Gadgets help shape braids and knots

  • By Jonetta Rose Coffin / Special to The Herald
  • Saturday, July 22, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Regular Craft Corner readers know that we have a fondness for gadgets, and this week’s column will focus on two little tools that recently caught our attention.

While searching online for supplies, we noticed an intriguing item called a lucet.

Apparently, lucets have been around for centuries and are used to make decorative braid that is ornamental and functional.

According to the information we found, lucets made their appearance during the Viking era and were popular from medieval times through the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Lyre-shaped lucets can be made from wood, bone, ivory or just about any smooth, sturdy material, and come with or without a handle.

While there are many variations on the basic technique, a plain braid is made by looping yarn, thread or cord around the prongs of the lucet and making “stitches” by locking existing loops over new loops.

We found an excellent book, “Lucet Braiding: Variations on a Renaissance Cord” by Elaine Fuller (Lacis Publications, $12, soft cover), online. It contains instructions for making different style braids using a variety of techniques.

The instructions are clear and very descriptive, but you may have to read them over several times – working with an actual lucet – in order to get the hang of it.

A few other publications showed up on our online search, and you can also find diagrams on the basic cord technique at, and haven’t found lucets for sale anywhere in the area, but there are plenty of sources online. Do a search on “lucet braiding” or just plain “lucets” and you’ll come up with a list of resources.

The average price appears to be between $10 and $15, but you can get different sizes and more decorative lucets for a bit more money.

We used several different materials for our samples: plain red yarn, for our first attempt; a nubby blue yarn; and a thicker braid made from braids using knit/crochet ribbon, plain red yarn and a blend of the two.

Our first attempt (the plain red yarn) had some uneven stitches and bumps in certain spots. This is perfectly normal for beginning braids as you have to get the feel of keeping the tension consistent as you work, but it doesn’t take long to get into a rhythm that gives you a smooth and even braid.

Different materials give different results as well. We practiced with a heavy cotton thread (which makes a thinner but more even braid) and a heavy satin cord (which produces a very even cord and is extra easy to work with).

The finished braids can be used to decorate clothing, as ties for bags and other items needing closure, and heavier braids can be used for such things as curtain ties and even horse halters.

If you buy a lucet with a hole in the base or handle (most of them come with a hole), you can let the completed braid dangle outside of the hole (rather than running through it) in order to make thicker braids using heavier materials.

Our next gadget finds were Asian knot templates, used to facilitate making decorative knots from satin cord.

Asian knotting is an art that skilled craftspeople do all the time without the aid of a template, but some of us can use a bit of help keeping the various elements of the knot even – at least in the beginning stages of learning the craft.

Plenty of books are available on knotting, but the templates (which sell for about $4 each) contain clear instructions for each specific knot. We found our templates at Pacific Fabrics &Crafts in Everett.

Finished knots can be used as buttons or for embellishing items such as clothing and home decor.

If you would like to recommend a craft class to our readers, send information on the class and instructor – along with your name and a contact number or e-mail address – to Jonetta Coffin, c/o The Herald Features, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206;; or call 425-238-4985 and leave a message.

We’ll get in touch with you and the instructor about your suggestion and run the information in our Readers’ Recommendations box.

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