Saturday, October 24, 2009

8. Three Considerations for Faster, Easier Coiling Post 8.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our discussion in the previous post. I appreciate Donna's insight into why she uses a gauge. It is exactly this type of reasoned adaptation of technique that everyone should strive for...the development of work routines from reasoning, not simply the product of habit.

It is also interesting that Vincent mentioned the "plane of pine needles." This, also, is the look i strive for...some people prefer a highly defined, rounded individual coil, and we will need to discuss the way to achieve that at another time (maybe someone will remind me, or i will digress, and we will never get this topic finished?)

Continuing contemplation of routine practice, or HABIT…

Do you put your needle in from the back? Again, I don’t know WHY all the books I have ever seen instruct to put the needle in on the back. No one has ever been able to explain WHY.

Coiling from the back is hard on your body. It is hard on your hands, wrists, fingers, and your neck. In order to place the needle properly, the work must be completely turned over with every stitch, or you must grope for the placement on the back of the work. The hand holding the needle is at an uncomfortable flexed position which contributes to repetitive motion injury. The progress is slow.

It makes much more sense to put the needle in from the front. I heard that a famous coiler from California paid a specialist to analyze his coiling, and the one tip that I heard passed on was: coil from the front. It is more ergonomically sound than coiling from the back.

Trying it “from the front” may take some thought, but it is worth trying. Because you are placing your stitches on the side facing you, it is also faster. If you tip the basket downwards it is possible to see where the needle is exiting without turning the basket over all the way.

I would love to hear about your direction of preferred coiling, please leave a positive comment here for everyone to read!

In the next post: adding binder!


(shown at the top of this blogpost: Carol Miller, long time PNG member and self-taught coiler from Montana!)


Donna in WA said...

When I first learned coiling, I was shown to put the needle into the coil from the front, it's easier to see the front of the coil, which is most likely going to be the visible part of the basket. But, to me, it's almost intuitive. I started hand-sewing with needle and thread when I was 4 or 5, or whenever my mom felt I could safely handle a pair of sharp scissors.

While I haven't tried putting the needle in from the back of the coil, just thinking about doing that makes me think it would be really awkward.

Anonymous said...

I have always stitched from back to front. I have found it very awkward to stitch from front to back, but I guess that is what I have gotten used to doing. Whatever makes YOU most comfortable is best. I basically taught myself to coil, so I made my own rules as I went along and it is hard to break old habits.
I use sheathed needles as pattern decorations, so am focused on the placement of the intact needles with the sheath in place so that I have control over the pattern. Yes, I do flop my baskets over constantly, but the end result of the pattern makes it worth the effort.
I rarely make smooth-sided baskets, but when I do, I insert needles into the bottom or center of the coil so that the end is hidden by the advancing coil. I work completely by feel - found that a gauge slowed me down more than it helped. Again, whatever you are most comfortable doing. I like to create undulating sides, which you can get by alternating thickness of your coil as you work.
My basketmaking has a contemporary approach. I always say I don't do handles, don't do lids, so my techniques wont't work for you if you are looking to produce more traditional, balanced forms. - Clay in Columbia, SC

Carol said...

Well, As Pamela has said Carol Miller is a self taught-and by her directions I do everything wrong! But.........this is what works for me. I work back to front and find it a lot less challenging than trying to go front to back. Like Clay I also flip my work around a lot, I don't use a gauge. Sadly, I am a counter, as I count my needles. I also go by feel.
I prefer the side my needle is inserted into to be my visible part of my completed work, and the side the needle exits to be the back or inside.
Ah, new can of worms....I am right handed and I coil with my ends going to the right. I don't think Pamela has hit that one yet.

Trek Across America said...

I'm enjoying your series, Pamela. I do coil from the front, also. It seems much easier and always wondered why others recommend doing it from the back. When you commented on needles awhile back, I also agree that pointed ones are much easier to use. I found the round ones actually would break the pine needles if they were dry and I hit them as I went through. Finally, I have used a guide for a long time but last night I took it off to see how it goes inserting needles free hand! If I don't like the look--I'll blame you! LOL -Earl (Our home is now our Fifth Wheel as we travel across the country during the next two years.)

Tracy said...

I was taught to put the needle in from the backside like many of us, I guess I got used to doing it that way but I also find that because I do use a large blunt tip needle I can see where I am "wiggling" through the coil and can insure that I don't split a needle which is very important to prevent needles breaking. I have coiled both ways sometimes putting the needle in through the front, I think it depends also on the project. I mostly create sculptural pieces with many turns so sometimes I am working with loose needles to the left and sometimes to the right but still mostly work with the needle going through the back so I can be sure to place the thread correctly in the front.

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...


I need some clarification. When you say "front" does that equate to "outside" vs. "back"/"inside"? Using the terms I am used to then I stitch inserting my needle from the outside of the basket to the inside. I guess for me the most important thing is where my stitch appears on the outside of the basket or basically the face that is the most prominent. If I were to stitch from the inside I would have to fish around with the tip of the needle to get the exit point in the correct place.

This is the same type of question/debate people have over lashing a basket from the outside or the inside. One weaver will swear that they can lash tighter from the inside to the outside while others (like myself) only lash from the outside to insides. As with coiling the main reason I last the way I do is that I can easily see where I want the lasher to go from the outside. If I were to do it the other way I would feel like I was having to stand on my head to see where the next lash should go.

I coil with my pine needles or core going to the left, so I can hold them with my left hand as I stitch with my right.