You don’t need as much as you think. A message that I can never hear too often as a first worlder. Only a few leaves will make many metres of string if you twine it right!
What you might need is all around you. This is dianella, which we are growing, and so is the council. Eventually dead leaves come away from the base and even these make decent string!
If you have the right leaf, and you use a pin or needle, you can get a nice, fine strip with which to make nice, fine string. Just insert needle into leaf and pull it toward one end of the leaf or the other! I learned this method when I did introductory basketry, but had clean forgotten until just recently. I’ve found with cordyline that keeping everything really wet helps a good deal. Here it is stripped into fine lengths and sitting in a container of water suitable for indoor string making.
Tough fibres are more resilient and make a more robust string, but pliable fibres are much more pleasurable to work and not so poky to wear (if you’re wearing string this season). Cordyline and dianella have been my more recent experiments, and they make very resilient and strong string. But it never gets as smooth as daylily, which is lovely and pliable when damp and smooth and comfortable to wear when dry.
Imperfection is acceptable more often than you might think. Basketry manuals offer excellent advice about how to choose and prepare plant fibres for optimal use in basketry and cordage but you can use non optimal fibres and less than optimal preparation and still make something that will please you and that might be more than adequate for use or need. Here you can see the cordylines I have most recently tried making string from. They are standing in a bed alongside the footpath outside a residential facility for frail elderly folk in my suburb. Under the live red leaves, dead brown leaves are gradually withering and eventually falling to the ground. Taking a few of the dead leaves is unlikely to worry anyone. In fact, I’ve collected fallen leaves for mulch from the footpath outside this place and been thanked by the residents and applauded for my public spiritedness (little do they know!) If leaves have been out in the sun, wind and weather for too long they will become brittle and degraded, but these leaves are so tough they have been more than adequate for use, and I have made a lot more string since I realised (with some help from Roz Hawker and some experiments with leaves wet from rain in my own garden) that much less preparation and care might work fine for at least some applications.
The structure of leaves is every bit as intricate and individual and interesting as I had always suspected from looking at leaves but not trying to work out how to use the fibres in them.
There are companions on the road. There are always companions. Helle Jorgensen; Patten project; Weaving Magic and clearly many Indigenous traditions. Thanks to kind readers who have pointed me in the direction of some of these lovely makers.
These galahs (can you see them?) kept me company making lemongrass string and some rosellas watched over me and dropped little bits of tree on me while I made green lomandra leaf string and lemongrass string.
There and the lessons of string for the moment!
2 responses to “More lessons from string”
That dianella is SO smooth looking. I love it. and I have a friend in Melbourne who has kiddos out of school so I sent this on to her. thanks.
You’re welcome! Thanks for your comment.