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Helen Leaf Designs

I weave braids, teach workshops in braid weaving, and also work in a technique called ply-split braiding. I make my own shuttles for weaving, and my own tools for ply-split braiding.


Ply-split braiding is a way in which yarn can be made into high-twist cords, which in turn are used to make a variety of things, from flat braids to larger 3-dimensional pieces. I tend to make baskets and bowls. Essential equipment is the cord winder and a gripfid, both which I've made myself. I make some of my gripfids small and short - they can fit in the palm of my hand while I'm working and I prefer them that way. 


The tools and materials I use:

Yarn and tools for ply-split braidingYarn and tools for ply-split braiding

Tools for ply-split braiding by Helen LeafTools for ply-split braiding by Helen Leaf









Making the high-twist cords can take many hours, even a whole day, before the weaving actually starts, but by making these cords, design choices can be made which affect the finished piece. Patterns of how the colours interact are often planned, or can develop during the weaving, leading to unexpected end results. The whole process can be complex and abstract, but the end result is always satisfying.

I'm working a lot with British wool at the moment, particularly in undyed natural colours. When I make the bowls I like to highlight them with axis lines of one vibrant colour. In the 'wild baskets' I like to plan the colours so that they end up in certain patterns at the final top edge. 

These bowls are more decorative rather than utilitarian, although they can be used to hold things. The patterns are visible on both the inside and the outside, and the tension of the swirled bowl rim holds a perfect circle. I'd describe them as objects of beauty and balance.

Ply-split basket and vessel gallery: