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Knitting Tutorial: Cords Cords Cords

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Tutorial: Cords Cords Cords

Cords are useful things. They can cinch a bag closed, keep a bootie from falling off a little one's foot, or allow us to sling a bag across our body. Knitters can make I-cord, or they can cast on/bind off to make cord. Pick up a hook and one can make a simple chain stitch cord, or thicken it up by working a slip stitch back along a chain. These are all great and wondrous cords, but sometimes a cord with less give is required. Enter the twisted cord.

The basic directions to make a twisted cord are simply this: Cut some number of strands to three times the desired finished length of the cord. Tie an overhand knot at each end. Attach one end of the strands to a stable base (pin it to a cork or craft board, tape it to a table, or some such MacGyver-y solution) and twist the other end of the strands clockwise (OR counterclockwise) until it starts to kink on itself. Holding the strands roughly in the middle, bring the two ends together so the two halves twist around each other. Tie the two ends together above the overhand knot at each end. Untie the original knots; trim to form tassel. The folded end can be left as is or tied in a knot and tasseled as the other end.

That may be all you want to do for your cord, but there are many more possibilities. Let's take a look at them.

Cord Types

As noted above, there are two ways to twist the strands of yarn before folding. Twist them clockwise before folding and the folds will twist counterclockwise to form a Z-twist cord, so named because the slant is the same as the diagonal line of the letter Z. Reverse these twists (counterclockwise to start, clockwise after folding) and the result will slant as the diagonal line of the letter S for an S-twist cord.

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From l. to r.: Z-twist and S-twist cord in one color, S-twist with two colors held together, Z-twist with three colors held together.

Getting More Colorful With Cord

The illustration above shows the two sides of the folded cord in different colors. Cord can look like that too! Instead of cutting strands for each element of the cord (an element or ply consisting of whatever number, color and type of yarn you like!) to three times the desired length, cut strands to one and a half to two times the desired length. Tie all the elements together and secure as before; separate the elements. Using the 2-ply Z-twist cord below as an example, twist one ply clockwise; tape it down. Twist the other ply clockwise. Untape the previous ply and knot the ends of both plies together. Hold this end while untaping the other end. Guide the kinked cord to twist evenly in the counterclockwise direction.

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Two-ply Z-twist cord in two colors; with plies of different
proportion, color and type.

To make 2-ply S-twist cord, reverse the direction in which you twist the elements.

More Plies!

It's easy to add plies by using more elements. For example, to make 3-ply Z-twist cord, cut lengths in three colors, knot the lengths together and tape them down. Separate the strand(s) of each color and twist them clockwise separately; tape each element separately as you finish it. Tie all twisted elements together in an overhand knot. Untape the other end. Guide the kinked cord so the elements twist evenly in a counterclockwise direction.

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Three-ply Z-twist cord in two colors; with plies of different
proportion, color and type.


Cabling takes the plied cord just made and twists it together, either with another plied element or one that has not been plied. Plied elements must be twisted in the direction of their ply or you'll be undoing the twist! In the example below, Z-twist cord and strand element are twisted counterclockwise and then twisted clockwise with each other to form an S-twist cord.

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Solid colors of S-twist cable cord; variations on
cable with solid and plied elements.

So, there are some ideas to get you started. Throw your scraps of yarn on the table and see what wants to come together. Your cord can become a featured element of a garment, not just a utility player!

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