A couple of days ago, I got an e-mail saying my Celtic Braid Cuff didn't win anything in Rings & Things' contest, but it did get chosen as one of Polly's Picks ("non-winning designs that we think display a noteworthy use of Rings & Things components in a practical design"). Which does mean I've got some money to spend on beads this weekend.
The bracelet is a prime example of how a design can grow and evolve into something different than you originally planned. In this case, I knew I wanted to use braided cotton cord to embellish the leather cuff. But originally, I wanted to whip stitch the edges and make some sort of insertion stitch between the stitches along the edges. Not having a proper embroidery bible at home, I tried to google insertion stitches. As luck would have it, I for some reason couldn't remember the name for this type of stitches so I had google rather randomly until I ended up finding not the Swedish but the English name for them. And finding a good embroidery source in English, I suddenly found a stitch I'd never seen before: Interlaced band (AKA german interlacing stitch, interlacing insertion stitch or interlaced faggot stitch when used in insertion/faggoting). That's one cool stitch to just stumble over!
This stitch combined two things I like, but rarely get around to do: braiding and hand embroidery. Finding this stitch I immediatly abandoned my original idea and began testing it on a piece of felt before moving on to the cuff.
While I liked the finished braid, it did feel slightly unfinished and angular. That might appeal to some, but I felt it needed a touch of something. So inspired at least partially by the Vikings and their habit of "encasing" writing on runestones using borders, I stitched the left over piece of brown cotton cord to the black cord along the edges of the stitched motif. The thread I used to stitch the cotton cord is not visible on the front nor back: it runs through the cord and, at intervals, it's stitched to the black cord where that cord exit the holes in the cuff.
There's a total of four cord ends that I secured on the back by tacking them to the cuff using the beading thread and treated the tips with an anti-fraying product. I wanted to avoid clumsy knots and criss-crossing cord on the back so it'd be comfortable to wear. You can't see the unobtrusive tacked cord ends in the pic below, but you can see what the double herringbone base looks like on the inside of the cuff: just two even rows of short stitches.
The holes were probably the toughest part of the creation. Lacking leather-craft tools, I used fine leather needles and two sizes of tapestry needles to make each hole. That took some time... To make sure the pattern of holes became even, I placed a piece of graph paper on the cuff as a template. Of cause, eventhough I tested the stitch before making the bracelet, I forgot one important thing: you need to make the herringbone base very loose as the braiding tightens the stitches. I did make it loose, but not loose enough. Simple didn't count on the thick cord taking up that much space. When testing it on the felt, the soft fabric gave way to the cord in a way the leather couldn't. I didn't realise that at the time. But at least I know it for my next celtic braid bracelet. Because I will make more. And I will buy some more cuffs so I can make that insertion stitch bracelet I originally planned too. (I probably should invest in some leather-working tools as well, but hey, I'm not made of money. Have to prioritize.)
I'm so glad I found this celtic-looking stitch and I will use it again. It's pretty easy to make and a lot of fun. You should try it too!
To see all the winning entries and the rest of the Polly's Picks in Your Designs Rock 2011, check out the contest gallery here.