Last year was enormously busy and my poor blog has been rather neglected. One of my goals for 2024 is to give it some care and another is to start sharing my passion for making again. With that in mind I am going to show you how to use a coil framework to make a hanging heart decoration.
If you haven’t tried coil basketry before, this is a great, quick introduction to the basics; starting a coil; adding new wrapping fibre/yarn; shaping and finishing.
If you have made coil baskets before, it is a good opportunity to consider the use of coil frameworks for decorative elements or even sculptural pieces.
All that you need is some yarn (something that’s not too springy is best), thread cutters and a needle. Tapestry needles work well, but if you’re using very fine thread an embroidery needle would be better.
Begin by cutting several lengths of yarn, twine or plant fibre, to make the core. How much you will need depends on the thickness of the core material. There are no rules, but in this tutorial I am using three lengths at approx. 40-50cm long and an additional length, to use as the wrapping thread.
It is a good idea to stagger the lengths, so that they don’t all run out at the same time. That way, as one length runs out, you can simply add another to the remaining core.
Take the top end of your core and place the wrapping thread with it, as shown in the second photo below.
Holding both the core and the short end of the wrapping thread tightly with one hand, begin to wrap the wrapping thread around the core. Start approx. 4-5cm from one end of the core and wrap towards the short end. Begin in front of the core and wrap up and around to the back of the core. Then follow back around to the front.
Wrap a small section. Again, how long the section should be depends on the thickness of your yarn/fibre. In the first photo below, you can see that I have wrapped approx. 2cm of core. If you are using a very fine yarn, 1cm or less will be sufficient. It needs to be long enough, so that you can bend it around to make a loop (as is shown in the 2nd photo below).
Then continue by joining both sections of core together and wrapping around it all. This time, you will be working down and around to the back (as shown in the 2nd and 3rd photos).
When you only have a 4-6cm of wrapping thread left, you will need to add a new one.
Lay a 2-3cm of the new thread in with the core, with the rest of the length going in the direction of the work that you have already wrapped (see the first photo below).
Wrap the old thread/fibre twice around the new one, securing it in place. (2nd photo below)
Then continue to wrap in the same way with the new thread/fibre (third photo). The first couple of wraps will be on top of the securing wraps. Pull extra tight to avoid a bulge.
A quick word about wrapping here. When I am wrapping, I pull tight. You want to compress the core as much as possible to create neat, strong work.
Continue wrapping tightly, leaving no spaces in between. We don’t want to see any core between the wraps.
How long the first section of wrapping will be, depends on how big you would like your heart to be. You could make any size, so try bend the wrapped section around into a circle. Is it big enough for you yet?
Remember, this will be the inside edge of the heart, so the completed heart will be a little bigger.
When you’re happy with the size, you need to secure the working end to the original loop that you made, using a joining stitch. There are lots of different techniques for making a coil basket. This one is my favourite and is just a series of wrapped sections and joining stitches.
So thread your needle onto your wrapping thread and as you bring down the thread in front of the core (as you would normally while wrapping), put the needle through the loop and pull tight, securing the two together (see 2nd photo below).
Make two more wraps around the core and then make a second joining stitch.
Depending on the size of your work, you may need to make more joining stitches into the loop. Two fit comfortably into mine.
Wrap twice more, but this time make your joining stitch go right around the original wrapped section that you made. Then wrap twice more.
You will continue working like this until you get half way around the circle that you have made.
A note about the distance between joining stitches – There are no hard and fast rules here. You will want to keep your joining stitches at regular intervals between wrapped sections, so that your work looks neat and tidy. However, depending on the round that you are on or the shape that you are making, it might make sense to add an extra wrap here or one less there.
The things that you need to consider are:
– how it looks. The distance between joining stitches really affects how your work looks. You might want to experiment and see what you prefer.
-strength. As a general rule, the closer the joining stitches are, the stronger your work will be. If you leave long stretches of wrapped coil in between joining stitches, there will be some movement in your work. If they are close together, it will be as tight as a drum.
When you have worked about half way around your circle, you will need to start shaping your heart.
I have a set of crochet hooks that I always keep handy when I am working. The rounded handles are great for shaping nice curves in frameworks like these. On this occasion, I used a bamboo chopstick, bending the circle against it, to make the top of the heart. Once you have started the shape, you can pinch the two curves together, to make a more defined shape (see 2nd photo below).
You can simply pinch where the little starting loop is, to make the pointy bottom of the heart.
Now continue wrapping and joining until you get all the way around to the starting loop.
You can see in the 1st photo below, that once you reach your first joining stitch, you will need to make all of the joining stitches that follow go in between the previous two rounds of wrapped core. Just use your needle to draw the thread between those two rounds and keep wrapping and joining as before.
We are only going to work two complete rounds of joining stitches in this tutorial, so you’re almost there.
When you reach the top of the heart on this round, be careful to leave a gap between the joining stitches right in the middle (as shown in the 2nd photo below). This is because we will be attaching a thread here, so that the heart can be hung up.
As you are working the second round of joining stitches, keep taking the time to improve the shaping of your heart.
Define those curves at the top, pinch the point at the bottom and press the heart down flat against a hard surface.
Taking time and care over your work makes a big difference. Don’t hurry through, but enjoy the process.
As you come to the final stretch (see 1st photo below), you will need to thin out your core, ready for finishing your work.
Cut all of the core threads/fibres so that they just reach your finishing point (the bottom of the heart).
Now cut each thread to a slightly different length, leaving just one or two that reach the finishing point.
This will give you a nice graduated finish.
Now keep wrapping and joining until there is just 1-2cm of core thread left unwrapped (see 3rd photo below).
For this last section, you will only make joining stitches. There are no wrapped sections in between.
Make joining stitches until you have covered all of the core thread/fibre.
Carefully push your needle under the last stitches, slightly towards the back of your work and pull the thread through to secure it (1st photo below).
I find that a needle grabber is useful for this job, as the thread can sometimes be stubborn and you don’t want to mess up your beautiful work, trying to pull it through.
Most sewing supply shops will have needle grabbers. They are just a little circle of rubbery material, that helps you to get a good grip on your needle. They are inexpensive and it is definitely a good idea to get one, if you are going to be doing a lot of coilwork.
Now, cut the thread really close to the work, so that you can’t see the end (2nd photo). You will have to excuse the state of my thread snips. I have had them about 15 years and they are looking a little tatty. This is the second bit of equipment that I would recommend buying. A good pair of thread snips will make a really neat finish and if you are using plant fibres, they are great for carefully snipping away stray fibre.
Your heart is complete, just take the time to make any final adjustments to the shaping and then we will attach the hanging thread.
To make your heart into a hanging decoration, take a short length of the thread that you have been using and thread on your needle.
Insert the needle through that gap that you left between joining stitches, at the top of the heart.
Push the needle back through the same gap, but don’t draw the thread all the way through. This will make a little loop at the front.
Adjust the thread so that you have two even ends at the back and then put those ends through the loop (1st photo below).
Pull it tight.
To finish, knot the two ends of thread together.
I really hope that you enjoy making these. You could make a whole bunch and decorate some bare branches in a vase, or maybe use them to make a garland. If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, you could pop one inside your card.
Wren has already asked if she can have mine, I think she wants to hang them along our dresser. She just loves to decorate and always feels that the house is a bit bare after Christmas and her birthday are over.
If you do enjoy this tutorial, you can find others by looking through the tutorial section of my blog and I will be adding more to these through the year.