Occasionally I see a craft technique and think to myself "I can't wait to take that to the woods!" So it was when I attended a textile workshop with Larry Schmidt at the North House Folk School. He specialises in traditional Scandinavian textile techniques that were brought to America by the first settlers and the have wonderful names like flettet snor, frynseflet, bregdet band and rundflet snor.
I've shared this technique with various practitioners and children over the years, most recently when I was hanging out in the woods with the fabulous Treecreepers. They have done what I have never managed to do and got some excellent photos that they allowed me to share with you. (Thank you Simon and Harry).
The technique is called a Nordic slinging braid. Also known as a romantic braid because it requires two people and good cooperation!
The first step is to hang weights off four strands of wool, string or thread. These strings need to be two different colours. Wood cookies or little branch slices are ideal for weights. Treecreepers used different symbols to help people who can't distinguish the colours as easily. This promotes thinking skills, trying to work out what things would work as opposites.
The strings need to be tied together then hung above head height. This is when I realised that the woods are ideal for this. All those convenient branches!
Next stand facing opposite each other, each with two strings of different colours, one in each hand.
The next bit is simple; take the string in your left hand and let it swing across and swap it with the string in your partners left hand.
Now do the same with the strings held in both of your right hands.
Now repeat; left, right, left, right and... allow the rhythm to build, the strings to swing, from one person to the next, sometimes getting faster, or slowing down, stopping completely to untangle and laugh when things go awry.
You will notice a braid starting to develop above your head and a pattern starting to develop in the braid. This pattern will be different depending on whether you both have the same colour strings in your left hand or opposite colour strings. You could try more than two colours when you get the hang of things.
They are called romantic braids because you can only really do them with another person, I like the way this appeals to very physical people, and people who like to get immersed in making things, as well as people who 'don't normally like this sort of thing' but think they will have a go.
Massive thanks to Treecreepers for the use of their pictures. Check out their facebook page for more inspiration (and probably some pictures of beetles).