually all spinable fibers
can be spun into knotting cords. Some are more appropriate than others. Linen
and silk would be the best with angora, cashmere and alpaca the worst candidates.
- Worsted vs. woolen--worsteds will always made the preferable knitting cord, but with
enough twist a woolen can be condensed and be suitable (sample H4).
- Commercial roving--makes a good compact, dense, smooth knitting cord direct from a
roving. Do make sure the roving will draw well.
- Drum Carded vs. hand carded--fibers prepared from either method are equally suitable.
the drum carder does prepare more fiber at a time and is easier to prepare for
- Flick--because of the need for dense yarns, a larger quantity of fiber is needed for
each cord. the flick prepares very little fiber at a time and makes fiber
preparation too tedious. Wool combs are preferable.
- Spin wool clean or in the grease?--Spin clean wool! the tight twist and dense
nature of the cords make it nearly impossible to get all the grease and dirt out of the
fiber after spinning.
- Core Spinning--Many of the ancient adornments were knotted from core spun cords.
Silk was spun over hemp, linen or cotton to conserve the precious fiber.
- Advantages and disadvantages--Expensive fibers can be conserved by having them only on
the outer portion of the cord. It is easier to spin a dense, hard, even hemp or
linen yarn than it is to spin such a silk or wool. The core yarn allows the beauty
of the expensive fiber and qualities of the coarse fibers. Silk and wool stretch but
when they are spun on a linen or hemp core they hold their shape.
- Hand and finish--For best knotting results the finish on the cord should be smooth.
Lustrous is even better. But of course the yarn needs to coordinate with its
intended use. the hand or the cord will need to vary according to what it will be
used for. Jewelry, belts and ornaments need to be as stiff as possible. Heavy
ropes for rugs or mats need to be pliable enough to knot yet stiff to hold their shape and
wear well. Cords used for adornments on clothing need to be balanced between draping
well with garment they will be sew onto and stiff enough to annunciate the knot (sample COM8)
- Finishing techniques of the yarn--The yarns should be spun balanced or set in a
permanent manner such that no excess energy wishes to escape the yarn. Steaming
protein fibers in a commercial steamer or boiling cotton will set these yarns.
- Jewelry--Gold leaf earrings and pendant on tussah silk necklace,
pastel silk noil necklace and earrings.
- Handbag--Cotton and ultrasuede bag.
- Belt--Linen and beads belt.
- Pillow--Yarn was spun for a pillow project (sample H6-H8)
to demonstrate knotting used for fringe. I ran out of time before this portion could
- Jacket--Silk butterflies on velvet.
- Sweater--Polwarth and silk pullover.
- Rug--Yak and Karakul rug.