My local fiber and textile art group tries to have an internationally famous teacher come in for workshops every couple of years, and this year we were fortunate to have Dorothy Caldwell with us for a week. She taught two different workshops and gave a lecture, leaving us all in awe of her beautiful art and energized with lots of new ideas for our own work.
It's going to take me a few days to decompress and digest everything she told us, but to whet your appetite for posts to come, I'll tell you about a tiny skill she taught us, which made me so happy.
It's making string, a skill Dorothy learned from India Flint, who in turn learned it from the aboriginal women in Australia. They would make their string from plant fibers, mostly thin strips cut from pandanus leaves. Dorothy likes to use silk or organdy.
Cut or tear your fiber of choice into strips about a quarter-inch wide. Hold two strips together in your left hand (if you're a rightie) with a half-inch or so clasped between your thumb and finger, and the length of the strips extending off toward your right hand.
Get into a rhythm -- twist, wrap down in front, switch your grip, twist, wrap down in front, switch your grip. Continue till you have made a nice long string. When you get to the end of the strip, you can hold a new strip down overlapping the old one and twist them together, either tucking the ends neatly inside your roll or letting them stick out from the string like little flags.
So each strip is separately twisted away from you, but the two strips together are wrapped/twisted toward you. The opposition of the two twists is what holds the string together. You could achieve the same thing by twisting a string a bazillion times with an eggbeater, then grabbing it at the midpoint and letting it twist back on itself, but this method requires no tools and can be done as you watch TV, ride in the car, listen to a lecture or wait for paint to dry.
If you wet the strips before you twist and wrap, the string will be much neater and tighter.