Dorothy Wood is an expert beader, crafter and author who has written over 20 craft books on a variety of subjects. She also contributes to several well-known craft magazines. We asked Dorothy about the current trends for macramé and Kumihimo, and her latest book, The Knotting & Braiding Bible…
Why do you think that knotting and braiding have become so popular?
“I think the popularity of on-trend bracelets sold as designer jewellery pieces such as Shamballa bracelets and the Chan Luu wrap bracelets have caught both the public and bead shop owners imagination. Both of these styles use knotting and braiding techniques (macramé and switchback braiding) – and although selling for high prices in designer stores – are actually fairly easy and economical to make. Once the beading shops started buying in the ropes and cords, people wonder what else they can do!”
Which knots should all beginners learn first?
“The basic knots, in particular half hitches and overhand knots, are essential as they form the basis of all the other knotting techniques. Knowing how to tie a reef knot and a slip knot, and being familiar with what they look like, will help when you follow diagrams in the knotting section too. I think readers also need to become familiar with the knotting terms such as ‘working end’, ‘u-shaped bend’, ‘clockwise loop’, etc, so that they can read the instructions with ease.”
Which project should beginners start with?
“There are several sections in the book covering quite distinct techniques and so there is really no ‘correct’ place to start. One of the excellent decisions we made early on in the planning process was to incorporate mini-projects. These quick and easy designs give readers the opportunity to try techniques without having much practice – though of course the more you try a technique the quicker you’ll work and neater the finished result will be. At workshops I encourage people to go home and make the same project again – it’s always much better on the second attempt!”
Which tool or piece of equipment could you not live without?
“Well you can’t really work Kumihimo unless you have a disc or plate, although there is a template in the back of the book so that you could cut one out of stiff card and get started straight away! I’ve always used foam core or simple taped cords onto the work surface but recently manufacturers have started to create handy small macramé boards that look a bit like a Kumihimo plate with slots around the edge. The board can be used for knotting, braiding and plaiting as well as macrame and the cords don’t get damaged when tucked into the slots.”
What are your top tips for anyone who’d like to try knotting and braiding?
“Go to your local bead shop or try an online supplier to source some cords and threads. It is good to have a selection of different types of cord so that you can dip in and out of the book trying different techniques to see what takes your fancy! Learn the technique before trying any of the main projects and then it will be much easier and the result better because you won’t have to keep undoing mistakes. Finally, make sure you start with plenty of cord – it’s almost impossible to add cord halfway through a technique, so check how much is needed before you start – macramé, for example, can require four times the finished length.”
Do you have any hints or tips for new trends?
“The handmade look for designer jewellery is set to continue as it has proved so successful over the last year or so. I think designers will be looking for ways to incorporate more textiles into their designs too. Plaiting into chain, using different beads and creating slight twists on current designs, such as wrapped bracelets, have been huge this year and other knotting and braiding techniques such as Kumihimo and Chinese knotting will become much more popular.”