Every year I normally collect daffodil leaves as they start dying down and turning brown. After drying them, I spray them lightly with water to soften them and use them to make cordage (string).
This year, however, as well as collecting a few leaves, I focused on collecting the flower stalks after the flowers had died. Compared with the leaves, the stalks are longer and double layered (hollow tubes), so I thought they would be more robust. They certainly take longer to dry out – my workroom was cluttered with piles of daffodil stalks for a few weeks!
As well as taking longer to dry than the leaves, the daffodil stalks also took longer to rehydrate. In the end, after spraying them, I left them overnight to mellow. But when I finally came to use them they were a pleasure to work with, being almost leathery in texture.
Rather than making normal cordage with them, I wanted to try the technique for making a Nigerian camel muzzle, as described in Peter Collingwood’s book Textile and Weaving Structures.
Collingwood was a well-known name in the weaving world, and this book analyses traditional objects from around the world, examining their materials and how they are made. Rather confusingly, there is another volume called The Maker’s Hand: A Close Look at Textile Structures which, as far as I can tell, is identical. Whatever it’s called, for someone like me who is fascinated by different techniques, it’s a scintillating read.
The camel muzzle Collingwood describes is made with a looping technique. Looping produces a very open net-like structure but without knots, which is why it is also called knotless netting. When I have previously worked with looping I started with a long piece of pre-made cordage and made a basket by looping the cord through the previous round, as in the picture below. The basket was quite loose because there is nothing to keep the loops in position, so they can move from side to side.
But with the camel muzzle you make the cordage as you go along. Rather than the whole cord looping through the previous round, only one of the two strands making up the cordage loops through the previous round, then plies around itself before rejoining the other strand. Sounds complicated? The diagram below makes it much clearer (to me, anyway!).
The resulting structure is more stable than standard looping, as the plying keeps each loop in position.
I didn’t make the whole camel muzzle with the handles as well, as this was just an initial exploration into the technique. Maybe next time!