Friday, October 30, 2009

9. Three Considerations for Faster, Easier Coiling Post 9.

Well, I was going to skip the whole “do you coil clockwise or counterclockwise” question, but am shamed into it. Carol, I should have known better. I have now been working on this post for a week, and still have not worked out my samples to completely explain this, and figured out everything I want to say. So I am going to have to deal this a glancing blow, and then hope that I can come back to it another time.

This is something that most people don’t even think about. Right handed people tend to coil in a counterclockwise fashion, that is, to the left…with the bundle of pine needles going to the left, so the left hand can feed the bundle. (As Tony mentioned in his comment the other day.) This is generally faster and easier because one does not have to put down the binder to feed the coil.

Of course, this means left handed people, using the opposite hand, tend to coil clockwise, to the right. If you have tried both ways, you will find that, for most people, it is easier when the hand doing the most moving around is not near that open bundle of fibers. I said MOST people, Carol. Carol, being a self-taught coiler, is a left handed person, but coils counterclockwise (to the left.) Go figure. It works for her. Again, do what works for you.

It really behooves you to be able to coil in either direction, because when it comes to sculptural coiling, sometimes to execute a particular form, it is necessary to go in the opposite direction from what you are used to. Case in point, this really amazing sculptural pine needle piece by TV McArthur…maybe we can bring him out of the woodwork, as well. TV used to be very active in the Pine Needle Group, but has drifted away. And I am sorry…he is simply the most imaginative sculptural coiler I have ever seen in my life, and a wonderful correspondent to boot. It would be really great to hear from you again, TV!

Does it make sense that:

Coiling clockwise and putting your needle in from the front

is the same as

coiling counterclockwise and putting your needles in from the back.

You with me so far? It is just a matter of which side you are looking at the basket from.

Then you need to realize that there are actually two different spirals in every basket.

There is spiral #1, of the core, going round and round,


spiral #2 of the binder, going around the core, that which we think of as separate “stitches” (marked by different colors,) but is actually just one long spiral.

(I really needed some diagrams here, and that is what has taken me so long….i hope they make sense!)

So, even though we have named stitches and are describing what we think is the same action, the stitch will look different (sometimes very different,) depending on which direction your core is spiraling and which side of the basket you are entering your needle on.

Each stitch has, 2 “faces” (the front and the back, ) and there are 2 different core directions on which they can applied (from the clockwise side or from the counterclockwise side.) This makes 4 different “looks” for each separate stitch.

If you study geometry, you might talk about Archimedes and the tangent of the spiral. But I am not a mathematician. All I know is that the two spirals in the basket (the core spiral and the stitch spiral) intersect at different places, depending on all the different interactions. When you add in the tension applied by the sewing needle, holding the spiral to a certain point, it gets even more complicated.

So, for now, suffice it to say that it is NOT the same stitch when you choose to put your needle in from the opposite direction that you usually use…though it might be CALLED the same stitch. It is NOT a mirror image, either.

This is PART of the “answer” to the oft-asked question “why can’t I make a stitch that looks the same, front and back?” Because it is a spiral, NOT a circle.

Enough about stitching direction…now that I have completely confused you (or intrigued you?) I will return to my original blog series….

Next post we are going to talk about using binder, back to what I had intended…that is, if I did not chase you all away with this extremely confusing discussion! Once again, I would LOVE to hear what you have to say about coiling direction! Thanks


J. Anthony Stubblefield said...


That made perfect sense, at least to me. I think I have accidentally started coiling in the wrong directions and to counter that I have simply held the basket upside down, so that my bundle/core was still going to the left and I was still stitching from the "outside/front" to the "inside/back". The only difference was that instead of building "up" the sides of my basket I was in effect building "down" the sides.

Kim Mumbower said...

You made great sense (terrific illustrations!), but I still felt my mind seize up and come to a halt when I tried to go into the geometry of the two spirals and how they intersect and how this applies to my coiling [grin]. I think I'll just continue to do what feels right to me. I appreciate all of your discussions as I'm still a beginner coiler even if I've been a weaver for 20+ years. Always something to learn.

Anonymous said...

I love reading these blogs and comments. They've really got me thinking about what I do and why. Let me put down some thoughts while they're fresh in my mind. Forgive me if this rambles on too much.

In all the talk about techniques I realize that sometimes my ways of doing things sort of drift. By that I mean that I change something to try out a different method and forget about what I originally did. Then, for some reason, I return to older methods and find that I prefer them again. Size of needles was the latest change for me. I had been using small needles for a long time thinking they disturbed the coil the least when stitching. Recently when I broke my small needle I was too lazy to dig out an exact replacement and just used the much larger one that was readily available right on my work table. To my surprise I found it much easier to use and it made no difference in how the coil looked after stitching. So now I'll use these larger needles until I forget why I chose them!

The current discussion about stitching and coil direction got me thinking again. Being a lefty, who teaches righties sometimes, I've thought about this a bit and tried lots of variations. I guess there are four things I tend to consider. I want to decide if I'm going to stitch from outside to inside or vice versa. Then I want to know if the needles will feed in from the left or right. In my case I'll switch hands to do the stitching if I want to feed the needles on a certain side. These two issues have been discussed already.

Then I try to decide if I'm going to work on the coil on the side of the basket nearest my body as I hold the basket or coil across the basket, working on the rim furthest away from my body. I hope that makes sense. When I'm being a lefty, if I coil close to my body I'm coiling clockwise looking from the top of the basket down. If I coil at the further edge of the basket I'm coiling in the counter-clockwise direction.

The other thing I'll decide is whether I'm using a split stitch, where I put my needle through the stitch in the coil below, or not. If I split the stitches this interlocks them sort of automatically, especially if I make sure to split both on the inside and outside of the stitch below, and it makes lines of stitching that create patterns on the basket. If I don't split the stitches in the lower coil then I really have to pay attention to the direction of coiling if I want to create similar pattern lines on the basket. This is what I usually do, and it means that I go into the coil on one side of the stitch below and come out of the coil on the other side, independent of whether I'm stitching inside to outside or vice versa. The stitching has to go in a the direction that will pull the new stitch up against the stitch below in order for the patterns lines to develop well. Otherwise the stitch gets pulled away from the stitch below.

Whew, I hope some of that makes sense. I think I've stitched using all the variations on these choices and have decided that whatever works is best! There are definitely some choices that make the stitching easier to do and some that seem awkward.

I love Pamela's description of the two spirals involved, especially the spiral the binder makes. My T'ai Chi teacher is always talking about the movements of T'ai Chi being round and spiral-like. Now I can think about basketry when I do the T'ai Chi form!

Great discussions everyone.

Sue Yamins

niftyknits said...

Even though I don't begin to understand what you're talking about it's fascinating! What drew me to read teh post though, was I mis-read the tile and thought it said EASTER...I was so impressed with how far ahead you had organised yourself!