Studio Sorting = Making Art Rope!

This seems to be the time of year for many people I know for purging- sorting cupboards, closets and cleaning out old paper files- and generally ‘making room’. This  has come up a number of times in the last week with artists I know- everyone seems to be doing an early spring clean of their studio.

For the most part I did this pre-holidays, but I have found lately that I am going through those ‘precious’ bags of fibre I can so easily hoard -yet that never actually get used- and put it all to use making  funky rope… I think of it as art rope, in the same way that art yarn is a thing for spinners, a novelty yarn that changes colour and texture and can be stunning knit or woven  up in the most simple of ways.


Art Yarn by Karen Barnaby using various wool and linden bark

For several years, rope making has been a go-to skill when I am not sure what to do with my hands or as an exercise for  a material I am just discovering.

Can I make rope with it? Then great! It is worthy of harvest…

Generally with rope-making, one is inclined to aim for constancy- it makes plying a whole lot simpler and is a way of showing one’s prowess as a cordage master… but I am usually lousy at consistency, always inclined to wonder, what if I do this?…So my rope often shifts in  size and material.

But it was not until recently that it occurred to me how fun it would be to just play with various scraps around the studio in my rope-making so it became more like spinning, and blend fibres together in a rope so the colours and textures stood out on their own. It became interesting to experiment with a pattern of repetition in my material additions, and started to actually feel like a pattern in knitting (  yarn over, purl, yarn over, knit, repeat).


 eel grass, corn husk, day lily and more…

Now I am acquiring a nice collection of art rope made with various  bits of scrap in the studio- a marvelous way to clean house and have studio time all at once. Scraps of cedar too dear to  compost, the corn husks I felt so thrifty hanging to dry back in 2013 then never used, now some hand-dyed/ spun wool that moths got into is even being cut up and  twisted back into a new potential life- such fun! It has also been great to play with the notions of wrapping   2ply rope  around a core of cedar strips, making frilly or shaggy edges- really,  the limit is my imagination for what I twist up and how I twist it- and how great is that?


2 ply phormium tenax wrapped around a cedar scrap core

At the end of the February I am  teaching a class called “Bush to Bark” ArtRope with Environmental Youth Alliance’s Matthew Kemshaw, I am looking forward to a day of harvesting while Matthew teaches basics on pruning the native shrubs at the Means of Production Garden, and then we strip the bark, and split the wood in preparation for art rope making the following day. I think it will be a fascinating way to get to know the native plants growing at Means of Production- and all that rope will of course be woven later into something… but that is another post.

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